From: Kan Yabumoto firstname.lastname@example.org
To: XXCOPY user
Subject: The Windows 98 Startup Disk
This article discusses the use of the Windows 98 startup floppy disk
and an alternative boot disk to handle troubles in booting up the
Windows 98 system. Most of the discussion here apply equally to
the Windows 95 and Windows ME operating systems (OS) but there are
minor differences from one OS to another.
The Windows Startup Disk:
If you do not have the Startup Disk for your Windows 98 (or you
have misplaced it since you made it when you installed Windows 9x
on your system), this is the time to make one.
It is conveniently done from Control Panel.
Control_Panel > Add/Remove Programs >Startup Disk
A surprising number of users don't have the startup disk handy and
even those who have it have never used it, or do not know what it
is for and how useful it is. If you have done it recently, you may
remember that the Windows 9x installation steps always provide the
option of creating such a diskette --- but never explains how to
What's on the Startup Disk?
The diskette is also called Emergency Boot Disk (EBD) is a replica
of the contents of the directory at C:\WINDOWS\COMMAND\EBD.
(If you are not a techwiz, just skip the file list)
IO.SYS ; System boot file.
MSDOS.SYS ; Boot option information (paths, multiboot, and so on).
DRVSPACE.BIN ; Microsoft DriveSpace compression driver.
CONFIG.SYS ; Loads the device drivers.
HIMEM.SYS ; Extended (XMS) Memory Manager.
COMMAND.COM ; Command interpreter.
AUTOEXEC.BAT ; A batch file which runs when you boot it.
ASPI2DOS.SYS ; Real-mode Adaptec CD-ROM driver.
ASPI4DOS.SYS ; Real-mode Adaptec CD-ROM driver.
ASPI8DOS.SYS ; Real-mode Adaptec CD-ROM driver.
ASPI8U2DOS.SYS ; Real-mode Adaptec CD-ROM driver.
ASPICD.SYS ; Real-mode Adaptec CD-ROM driver.
BTCDROM.SYS ; Mylex/BusLogic CD-ROM driver.
BTDOSM.SYS ; Mylex/BusLogic CD-ROM driver.
FLASHPT.SYS ; Mylex/BusLogic CD-ROM driver.
OAKCDROM.SYS ; Generic device driver for ATAPI CD-ROM drives.
SETRAMD.BAT ; Searches for first available drive to be a Ramdrive.
RAMDRIVE.SYS ; Creates a Ramdrive during startup.
FINDRAMD.EXE ; Utility to find the RAM drive during startup.
EXTRACT.EXE ; File to expand the Ebd.cab file.
FDISK.EXE ; Disk partition tool.
SYS.COM ; System transfer tool.
EBD.SYS ; Disket identifier file (Windows 98 startup disk)
MODE.COM ; Lets you change console parameters
README.TXT ; Document file
EDB.CAB ; Cabinet (compressed) file containing the following
ATTRIB.EXE ; Add or remove file attributes.
CHKDSK.EXE ; Simpler and smaller disk status tool.
DEBUG.EXE ; Debug utility.
EDIT.COM ; Real-mode emergency text editor.
EXT.EXE ; File extract utility.
FORMAT.COM ; Disk format tool.
HELP.BAT ; Launches the readme.txt for the startup disk.
HELP.TXT ; Help text file.
MSCDEX.EXE ; Microsoft CD-ROM file extension for MS-DOS.
RESTART.COM ; Restart your computer.
SCANDISK.EXE ; Disk status tool.
SCANDISK.INI ; Disk status tool configuration file.
SYS.COM ; system transfer tool.
UNINSTAL.EXE ; Removes Win 98 and restores the previous state.
The floppy disk is essentially a bare bones DOS 7.x system disk
with various disk initialization tools, such as
FDISK.EXE FORMAT.COM SYS.COM
These tools allow you to initialize the hard disk prior to the
Win 98 installation. But, in order to read the Win 98 Installation
CD-ROM for the setup procedure, you need the capability of
accessing the CD-ROM which often needs SCSI device drivers.
ASPI2DOS.SYS ASPI4DOS.SYS ASPI8DOS.SYS
ASPI8U2DOS.SYS ASPICD.SYS BTCDROM.SYS
BTDOSM.SYS FLASHPT.SYS OAKCDROM.SYS
Surprisingly, there is no software in Startup Disk which allows
you to start Windows 98. The tools are good mostly to re-install
the Windows 98 operating system from the CD-ROM. Although the
Win 98 re-installation procedure would not normally delete user
files on the hard disk, it is a very time-consuming process.
It should be pointed out that on many occasions, there are steps
you can take that are much quicker to make the system disk capable
of rebooting into Win 98 system without a complete re-installation
of the OS. But, the Startup Disk will not allow you to do so.
The Master Boot Record (MBR):
Every now and then, a Windows 9x system becomes unbootable for
various reasons. The most common cause is probably the contents
of the master boot record (MBR) of the boot drive (the first
disk drive that is enabled) are not configured properly. FDISK
is the official tool to manipulate the contents of the MBR in
The most well known "undocumented" feature (even Microsoft's page
documents it) is to refresh the MBR by the following command.
This command runs very quickly without fanfare: it does not
even tell you whether or not the operation was successful.
Also, it is a good idea to run FDISK (without arguments)
and examine the first disk to make sure the first partition
is a Primary DOS Partition and it is set as Active Partition.
It is unfortuante that FDISK allows you to make only the
Primary DOS parition of the first disk drive an Active partition.
So, even if your BIOS configuration menu has a feature to allow
you to set the disk volume other than C: as the boot volume,
it does not do you any good as long as you use FDISK because
it refuses to make any other partition active.
An Alternative Boot Disk:
From time to time, for various reasons, the Windows 98 system disk
gets slightly corrupted and becomes not bootable. It take only one
crucial file to make the system fail to boot successfully into
the Windows 98 environment. Anyway, it is very useful to have
a bootable system diskette which allows you to not only boot into
a DOS environment, but also reach all the way to the Windows 98
environment even on a volume which cannot otherwise boot itself
to the Win98 world. Such a capability is sorely missing from the
standard Win98 Startup Disk (a.k.a. EBD).
Note: This technique works with Win98, but NOT on Win ME.
How to make the Alternative Boot Disk:
Perform the following sequence to prepare the boot diskette
from a command prompt (in DOS or in a DOS Box).
FORMAT A: /U /S
XXCOPY16 C:\MSDOS.SYS A:\ /H/R/Y
XXCOPY16 C:\CONFIG.SYS A:\ /H
ECHO C:\AUTOEXEC.BAT >A:\AUTOEXEC.BAT
Here, in this example, XXCOPY16 is used because it can be run
either in the 16-bit or in the 32- bit environment. But, you
may use XXCOPY (the 32-bit version) in a DOX Box of Win9x.
If XXCOPY/XXCOPY16 is not available, you need to perform extra
steps (ATTRIB to manipulate the attribute bits first, and copy
the file accordingly). The forth line here is a quick way to
make a one-line text file on A:. Of course, you may add other
utilities to the diskette such as FDISK.EXE, FORMAT.COM, SYS.COM
for your convenience.
If you are not familiar with XXCOPY16, it is available in the
XXCOPY Freeware package.
Using the Alternative Boot Disk:
This diskette allows you to boot into Win9x where the system
disk at C: is not capable of booting itself. This is usually
a result of the partition that is assigned to C: is not an
"Active" DOS Primary partition.
This technique can be extended to a customized "multi-boot"
scheme based on floppy disks. For instance, I have a Japanese
version of Win98SE which is installed on Drive E:. That is,
when the particular version was installed, it was deliberately
installed to E: so that E:\WINDOWS is the official windows
system directory for that environment. According to Microsoft's
official "rule", only one kind of Win9x OS can exist on a system,
(the dual-boot is possible with WinNT/2000/XP but not with another
Win9x or ME), when I need to boot into the Japanese version of
Win98, I use a specially made diskette which has its own unique
MSDOS.SYS file which declares that the E: drive is the boot drive.
Of course, you may acquire a specialized boot control software
such as the System Commander that allows even more flexible
booting option among many OSes. But, the alternative boot disk
allows you to test the system and see which of the key files
are causing a boot sequence problem.
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