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The Explorer: Save Your Butt With DOS: Part 2

Make a custom boot disk -- while you still can!
Next, using Notepad or the Edit app, write and save a Config.Sys and Autoexec.Bat file to the floppy. (They're both straight text files, but be sure you save them with the .sys and .bat file extensions, respectively, and not with a .txt extension.) As a starting point, try these:




LH Smartdrv

Of course, in Confg.sys, if your system uses NEC_IDE.SYS instead of OAKCDROM.SYS, change the line



Next, boot to the floppy. If your system doesn't boot, you missed a step -- remove the floppy, boot to Windows, and try again. When you do successfully boot to the floppy, try accessing your CD from DOS (put a CD in the drive, type the appropriate drive letter for the CD, and the type DIR to see a list of files. If it works -- and it probably will if your PC is of fairly recent vintage -- you're all set.

But it you can't access your CD after booting to the floppy, you probably have a nonstandard CD drive or drivers. Check your existing C:\CONFIG.SYS (open it with Notepad or Edit) and see if there's something that looks like a CD driver referenced in there -- it will usually end with "sys" and often has the letters "cd" as part of the name. For example, old Creative Labs SoundBlaster CD ROMs might use a driver called something like "SBCD.SYS," and the line referencing it might look something like:


Copy the entire line to the floppy's config.sys, but edit the line so it no longer references the C drive, like this:


Next, copy the SYS file itself from its original location (C:\SB\SBCD.SYS) to the floppy. Now do the same thing for C:\AUTOEXEC.BAT: Look for a file with "CD" in it. For example, you might see something like:

rem - By Windows Setup - C:\WINDOWS\COMMAND\MSCDEX.EXE /D:MSCD001 /V /M:15

Copy this line to the floppy's Autoexec, but remove the REM and the references to the C:\ drive, like this:


Related resources:

A Bevy Of Boot Disks

By the Bootstraps

And then -- if you haven't already -- copy the referenced EXE to the floppy. In this case, you'd copy C:\WINDOWS\COMMAND\MSCDEX.EXE to the floppy. Now reboot, and see what happens. You might have to dig more lines from your existing C:\CONFIG.SYS and C:\AUTOEXEC.BAT, but when you're done, you'll have full CD access.

Congrats! You now have a self-contained, custom boot floppy that has just the basic files you want and need for your utility, repair, diagnostic, and reinstall work. Make a second copy of the floppy for safekeeping, slide the write-protect tab on the back of the floppy, and then tuck both copies in a safe spot. You now have the beginnings of a full DOS toolkit; feel free to use the resources in Part One to extend this basic kit with whatever other DOS utilities and tools you may desire. These additional tools can go on the boot floppy -- up to the capacity of the disk -- or can be stored on other floppies. And that leads to a question from me to you: "What other DOS-level utilities should we put on our boot disks? What do you think comprises a complete DOS toolkit?"

Join in! Now please click on over to the discussion area and share your best Boot Disk tips, tricks, and tweaks; or ask your boot disk questions. See you there!

To discuss this column with other readers, please visit Fred Langa's forum on the Listening Post.

To find out more about Fred Langa, please visit his page on the Listening Post.

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