There may be times when your computer won't start AT ALL. Something is SO messed up that you can't even get to the F8 Boot Options, Safe Mode, or anything. It just freezes on a black screen with an occasional cursor.
This, my friend, is where you need a Boot Disk.
What is a Boot Disk? It is a floppy disk with the essential ingredients (files) necessary to start your computer from the floppy drive. Using a Boot Disk, your computer doesn't need to access your hard drive to start up. It can start from the floppy drive and we can start our troubleshooting routines.
This is often how computers are put together from scratch. You put them together... start them up from a Boot Disk... configure a CD-Rom (if it isn't already)... and load on the operating system.
If we need to do serious troubleshooting, and we can't access our operating system for some reason or another, we will need a Boot Disk. Once we are at the DOS prompt (C:\) we can poke around on our hard drive and try to find the problem, or re-install our entire operating system.
There are different ways to make a Boot Disk. However, you need to make one NOW! Before your system crashes. In DOS, put a floppy disk in the drive. At the prompt type this: SYS A:
This transfers the four necessary files to a floppy disk so a computer can be started from it. Try it. Keep the floppy disk in the drive and restart your computer. This is kind of limited though because it doesn't include the editing features.
To make a more comprehensive Boot Disk press START at the bottom left corner, slide up to SETTINGS and select CONTROL PANEL from the Start Menu.
From the Control Panel double-click on ADD/REMOVE PROGRAMS.
This will bring us to our options box. Click the STARTUP DISK tab on the top. Then press the CREATE DISK button.
The files used to create this disk are pulled of the Windows 95/98 CD-Rom. If you don't have the entire CD copied to your hard drive you need to insert the CD now. Press OK.
If your CD contents are on the hard drive and there is not a CD in the drive, it will bring up this box. Type in the location of your CD files in the text box. Click OK.
The procedure will prepare the startup disk files and then prompt you to put a floppy disk into the drive.
When your floppy disk is in your drive press OK to continue. This will copy all of the startup files on your floppy drive. When it is finished put your disk away for that day you need to use it. Unless you need it now.
Using the Windows startup disk gives us the option to clean, repair, format, and edit or hard disk drives. It is typically more useful than a basic DOS system disk. On Windows 98 it even gives you the option to have built-in CD-Rom support. This is handy.
All and all, if you need a Boot Disk, you need to know something about computer troubleshooting. The floppy disk will only get us in the door. From there we have to know what we are looking for, fix it, take the floppy disk out, and restart from our hard drive in the normal fashion. If this works... we're happy. If it doesn't, we have to try more stuff.