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Boot disk


Site Administrator
Staff member
Apr 27, 2003
San Jose, CA
A boot disk is a removable digital data storage medium from which a computer can load and run (boot) an operating system or utility program. The computer must either have a built-in program which will load and execute a program from a boot disk meeting certain standards, or have the means to enter such a loader (eg toggle switches).
[h="2"]Boot Disk Uses[/h]
Boot disks are used to get the computer into operation so that other tasks may be performed. Some typical tasks might include:
  • Operating system installation.
  • Data recovery.
  • Data purging.
  • Hardware or software troubleshooting.
  • Customizing an operating environment.
  • Software installation and/or demonstration.
  • Administrative access in case of lost password is possible with an appropriate boot disk with some operating systems.
While many computers can boot from a hard drive containing the operating system and other software, they would not normally be called boot disks. Floppy disks and CD-ROMs are the most common forms of media used in modern PCs, but in older systems, other media, such as magnetic or paper tape tape drives are often the norm. Zip drives, and more recently flash drives have been used as well.
On most home micro type of system, the computer boots into software in ROM, most typically BASIC.
The process of booting varies from system to system.
[h="2"] Obtaining Boot disks [/h]
It is common when obtaining an old computer for it to be supplied without a boot disk. Therefore the problem is how to obtain a suitable disk. The following are suggestions on what to do.
  • Ask locally. Someone close by may have a similar machine and can copy a disk.
  • Ask on a forum (preferably one specific for the computer).
  • Download an image disk from the internet and write it to blank media.
  • Build a boot disk from scratch (eg using some files from the internet).
  • Purchase.
[h="2"] Alternative to Boot disks [/h]
On some systems there are ways of booting without having to use a boot disk. An example of this is to replace the floppy disk drive with a virtual disk drive, and boot from that instead. Another example is that some computers allow booting from a serial port, or sometimes from a network. Machines with a full front panel may be initialized by setting switches on the panel, sometimes to load an Operating System or another program from the boot device.
  • Wikipedia page SVD a virtual disk drive for Tandy TRS-80 Models 1, 3 & 4, Apple II, and Heathkit H8 & H89.
  • HPDrive for some HP systems that boot from Amigo protocol HP-IB drives.
[h="2"] Further reading [/h]
[h="2"] External Links [/h]