Make yourself Multiple-boot Startup / Rescue CD
A couple of Startup / Emergency Repair / Rescue floppy disks are among essential tool for every system administrator. If you play a little bit with your computer, you may have noticed that Startup Floppy Disks / Rescue Floppy disks have saved your day a lot of times. The only problem you may have faced that the floppy disk’s media itself are very un-reliable. They tend to get corrupt with slightest of excuses. Now, the time has come to say a final good-bye to these Floppy Disks. Industry pundits have already forecasted death of Floppy disks. Instead of using these un-reliable floppy disks as Startup / Rescue disks, use boot / rescue CD and become worry free for next 100 years for your system startup problems. It is said that the CD ROM media has that length of self-life!
Bootable CD – A better option
Boot / Rescue CDs are far better options than traditional Floppy Disks. Here are some good reasons that push you to shift immediately for Boot CDs:
- CDs are very reliable media. They do not get corrupt easily, have more self-life and once you have written CD on a clean machine and fixed it, chances of being infected with viruses are nil.
- CDs work faster than Floppies.
- Boot CDs can be run in Emulation Mode – it can run in all size of Floppy emulation mode to hard disk emulation mode.
- Floppies are limited to 1.44 MB space whereas you can use up to 700 MB (even more with Zip utilities) space on your boot CD. Further, you can fill other tools, utilities and system installers in your Boot CDs that may be part of essential tools for system recoveries or Operating System reinstallations.
There are various methods and tools through which you can prepare Boot CDs. The easiest way through which you can create Boot CD, ironically goes through creation of Boot Floppy. There are some tools and ready to use boot images that can be used instead, which does not require Boot Floppies; for example; methods given with at http://www.nu2.nu. There is also a freeware tool called BCD (have a look at it at: http://www.nu2.nu/download.php?sFile=bcd111.zip ), through which you can create multi boot CD ( as many as 10 boot images and more in a single CD) having capability to rescue PCs, Networks and reset lost password of Windows 2000 etc. Using these tools and images for creating Boot CDs require certain level of tweaking. However, if you want to create Boot CD with Multiple Boot images containing several Startup Disk images from DOS, Windows, Linux to BSD, then guidelines given at http://www.nu2.nu along with links for downloadable stuff is the only answer. Still a Boot CD that has Multiple Boot Image of Say, a Windows98 Startup Disk, and a Linux Rescue Disk may be sufficient for an average use, and hence method for creating this has described here in detail. The Startup Disk for Windows98 has chosen since it offers you FAT16 as well as FAT32 support, contains CD ROM Device drivers and can easily created from any Windows98 machine. You can also use Boot Floppy creator tool for various DOS, Windows versions with CD ROM device drivers that is available from http://www.bootdisk.com . For Linux rescue Disk image, you can choose any distribution that can boot off DOS environment through LOADLIN, a DOS based Linux loader. It is recommended to use Linux Rescue Disk that runs off RAMDISK so that you can rescue a failed hard disk. One such distribution called RAMLINUX that you can download from http://www.ibiblio.org/pub/Linux/system/recovery/ramf-118.exe . After downloading it, copy it in an empty directory (say, Ramlin ) and simply run the executable file from there. The compressed file will inflate automatically in the same directory having various boot & Utility files that you will need later for inclusion in the CD. To learn about creating Linux only Recovery CD-ROM, refer Linux For You, May 2003 issue, a sister publication magazine.
Things you need
You need following for creating Multiple BOOT CD:
· PC with Windows 98 or later version installed.
· CD Writer - properly installed with CD Burning Software like Nero Burning ROM or Easy CD creator in PC and is working.
· One, blank writable CD (One Re-Writable CD recommended for initial testing). Multisession Disks are not suitable for Boot Disk.
· Boot Floppy of Windows 98 (Recommended) or any other DOS / Windows 9x version or Linux boot floppy (if you want Linux Boot CD). Alternatively, you can use Ultimate BOOT Disk Flpooy, which you can download from: http://www.min.net/~jsjr/Web2/get/98UBD.exe . To create Ultimate Boot Floppy Disk, simply run the executable file 98UBD.exe and follow on screen instructions. For Multi boot CD, In addition to DOS / Windows boot floppy, you must have at least one complete Linux rescue distribution that is bootable from DOS. Link to download a small, simple, yet powerful Linux Rescue distribution has already given previously. However, you can use your own favorite Linux having specific tools or Linux images for different environment. You can find many such tools at http://www.ibiblio.org/pub/Linux/system/recovery/ . However, make sure that you have tested it and they run correctly and fulfill your need.
· Other tools required for backup, system recovery, reinstallation etc. that you need to include in Boot CD.
Burn it Up
Following steps describe the method for burning BOOT CD with the help of Nero Burning ROM version 5.5. However, take note that the method may be slightly different for other versions or for other CD Writing software. Start Nero Burning ROM and Click on New. A wizard may appear. Cancel the Wizard. Various options will appear to choose one for creating CD. Insert the Windows 98 boot floppy in to the floppy drive. Make sure that its media is error free and it boots correctly, else, you may encounter problems later.
Select CD-ROM (Boot) from the given options. Click on ‘Boot’ tab and select ‘Bootable logical drive A’. Do not select ‘Image File’ and ‘Enable expert settings’ since separate image file is not used here (Nero will copy image from boot Floppy Disk) and Windows 98 Boot loader will be used for DOS and LOADLIN will be used for Linux.
You can define other parameters such as ‘Volume Label’ etc. in input boxes of various tabs and finally click on ‘New’ button. You will be presented with a new window like this:
Now drag and drop the Linux rescue file folder that you have created by downloading compressed file and deflated it. You can add as many other tools and utilities you think necessary for your troubleshooting purpose. For example, you can copy all commands (exe files) from Windows\Command folder to your Boot CD. Be sure that you have valid license, and avoid copying stuff that violates license agreement. When done, click on ‘File’ menu and click on ‘Write CD…’ from dropdown menu. Put the blank CD on CD Writer and follow on screen instructions. When done, your burned boot CD will pop out. Do not forget to test it on another computer. To boot from CD, during the system boot up process, invoke BIOS Setting by pressing
Select Start computer with CD ROM support. If you want to boot in to Linux, then run bat file to launch LOADLIN that loads Linux from CD ROM through DOS prompt. If you have used RAMLINUX (ramf-118.exe) as described above, inflated in RamLin folder, and had included it in your Boot CD, then go to Ramlin folder and run RAMLINUX.BAT file from there.
You will then be able boot in to Linux that have practically all tools for rescuing a Linux System.
While preparing Boot CD, it had noticed that some unforeseen errors may creep in and may make your CD unbootable. Hence, it is recommended that you first test it with a Re-Writable CD so that you can re-write in case of errors, and if it runs fine, then copy it as normal CD copy to another blank Writable CD. Make yourself one extra boot CD and put it in safe location. Yes, CDs have self-life of 100 yrs, but it can get Scratch Infections due to bad handling.