The Disk Operating System (DOS) was once the dominant computer operating system, and most people who owned a computer in the 1980s and early 1990s have used it. While few computers use DOS today, you can still utilize it as a tool to make a new hard drive bootable. If you have a computer with an empty hard drive, you can use an MS-DOS boot disk from FreeDOS to install DOS on the hard drive and make it bootable. After installing DOS, you can use the computer to run older software, or install a second operating system on top of the DOS installation.
Making a Hard Drive Bootable with an MS-DOS Boot Disk
Browse to BootDisk.com (see Resources) on a computer with a working floppy disk drive. Click the link to download the MS-DOS 6.22 boot disk, and save the resulting file to the desktop.
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Insert a blank floppy disk and double-click the file "boot622.exe" on the desktop. Click "OK." The utility turns the blank floppy disk into an MS-DOS boot disk.
Transfer the MS-DOS 6.22 boot disk to the computer with an empty hard drive. Start the computer. The computer boots from the disk, and after a moment displays an "A:" prompt.
Type "fdisk" omitting the quotation marks and press "Enter." The MS-DOS FDISK utility appears. This utility creates a partition on an empty hard drive, which prepares it for formatting. Press "Enter" until you reach the screen saying "System will now restart."
Press "Enter" again. The computer restarts and displays the "A:" prompt.
Type "format c:" and press "Enter." Type "Y" to confirm, and then press "Enter" again when the process is complete. The hard drive is now formatted and ready for data.
Type "sys c:" and press "Enter." The computer displays the message "system transferred."
Remove the floppy disk and restart the computer. The computer boots from the hard drive and displays a "C:" prompt. You now have an MS-DOS hard drive with most basic DOS commands available. See Section 2 if you need a version of DOS with additional features.
Making a Hard Drive Bootable by Installing FreeDOS
Browse to the FreeDOS website (see Resources) using a computer with a working CD burner. Click the "Download FreeDOS" link on the left side of the screen. Click the link to download the base version of FreeDOS, and save the file to the desktop. Burn the FreeDOS disc image to a blank CD using disc-burning software.
Transfer the FreeDOS CD to the computer with an empty hard drive. Insert the disc and start the computer. In most cases, the computer scans the optical drive and boots from the CD automatically. In other cases, you may need to press a key to select a boot device as the computer starts up. The computer displays a color FreeDOS screen after booting from the CD.
Press the "1" key to select "Continue to boot FreeDOS from CD-ROM."
Press the "1" key to select "Install to harddisk using FreeDOS setup."
Use the arrow keys to highlight your language, and press "Enter."
Highlight the first option to prepare the hard drive for FreeDOS and press "Enter." This step creates a partition on the hard drive, which prepares it to be formatted. Press "Enter" through this process until asked to give final approval. Select "Yes" and press "Enter" again.
Push "F3" to quit the disk partitioning utility. Select "Yes" and push "Enter." The partitioning process is complete. Allow the computer to restart and boot from the FreeDOS CD again. Select the same options as before to continue the FreeDOS installation process and re-select your language. The installation utility continues, prompting you to ask whether it should create a file system on the hard drive.
Select "Yes" and push "Enter." Type "YES" in capital letters and push "Enter" again. The utility formats the hard drive.
Press "1" to continue the FreeDOS installation process, and push "Enter." Press "1" and "Enter" again to confirm.
Continue pressing "Enter" until a blue screen with a status bar appears. FreeDOS is now copied from the CD to the computer. After the files are copied, the utility displays the message "Press any key to continue." Press "Enter." The screen changes to black and white. After a moment, the computer restarts and loads FreeDOS.
The instructions in this article involve creating a partition on and formatting an empty hard drive. Do not perform these steps on a hard drive with data you want to keep.