How to Start Windows XP in MS-DOS

By Jennifer Claerr

Prior to the release of Windows XP, all Windows versions included MS-DOS. While you can work with a DOS command prompt in Windows XP, there is no way to restart this operating system in MS-DOS without a boot disk. You can create the MS-DOS boot disk on a floppy disk using the tools in Windows XP. To boot from a floppy, you must assign a higher boot priority to your floppy drive than to your hard drive in your system's BIOS setup program. Windows XP is also capable of booting in safe mode with a command prompt window only. While this is not the same as booting directly into MS-DOS, it may be helpful in some circumstances.

Use a Windows XP Floppy Boot Disk to Start in MS-DOS

Step 1

Insert a floppy disk in the drive on your computer. If the floppy disk contains files you need, copy them onto your hard drive before continuing. Click "Start > My Computer." Right-click Drive A and click "Format..." This will erase all files currently on the floppy disk.

Step 2

Select the check box beside "Create an MS-DOS startup disk." Click "Start." This will direct Windows XP to write some essential MS-DOS files onto the disk. Remove the floppy disk from the drive and label it "Windows XP Boot Disk."

Step 3

Restart your computer with the floppy boot disk in the drive to boot in MS-DOS mode. If the computer doesn't boot from the floppy, reboot your computer and enter its BIOS setup program. Check the splash screen or your computer's documentation to see what function key you must press to start BIOS setup. Change the boot priority so that the computer will boot from the floppy disk first.

Boot Windows in Safe Mode With an MS-DOS Command Prompt Window

Step 1

Click "Start > Run." Type "msconfig" in the field and click "OK."

Step 2

Click the "BOOT.INI" tab in the System Configuration Utility window. Click the check box beside "/SAFEBOOT" and select "MINIMAL(ALTERNATE SHELL)."

Step 3

Click "OK." Select "Restart" to reboot your computer. When the computer starts, an MS-DOS command window will open automatically. Type commands in this window as you would type them at the command prompt in DOS. Run "msconfig" again and select "Normal Startup" in the "BOOT.INI" when you are ready to start the full version of Windows XP again.

Tips & Warnings

  • To get the command window in Windows XP, click "Start > Run" and type "cmd" in the field provided. Click "OK."
  • Microsoft does not provide downloadable files to create a bootable CD-ROM.

References & Resources