Create a Windows NT boot disk

by Wayne Maples [Published on 20 April 2004 / Last Updated on 20 April 2004]

NT does not have boot disk capability in the MS-DOS sense. NT is too large. But you can create an NT boot diskette that will reboot the system and transfer control to the NT installation on the hd. The "NT boot" disk is invaluable if your NT workstation or server fails to boot because of a missing or corrupt system partition or system file.
  • Format a floppy diskette on a Windows NT system.
  • Copy the following hidden, system files from the boot partition of the Windows NT box to the boot disk:
    • NTLDR
      controls the operating system boot selection process and hardware detection before the actual kernel is launched.
    • NTDETECT.COM
      detects the major components of the computer before NTLDR selects a configuration and loads the kernel.
    • BOOT.INI
      contains the contents of the boot menu
    • NTBOOTDD.SYS - present only if the computer has a SCSI hard drive.
For the boot disk to be any use, you must boot it to the PC with an installed and configured Windows NT which you used to create the floppy. The boot disk is kinda generic but in particular, the boot.ini must be edited to point to the correct boot partition. The boot disk is just smart enough to look for the existing NT installation and pass control to its NT kernel.

If you have multiple operating systems installed, what do you do about the common applications installed under each operating system? What I have done since the days of dual booting OS/2 and Win3 was to install the applications in the same directory while booted in each operating system. The application dlls which need to reside in the OS, are copied to the operating system program directory during installation. The large portion of the application install files exist in the application directory and are overwritten when the application is installed under each operating system. This takes minimal space and is by far the most reliable method. No matter which operating system you are running, the application is installed in the same location.

For example, when I was running Win95, Win98, and NT and installed Netscape. I specified D:\netscape as the install directory when I installed it under NT; specified the same install directory when I installed it under Win95; and I specified the same install directory when I installed it under Win98. This minimized disk space usage and had the important advantage that there was only one set of configuration files for Netscape. Netscape read the configuration files which existed and duplicated the setting during each subsequent installation. During each install, the appropriate DLLs were copied to C:\WINNT\SYSTEM32, C:\Win95, or C:\Win98 depending on which OS was running.

The Windows 2000 recovery console can be accessed by booting from the W2K CD and then selecting the recovery options. The W2K recovery console can be used to boot an NT server and fix NT 4.0 installations. Once logged into the NT 4.0, you can use the various command line utilities to repair the damaged server. Experiment on an NT workstation.

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