Monthly Archives: February 2014

Creating Bootable USB Drives

One of my extremely popular posts over the years has been my 2007 instructions for manually creating a bootable DOS USB flash drive. That article presented two possible ways to create a bootable DOS USB drive which appeared as a fixed disk (e.g. C:) with the whole drive available instead of as an emulated floppy disk (e.g. A:) with only 1.44MB available. Both methods were pretty complicated, requiring you to extract source files from the FreeDOS kernel and have a good working knowledge of the command line before attempting. While many people were successful and thanked me profusely for the instructions many others had difficulty following the technical detail.

Luckily, seven years later, things have improved a bit. These days it’s perhaps a bit less likely that you want to boot a USB drive to DOS. The widespread use of NTFS, advent of more user friendly Linux tools on bootable CDs, migration to Windows PE based recovery utilities, etc. has somewhat limited the DOS utility market. Today’s problem seems mostly to be working with computers which no longer have CD/DVD drives in them but having a CD ISO file you want to boot.

The best multi-purpose utility I’ve found for creating bootable USB drives is, hands down, Rufus. Which allows you to create bootable DOS USB drives in Windows in much the same way that my old instructions did but also allows you to turn bootable ISO images of CDs and DVDs into bootable USB drives which is more than likely what you want to do anyway. The source code for Rufus is available from GitHub.