Making a Windows 2000 Recovery Disk

If you have a recovery boot disk on hand when Windows 2000 crashes, you can panic less and recover quickly.

By Brien M. Posey | Posted Jul 21, 2000
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Create your own boot disks

Depending on where you acquired your copy of Windows 2000, you may not have the boot disks that normally ship with it. If you didn't get the set of boot disks, or if your copy is damaged or missing, you can easily create a set. To do so, insert your Windows 2000 CD into your CD-ROM drive and navigate to the BOOTDISK directory. Once there, simply run the MAKEBOOT.EXE or MAKEBT32.EXE program to generate a new set of boot disks. These programs will produce four disks as opposed to the three disks required for previous versions of Windows NT.

Dozens of things can make a Windows 2000 system fail to boot. The primary hard disk in a mirrored set could fail. And viral infections or accidentally erased boot files can cause boot failures. In all of these situations, you can do something to return Windows 2000 to a functional state. In this article, I'll explain how you can make a boot disk that will allow you to correct the types of problems that we've mentioned.

Boot disk background

When you think of a boot disk, you probably think of a typical MS-DOS or Windows 9x boot disk. Such boot disks use the files MSDOS.SYS, IO.SYS, and COMMAND.COM to boot the system to a command prompt. However, as you might have already discovered, such a disk doesn't do any good in Windows 2000. For starters, a traditional boot disk can only access FAT 16 or FAT 32 partitions. Typically, Windows 2000 is installed onto an NTFS partition, which is inaccessible when booting from such a disk. Even if the hard-disk partition that contains Windows 2000 is formatted as FAT 16 or FAT 32, a traditional boot disk will do little to help you to return the system to a usable state because Windows 2000 uses different system files than DOS or Windows 9x. Therefore, a good Windows 2000 boot disk needs to contain the Windows 2000 boot files rather than the typical DOS boot files.

The disk you're creating doesn't boot your system to a command prompt, as most boot disks do. Instead, it actually loads a full-blown copy of Windows 2000. You may wonder how this is possible, given the size restrictions of most floppy disks. However, as you might have guessed, the disk doesn't contain the entire operating system--instead, it contains the files that are most likely to be damaged or missing if Windows 2000 won't boot.

You can boot your system from the floppy. Once the low-level boot files have loaded from the floppy, the boot process switches to the %SYSTEMROOT% directory on the hard disk for the remainder of the boot process. After the boot process completes, you'll be in your normal Windows 2000 environment. From there, it should be no trouble to track down and replace the missing or damaged files on your hard disk.

Primary boot files

At least three primary files are used during the Windows 2000 boot sequence: the NTLDR file, NTDETECT.COM, and BOOT.INI.

When the machine boots, the boot sector is set to look for the NTLDR file. If the NTLDR file is missing or if the boot sector has been overwritten by a virus or another operating system, Windows 2000 won't boot. Windows 2000 also depends on NTDETECT.COM and BOOT.INI.

As you may recall from Windows NT, BOOT.INI is a text file that points to the location of your %SYSTEMROOT% directory using ARC naming conventions. If you're working with a system that uses a SCSI hard disk, you'll also need at least one SCSI driver file. As you might have guessed, you'll have to copy these files to the boot disk.

Creating the boot disk

Tips and tricks for BOOT.INI & NTLDR files

BOOT.INI:
Keep in mind that if the primary drive of a mirror set should fail, you'll have to modify the BOOT.INI file to point to the other drive before the system will boot. If you are working with a system that uses mirrored drives, I recommend making a copy of the boot disk you're creating after you finish. You can then leave the original disk set up to access the first hard disk and configure the copy to access the second hard disk.

NTLDR:
You rename the NTLDR file because the boot sector on the floppy is a copy of the boot sector from the Windows 2000 Startup Disk. The Startup disk looks for SETUPLDR instead of NTLDR. The boot sector is stupid--it doesn't care what the boot file contains as long as it has the correct file name. So, replacing the boot file that's normally associated with Setup with the normal Windows 2000 boot file is no problem, as long as the Windows 2000 boot file has been appropriately renamed.

To create a boot disk for Windows 2000, you'll need a copy of the first boot disk that ships with Windows 2000. Follow these steps:

  1. Open a Command Prompt window and enter the command: DISKCOPY A: A:
  2. When the DISKCOPY program asks for the source disk, insert the Windows 2000 Startup Disk number 1. Allow DISKCOPY to read the disk.
  3. The program will ask for a destination disk. When it does, insert a blank, formatted disk and press Enter. The DISKCOPY program will now make a copy of the startup disk on the blank disk.
  4. When the process completes, DISKCOPY will ask if you want to create another copy of the disk, and if you want to copy another disk. Answer No to both questions.
  5. Verify that the previously blank floppy is in the drive and enter the command: ERASE A:\*.*

    Doing so will erase all the files from the disk you're making, except for some hidden files that make the disk bootable. Be careful to type the command exactly as listed here, because being careless with this command could render the copy of Windows 2000 that's on your hard disk unbootable.
  6. Copy the NTLDR and NTDETECT.COM files from the I386 directory of your Windows 2000 CD. Once you've copied these files to your disk, rename the NTLDR file to SETUPLDR.BIN.
  7. Because the BOOT.INI file is specific to each individual system, you must copy it from the root directory of your hard disk.
  8. I mentioned earlier that if you use a SCSI hard disk, you need a SCSI driver on the boot disk. If you're using such a system, simply copy the SCSI driver from the hard disk to the floppy you're working on. Rename the copy on the floppy disk to NTBOOTDD.SYS.

Your Windows 2000 boot disk is now ready to use.

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