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Tutorial:Operating Systems

How To Create
Bootable CDs
Bootable CDs are an invaluable aid when dealing with large roll-outs and test rigs, and
improvements in CD writing software have made the process of creating them far simpler.

By Matt Jones

T here are many applications for


bootable CDs - the most com-
mon being when undertaking
large roll-outs and when using test
The El Torito specification, created
by IBM and Phoenix Technologies,
was designed to be completely com-
patible with the ISO 9660 CD standard.
BIOSes do not allow selection of the
image and you will have to write a
small amount of low-level system code
to do it.
rigs, where it is often useful to combine It adds to the ISO 9660 specification by CDs can be set to boot as drive A or
operating systems with boot and diag- requiring a boot record at sector 11 of C. The fact that they are a late addition
nostic diskettes to automate the proc- the last session on the CD. The boot to the PC makes them subject to certain
ess of setting up machines. record contains an absolute sector other restrictions. To boot as drive A,
If you need to repeatedly test from number that points to the “boot cata- the boot image must be made in the
clean installations it can save lots of log”. There’s no restriction on the loca- same format as a 1.2 MB, 1.4 MB or 2.88
time if you image a disk drive and put tion of the boot catalog. MB floppy disk. The first floppy disk
the image, along with the imaging soft- The catalog contains a list of entries drive, if present, will become the B
ware, on a bootable CD. It can also be describing all the “boot images” pre- drive. If the system has a second
a timesaver to have frequently-used sent on the CD. Again, there’s no re- floppy disk drive, it will not be acces-
boot and diagnostic diskettes on CD, striction on where the boot images can sible.
and it’s an easy way to work with PCs be on the CD. There can be any number If the CD is set to boot as the C drive,
that do not have a floppy disk drive. of them, of three different types: it replaces the normal hard disk drive
To see if a PC supports booting C, and has no size limit other than that
from a CD, check your BIOS setup ● “Bootable emulation” causes the of the CD itself. However, the source
screens. SCSI drives have their own image to be mapped to drive A or drive image must have only one parti-
BIOS on the adapter; IDE drives use C, as a conventional bootable stor- tion. This partition must be both the
code in the system BIOS. Most modern age device. first entry in the partition table and a
SCSI adapters have a BIOS that allows ● “Non-bootable emulation” maps standard DOS partition.
it, and most motherboards of the last the image as a conventional storage
two years support booting from IDE device, and allocates the last drive Creating The Image
CD drives. If you are able to change the letter to it.
boot options, and it lists “CD-ROM”, ● “No emulation” is a special mode Most current CDR publishing pack-
your system supports booting from a which loads the image into memory ages are capable of reading a floppy
CD. If you have a 1995 or 1996 moth- and executes it - extremely useful disk and creating a boot image from it.
erboard or SCSI card that does not sup- when developing copy protection With the appropriate menu choices
port it, it’s probably worth contacting or “smart” CDs designed for a vari- made, they will automatically “inject”
the manufacturer - many have BIOS ety of disparate systems. For exam- it into the CD image. With this method
upgrades available. ple, the “no emulation” mode is it is extremely easy to make a bootable
used in the Windows NT operating CD. Some of the more advanced pack-
Technical Details system CDs. ages like Nero can create a bootable
CD from any disk image, and allow
When a bootable CD is created, a There is much scope for system ven- fine-tuning of parameters such as the
“boot record” is put at the very begin- dors to create multi-image CDs where emulation type and startup message.
ning of the CD, just as it is with a the boot image is selected dynamically The basic process for making a boo-
bootable floppy or hard disk. This re- by the system BIOS, but this requires a table CD from a floppy disk is as fol-
cord specifies whether the CD is to lot of manual assembling and editing, lows:
emulate a floppy or hard disk drive, and is beyond the range of this article.
and contains a pointer to the location Although it is relatively easy to manu- 1 Create a bootable floppy disk that
of the actual boot image file. ally assemble the boot catalog, most has all required driver and startup

Update 139 (June 2000) Page 3 PC Support Advisor File: T1214.1


www.itp-journals.com
Tutorial:Operating Systems

software on it. You will need a CD can be loaded that allow the rest of the disk or an image file. Notable software
driver in order to use the CD in a CD to be mounted in the DOS session. packages are Easy CD Creator, Win-
conventional manner once the sys- OnCD, CDRWIN, HyCD and Nero.
tem has finished booting. It is wise Tips The latter is an extremely powerful
to use a generic CD driver if you tool that offers complete control of the
plan on using it in a few different ● A rewriteable CDR drive is an ex- CD writing process, and can create
systems. tremely useful tool when experi- bootable CDs for many platforms. It
2 Make sure that any path names in menting with bootable CDs. can also create “oversized” CDs which
the config.sys and autoexec.bat files Although your test CDRW may be can be used to gain a small amount of
do not specify drive letters. unusable in some standard CD copy protection.
3 Make sure your boot process does drives, it can be used on the master- Many of these programs can be
not attempt to write to the disk. Set ing system if the CDRW drive is set evaluated before purchase, and this is
the read-only flag on all files and as the primary CD, and this is advisable due to the wide variation in
write-protect the disk if possible. If enough for general test purposes. If CDR drivers and hardware.
your system tries to write to the CD you are planning on making a vari-
on boot-up, it will crash. ety of bootable CDs, or just experi-
4 Test this disk thoroughly in what- menting, CDRW has the obvious
ever PC environments you wish to advantage of media cost. If you
use it. don’t have a CDRW, any failed ex-
5 Once you are happy with the boo- periments can be used as multi-ses-
table disk, create the CD with your sion backups. Further Reading
CDR publishing package. Selecting ● When making hard disk image
El Torito Bootable CDROM For-
the “bootable” option will usually CDs, an old hard disk drive around
mat Specification.
prompt for the floppy disk. Put any 650 MB in size makes a useful addi-
BIOS INT 13 Specification, includ-
other data onto the CD in the same tion to your mastering system. As
ing extensions.
session. hard disk images have certain par-
Enhanced Disk Drive Specifica-
titioning requirements, detailed
tion.
Larger Images above, it’s much easier to have a
ATAPI Specification.
whole disk to use for your layout if
ISO 9660 Specification.
If you wish to create a larger, hard- you are doing this type of work.
disk type image, there are a few more ● Under Windows NT, you will need
things to do. You will need to choose to have administrative rights if you
and size your source image hard disk are creating hard disk images (this
carefully. A program such as Power- requires access to all disk sectors).
Quest’s Partition Magic is very handy ● It is possible that you will encoun-
for tasks like this. ter older CDs that start to boot, fail
Create and test your image in the immediately and hang your sys-
same manner as the floppy image pro- tem. This is because there was no
cedure detailed above. When you are initial standard for the first few sec-
happy with it, use a program like Nor- tors of CDs and, although unlikely,
ton’s DiskEdit or PowerQuest’s Drive- some may contain a correct “valida-
Image to read the drive and create an tion entry” without any of the other PCSA
image of it in a single file. At this point, required boot files.
if your CDR publishing software sup-
ports disk file images, you can simply CDR Software
select the appropriate file and it will
automatically create the correct boot Until fairly recently, bootable CDs
records. had to be made manually with a com-
If your software does not support bination of low-level tools. Utility pro-
hard disk images, it is still possible to grams such as BOOTISO and
create them if you are willing to delve DISKIMG were used to read bootable Copyright ITP, 2000
into image files and boot records with disks and write images to disk files.
a hex editor. This is not as difficult as These disk images were then hex ed-
it sounds, and Phoenix Technologies ited and manually added to the CD
have an excellent guide on how to do layout. The Author
it on their Web site at www.ptltd.com. It has now become much easier, Matt Jones is a software developer
It should be noted, however, that in with many current CDR writer soft- and can be contacted as
most cases the floppy disk image ware packages able to make bootable matt.jones@itp-journals.com.
method is sufficient because drivers CDs from a floppy disk image, a hard

File: T1214.2 PC Support Advisor Update 139 (June 2000) Page 4


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