What Is Boot Disk?


While troubleshooting a problem with your computer, you may have wondered about the meaning of the term "boot disk," and how to make one. Boot disks have been used to troubleshoot computer problems since the beginning of personal computers, and can still be valuable today. Understanding how to make a boot disk and what can make one useful can make you better able to resolve certain types of issues with your PC.

General Information

  • A boot disk is any removable media that contains all of the information needed to boot a computer into an operating system. Although the term is usually taken to refer to a floppy diskette, a boot disk can also be a CD-ROM, or a USB flash drive.


  • Little can be done with a computer that has no operating system installed, or an operating system that is inaccessible due to damaged or missing files, or a faulty hard drive. Using a boot disk, a computer can be brought to an operational state, allowing further work to be performed. After a boot disk has been used, an operating system can be installed to an empty hard drive, or damaged files can be repaired.

Making Boot Disks

  • Visit the Microsoft knowledge base entry linked to in the Resources section for instructions on making a boot disk from scratch. Alternatively, you can use one of the free boot disk images available on the Internet. To create a boot disk from an image, simply double click on the image file after inserting a blank disk into your floppy drive.

Using Boot Disks

  • To use a boot disk, simply insert it before turning the computer on. When you turn your computer on, you should see a message on the POST screen (the first screen displayed by the computer) telling you to tap a key (usually Delete or F2) to enter the computer's setup utility. Tap this key. Once inside the utility, look for a setting called "Boot Order" and adjust it so that the device that you intend to use (floppy, CD or USB) appears first in the order. Exit the setup utility, and the boot disk should initialize.


  • Every computer has the ability to boot from a floppy drive, whether a floppy drive is present in the system or not. Additionally, most computers made in the last 10 years can boot from a CD-ROM, which allows the installation of Windows directly from an installation CD. However, some computers cannot boot from a USB device. If you would like to use a USB boot disk to install Linux or another operating system, check your motherboard setup utility as described above. If USB is not present on the boot order list, you will need to use another type of boot disk.

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