How to Make a Bootable CD-R


The "El Torito" standard developed by Phoenix Technologies and IBM describes how to create bootable CD-ROMs for PCs. The bootable CD format creates a bootable image of an ISO 9660 file that is an exact representation of a floppy or hard drive from that you can boot your PC.

The recent lower cost of CD-writers and CD-R's makes bootable CD-R an attractive alternative to tape backup unit. Making a bootable CD-R is a solution to stop the so called "computer rage" when you need to reinstall the operating system.

For your PC to boot from a CD-ROM, you will need either a SCSI controller equipped with a "new" controller BIOS allowing booting from CD-ROM and a SCSI CD-ROM drive connected to that controller, or an IDE/ATAPI CD-ROM drive and a PC BIOS allowing the boot from CD-ROM.

When you make a bootable CD-R to reinstall your hard drive, you should backup your data files first and setup all the stuff you need, including drivers (video drivers, network drivers, etc.), backup software, and favorite programs.

Hardware and Software Required to Make a Bootable CD-R

You will need a CD-ROM reader, a CD-R writer and CD-R writing software such as Adaptec Easy CD Creator Deluxe, Easy CD Creator 4, CeQuadrat WinOnCD, or Nero-Burning Rom.

To make an ISO 9660 image file of your hard drive, you may use software such as Power Quest's Drive Image, Ghosts' Ghost40a, Nortons' Diskedit.exe, etc.

General Procedure in Making a Bootable CD-R

  1. Install the CD-R writer as "master" and the CD-ROM as "slave" in your computer.
  2. If you want your bootable CD-R to work with other computers that may contain other cd-rom drives, use the generic Microsoft Atapi_cd.sys Driver, instead of a device specific cd-rom drivers.
  3. Make a bootable "diskette" and install all the drivers you require. The config.sys file should contain statements such as Device=Atapi_cd.sys. (Or make a copy of the Windows OS boot disk that contains all the tools required such as fdisk, format.com etc.)
  4. Install the software capable of making an image of your hard drive. You should reserve enough space on another hard drive partition to store the image. Select the image file you made as the source of boot image data. (Or if your bootable logical drive is smaller than 650MB, you may select it as the source of boot image data.)
  5. Run the CD-R writing software capable of writing a bootable CD-R. For specific procedures in burning the bootable CD-R, refer to the operating manual of the CD-R writing software. (If the Boot dialog box of your CD-R writing software has a field for "Load segment of sectors", keep the default value as this is the address used by most operating systems.
  6. Change your BIOS on bootup to recognize the CD-ROM, C, A boot sequence to test the CD-R you have made.
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