[kwlug-disc] FreeDOS

unsolicited unsolicited at swiz.ca
Thu May 28 22:52:50 EDT 2009

Oksana Goertzen wrote, On 05/28/2009 10:16 PM:
> Hello Everyone,
> I have in my possession an old PIII Toshiba Tablet.  It has no cd rom in it
> and it doesn't boot from USB.  I need to reinstall Windows on it.  I'm
> thinking of taking the hard drive out, partitioning it with Linux, 
> making one
> partition bootable, loading FreeDOS on that partition and putting the
> install files for the XP Tablet edition on there and setting it up again.
> Has anyone attempted anything like this?  Does this sound like it might
> work?  It also supports PXE boot (something I've never worked with,
> but will be soon - however I want to set it up before then).  :)

This should work. I have done similar in the past.

A couple of thoughts for you though.
- you don't need FreeDOS. (Not that FreeDOS is a bad idea.) Once the 
disk is in another machine you could sys it and it should be bootable 
again. Put the tablet install files on it as you mention, etc. While 
in the other machine, you might want to disconnect all other drives 
then make sure you can boot with this one. (It's really annoying to 
put a laptop drive back in and discover the boot commands didn't 
take.) [Any combination of sys, format, making it bootable, etc. will 
work. Be it via creating a boot diskette first (Right-click A:, choose 
format, tick create an MS-DOS startup diskette), using mmc/disk 
management, a prior version of MS-DOS, whatever.] You should be able 
to sys the hard disk from a diskette.
- More than once I've created a 680MB (CD-sized) first partition and 
loaded FreeDOS into it. Then used the rest of the disk for Windows. 
i.e. Should something happen, I can stick the disk in any old machine 
and at least get to the dos prompt. Perhaps the same idea is 
appropriate for you in this case. FreeDOS also has Grub For DOS and 
NTFS reading (at least) utilities. You could load FreeDOS and let such 
lurk there until and unless you have a need. Vs. scrambling for it 
after the fact. In the meantime, you can make the windows partition 
active for the moment, and only make the first partition active if you 
have to. If you pursue Grub now though, defaulting to Windows, you'll 
be able to choose Free/DOS later, should Windows fail to boot. 
Otherwise you'll be pulling the disk out again to set the first 
partition active.

You could also just add another line to boot.ini, after the fact, to 
achieve the same. e.g. my boot.ini also has the line:
C:\CMDCONS\BOOTSECT.DAT="Microsoft Windows Recovery Console" /cmdcons
You should be able to google a similar boot.ini line for command.com, 
or windows single user mode.

Just be careful when you install Windows again - many versions of 
Windows will reformat your drive without regard to your preferences or 
pre-existing partitions.

When you get everything back to how you want it to be, you might just 
take an image of the tablet drive. In case you have to do this again.

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