How to create a DOS bootable USB stick

Written by sara williams
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How to create a DOS bootable USB stick
It is possible to boot to DOS from a USB stick. (computer for work image by lidia_smile from

Released by Microsoft in 1981, MS-DOS is a 16-bit command-line operating system. Due to its popularity, MS-DOS came to be known simply as DOS--short for "disk operating system." Microsoft dropped its DOS in 2000, after the release of Windows XP, which no longer used MS-DOS as its foundation. Yet there remains plenty of reasons to boot a computer into DOS from a USB stick, including working on older machines and playing vintage computer games on a computer that does not have Windows installed.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Computer
  • Virtual Floppy Drive
  • USB stick
  • MKBT DOS utility

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  1. 1

    Check your computer for a USB port. Most USB ports are labelled with a three-pronged symbol. If you are unsure if the port has the correct symbol next to it, check it against the one on your USB stick.

  2. 2

    Download the "mkbt DOS" utility. Unzip the files, but do not move them to the USB stick. Download and unzip Virtual Floppy Drive. Run "vfdwin" from the folder where the unzipped files for Virtual Floppy Drive reside and press the "Install" button that appears when the program loads. Doing this will install the drivers, but this does not work in Windows Vista or above. If the driver installs correctly, then click on "Drive 0" and mount a virtual floppy drive. The alternative to going through the process of mounting a virtual floppy drive is using a real 5.25-inch floppy drive and floppy disk, if they are available.

  3. 3

    Open the Command Prompt program by clicking "Start," selecting "All Programs," choosing "Accessories" and clicking "Command Prompt." Type "mkbt -c a: bootsect.bin" to copy the boot sector from the floppy drive. Then type "mkbt -x bootsect.bin" and the name of your USB drive, such as "mkbt -x bootsect.bin e:" if your USB drive is "E." Copy the "mkbt DOS" files onto the floppy drive.

  4. 4

    Check that the computer you wish to boot from DOS is turned off. Plug in the USB stick and turn on the computer. If the USB stick fails to boot, try wiping the stick and performing each step over again. If problems persist, try finding a different USB stick and make it DOS-bootable.

Tips and warnings

  • Not all USB drives are able to be used with this tutorial.
  • Not all computers support booting from a USB drive, and settings on some must be changed in BIOS. These settings differ from computer to computer.

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