How To: Make a Bootable CD-ROM

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By Logan Decker
If Windows doesn’t feel like starting up and your files are being held hostage, booting into a DOS environment with a floppy disk or floppy emulation won’t do you much good because you can’t access NTFS partitions.

This floppy-less method gives you access to all your files (provided the problem isn’t with your drive; if it is, you have our sympathies).

1. PREP WORK
Fortunately, most of the hard work’s been done for you by Bart Lagerweij, whose Preinstalled Environment (called BartPE for short) has got everything you need to create a bootable CD complete with network support and even a pleasant graphical interface. Even more charming is that he’s giving away the fruits of his labor for free. Yes, that’s “free” as in “beer.” So let’s go shopping.

Go here and download PE Builder (now at version 3.1.3). Note: You will also need your original Windows XP installation disc (Home or Professional) as well as Service Pack 2. You can download Service Pack 2 here .

2. RIP YOUR OS DISCS TO THE HARD DRIVE
Put your Windows XP disc in the drive and copy the contents to a folder on your PC, preferably close to the root directory of your C: drive (you’ll understand why in a second). Next, create another folder for SP2 and move the contents of the disc into that folder.

Now click Start > Run and type cmd to open a DOS box. Navigate to the folder where you saved the SP2 installer—if you place this file near the root directory it will be much easier to access; you can delete it later.

Type the name of the SP2 installer followed by the –s: command-line switch, and then add the path to the Windows XP disc files you copied earlier. Do not put a space after the “s:” For example, if your WinXP files are located at c:winxp, then type xpsp2.exe -s:c:winxp. SP2 will integrate itself into the Windows XP installer.

3. CONFIGURE PE BUILDER
Launch PE Builder. Under Source, enter the path to your Windows XP installation files. Under Output, select a destination directory for your finished disc image. Under ISO/CD, you have the option of saving the image as an ISO disc image, burning the results directly to CD, or both. You may also add any folders and files (such as utilities or data-recovery apps) by placing them all into one directory and entering the directory path under Custom.


4. BAKE YOUR BOOT DISC
PE Builder also gives you the option of adding plugins developed by Bart himself or clever third parties. These run the gauntlet from ASPI layers to disk utilities, Ad-Aware to mouse drivers, and they’ll all be automatically added to your compilation (you can find scads of them here ).

Now click Build and kick back. When PE Builder is done, you’ll have a fresh, bootable CD-ROM (unless you chose to make a disc image instead—all you have to do is burn this image to a disc with any disc-mastering program).

5. FUN WITH BART-PE
For the real go-getters out there, creating a BartPE ISO image is only the beginning. You can find a list of the plugins included in the BartPE download at the BartPE site, as well as links to other plugins available from third parties (including commercial software developers). Here are two must-haves for a bootable “rescue” CD that won’t leave you in the lurch after a disaster.

NERO
Your first priority on a wobbly system will most likely be evacuating your data. If you don’t have an external drive to copy everything onto, you’ll need to burn it to CD or DVD instead. BartPE conveniently comes with a plugin for Nero built in, but in order to use it you’ll need to copy all the files from your Nero install (everything within the Nero application folder) into the plugin ero burning romfiles directory of your BartPE plugin folder. Then open the penero.inf file in the Nero plugin folder using Notepad.

Look for the line that says [Software.AddReg] underneath your version of Nero (5.x or 6.x). Note that this line and the three beneath it are preceded by a semicolon and some spaces; remove the semicolon and the spaces before all four lines, and edit the last three lines to reflect the user name, company, and serial number from your Nero installation. Save the penero.inf file, and Nero will be available from the BartPE CD you created.

NORTON GHOST/ACRONIS TRUE IMAGE
Both of these drive-imaging programs are supported by BartPE. In fact, Acronis makes it grossly easy by supplying its own plugin for True Image, available here .

Splicing in Ghost isn’t much more difficult; just copy the following files from your Ghost install: ghost32.exe, ghostexp.exe, ghostsrv.exe, ghostcdr.dll, and then copy them to the pluginghost8 directory in your BartPE plugin folder (even though it refers to Ghost 8, this directory works just fine for later versions).

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