Many years ago, having a good floppy bootdisk is the MOST important thing whenever I need to reinstall Windows 95. Back then, motherboards doesn’t support booting up using CDROM and software such as PLoP still don’t exist. So I need to insert a floppy that has CDROM drivers which will enable CDROM so I can install Windows 95 from the installation disc. It is very troublesome because floppy disks are very sensitive and I always need to carry along a box of bootup floppies just in case a lot of them doesn’t work.
Most new motherboards can support booting up via floppy, CDROM, USB, and even network via PXE which makes the the use of floppy bootup disks nearly obsolete. However, although we seldom use floppy bootup disk, I just wanted to share with you a very good and useful network bootdisk called NetBootDisk which has helped me easily cloned many computers with Symantec Ghost in the past. Other than using network boot disk to do hard disk cloning, you can use it to gain network access in DOS so you can recover data from FAT based partitions before formatting dead Windows installs. Other than that, you can also test the network connection by isolating windows when you are unsure if it is a hardware or software problem.
The Universal TCP/IP Network Bootdisk (NetBootDisk) is a DOS bootdisk that provides TCP/IP networking support. It’s designed for use in Microsoft networking environments, on either peer-to-peer or domain based LANs. From the changelog, the latest NetBootDisk v6.2 includes 150 different network card drivers, all on the single 1.44MB disk!
- Fully automatic, single floppy disk operation
- 150 Drivers included on the same single 1.44MB disk
- Easy to use Menu Interface
- Autodetection of PCI network cards
- DHCP or static IP configuration
- Included/Optional DNS Support
- Included/Optional DIS_PKT9 Packet Driver, allowing DOS TCP/IP Apps, including Ghost Multicasting!
- Included/Optional Mouse Driver
- Included/Optional IDE CD-ROM Driver
- Random computer name upon each boot (optional) Ideal for quickly booting multiple machines at once.
- Menu preferences, including last non-autodetected network card saved to disk as defaults for next boot
- Password saved encrypted to disk.
- Ability to auto-execute command upon logging on to the LAN.
- Scripting support for automatically running NTFS-DOS
- LMHOSTS Support
- Freeware DOSKEY included
- Terse 4096 byte Text Editor included
- Able to display the MAC address
- SATA CD/DVD-ROM Support
- No hard drive required
I’ve used NetBootDisk to easily clone 30 computers using Ghost via network without going through any complicated scripting or server configurations. Just have a box of Netboot floppy disks, install a Linux SME Server on an old computer (don’t be frightened by the word Linux because SME Server is REALLY easy to setup), create an image of one computer with Ghost and save it on the shared folder located at Linux SME Server. Finally boot up the rest of the computers with NetBootDisk to connect to the server and dump it with Ghost using the image that was created earlier. I then read my newspaper and by the time I finish reading it, the cloning process has completed. Well there are many other methods (multicast, PXE and etc) and softwares (LiveZilla and etc) to clone multiple computers and this is just one of them…
It is possible to convert the floppy version of NetBootDisk to bootable CD. If you have a floppy drive, you can refer to this guide on how to create a CDROM version of NetBootDisk with Nero. For some new computers that doesn’t come with floppy drive, you can create a virtual floppy drive with VM Back, then create the NetbootDisk to the virtual floppy and burn it with Nero using the guide above. I prefer to use floppy if I am required to clone a lot of computers because it is faster and cheaper compared to CDROM.