How to boot to DOS under

   Why ?      How ?      What ?      Where ?      Who ?   

 

1. Why ?

If you have already installed it, then you know that the latest OS from Microsoft won't let you boot directly to MS-DOS, going straight to Windows at boot time. This is the biggest step taken so far by Microsoft towards the announced death of DOS. The only way to boot to the Windows Millennium DOS is to make a boot diskette at the control panel, but you can't boot to plain DOS when booting from an hard disk by using F8 like you did before, on windows 95/98. Microsoft even went to the extent of eliminating the SYS C: and FORMAT C: /S commands. And WinME doesn't even run the commands on AUTOEXEC.BAT and CONFIG.SYS anymore!

I admit that this can in fact eliminate many user related problems that occur when the average user manages to get himself typing on a DOS prompt, therefore entering a state of panic that costs companies a lot of money on professional therapy for the users and post-FORMAT re-installations and data loss.

However, to a lot of us, this is VERY BAD NEWS, indeed. The main reason to boot to DOS nowadays is to boot an alternate Operating System, like LINUX, or to perform direct access to the hard disk, needed by some older applications. Without the possibility to boot to DOS, we all have to resort to a boot manager or to a boot diskette. Plus, there are some things that we might want our computer to load on startup, by means of AUTOEXEC and CONFIG.SYS. So, how to do it ?

You need...

 

2. How ?

Since I'm one of those people who needs to boot to plain DOS for some dark, weary and suspicious reason, I fiddled a bit with the boot files and managed to produce this little patch. Presenting....

WINDOWS ME' DOS Activator

All you need to do is to run this patch on your system and voilá! Next reboot you'll have your familiar DOS prompt back. Windows will no longer boot to its GUI by default (the BOOTGUI=1 directive on MSDOS.SYS is ignored by WinME); your computer will boot to the DOS prompt and you'll need to write "WIN" to load windows.

A better approach is to create a CONFIG/AUTOEXEC with menus (supported by MSDOS since version 6). The good news are, this patch already creates a sample CONFIG/AUTOEXEC that display 2 options at boot time: Boot to DOS or Boot to Windows.

WARNING!!! The program will ask you if you want it to create a sample CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT (it will make backups first); if you choose NOT to do so, you MUST add the following line to your existing CONFIG.SYS, or the system won't boot into Windows ME:

Device=C:\WINDOWS\IFSHLP.SYS

One side effect of this utility is that, if you press F8 at boot time, you'll get the boot menu with just one option: Normal Boot. Don't blame me, blame Microsoft. If you want to include other options, like Safe Mode, etc, add them to your multi-configuration CONFIG/AUTOEXEC setup. Safe mode can be entered by entering windows with Win /D:M.

Another side effect, which I haven't had the time to investigate yet, is that we can no longer put anything we want to on CONFIG.SYS. The most upsetting example is EMM386.EXE, which freezes the computer when loading. So, forget high memory for now.

Don't worry about your current configuration; the utility will perform backups of all files it messes with. Oh, I almost forgot the small print:

DISCLAIMER: Although this program was tested and apparently can't perform any harm, THE AUTHOR DECLINES ANY AND ALL RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANY DAMAGE THE PROGRAM MIGHT CAUSE ON ITS USERS' COMPUTERS. USE THIS PROGRAM AT YOUR OWN RISK! 

Hmmm... that's not bad, but I think I'd better copy/paste a disclaimer from some other program, just in case:

DISCLAIMER 2: IN NO EVENT UNLESS REQUIRED BY APPLICABLE LAW OR AGREED TO IN WRITING WILL THE AUTHOR BE LIABLE TO YOU FOR DAMAGES, INCLUDING ANY GENERAL, SPECIAL, INCIDENTAL OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES ARISING OUT OF THE USE OR INABILITY TO USE THE PROGRAM (INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO LOSS OF DATA OR DATA BEING RENDERED INACCURATE OR LOSSES SUSTAINED BY YOU OR THIRD PARTIES OR A FAILURE OF THE PROGRAM TO OPERATE WITH ANY OTHER PROGRAMS), EVEN IF THE AUTHOR OR OTHER PARTY HAS BEEN ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES.

One has to admire those lawyers :)))

 

3. What ?

What can you do with this, you mean? Well, in short, you now can:

Boot to DOS :)

Run other Operating Systems - LINUX, BEOS, etc - without having to install a Boot Manager. Some of these OS's require you to be in DOS mode to install them.

Launch any device drivers at boot time, using CONFIG.SYS

Set the usual environment variables, like PATH, using AUTOEXEC.BAT.

Run old programs and games that require plain DOS because they access your hardware directly

Run programs like Diskedit to perform low-level tasks on your hard disk.

Develop hardware related software without the interference of Windows.

Run a "DELTREE /y WINDOWS" command to eradicate virus...

Manually fix some problems, like when Windows freezes loading due to a replaced DLL by some installed program.

Some other uses that I can't remember now... you tell me!

What have I done to accomplish this? I have changed some bytes on COMMAND.COM and on IO.SYS (Not the regular IO.SYS but the one located at \windows\command\ebd\, which is the one that is put on floppy when we make a boot disk. They're different on WinME). Microsoft included specific code to prevent booting to DOS! In meta-language, one could read a line on COMMAND.COM that said: "If not running on a virtual DOS box, then FREEZE computer up"! Likewise, IO.SYS read "if not booting from A: then FREEZE". Microsoft deliberately murdered DOS on WinME...

 

4. Where ?

Here :) Just download this ZIP file, uncompress it and run WinMeDOS.EXE on your system. YOU MUST HAVE Windows Millennium version 4.90.3000 installed! Check with "ver" on a DOS box. Version 1.1 now supports all language versions of WinME (supposedly - tested with UK and German versions [thanks dEfT!]. Give me some feedback on other versions).

Download: WinME DOS Activator v1.2    (10 KB)

RE-WARNING!!! The program will ask you if you want it to create a sample CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT (it will make backups first); if you choose NOT to do so, you MUST add the following line to your existing CONFIG.SYS, or the system won't boot into Windows ME:

Device=C:\WINDOWS\IFSHLP.SYS

This is totally FREEWARE, of course. However, if you find this extremely useful and, for some dark purpose, want to send me a postcard, money, or just a "thank you" note, please do so. Just look in the "Who?" section. And thanks! :)

 

5. Who ?

The author's name is Pedro Fonseca (casual coder :), and you can contact me at pbfonseca@yahoo.com. Please send any suggestions, questions, bug reports, insults, requests, jokes, recipes or whatever you want to.

For postcards or other material things, send an email asking for my snail mail address. Just for the record, it's in Portugal. There are 10 million of us here, so watch out!

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