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How do I make my USB Key bootable?

First and foremost you must have a BIOS that supports USB booting.  Traditionally speaking, if your system is USB 1.1 or less, it won't support booting from the USB port.  USB 2.0 is hit and miss, but it is a safe bet that most newer systems support it.  (It never hurts to update your BIOS.  Several models of Dell that didn't support it, now do thanks to a firmware revision.  The Latitude C-Series does not support USB booting, even with an upgrade.  The GX260 (A05 and above) and GX270 (all BIOS Revs.) do support it.)

**UPDATE!**  HP has stepped to the plate and created  a utility that easily creates bootable  USB keys.  I haven't fully tested it, but it appears to be a lot easier than the old way (see below).  Grab the utility at:

If that doesn't work, proceed on....

There are 3 methods to make the key bootable.  Start with the first and work your way down as they get progressively more involved.

1.  The easiest method is to use a utility provided by your USB key manufacturer.  The problem here is, some companies don't have them, and those that do chose not to license MS-Dos for their utility OS, which means you are stuck with PC-Dos or FreeDOS.  Both of these are OK, if you plan on building your usage for the key from the ground up.

(For the next two steps, you may need to enable USB LEGACY SUPPORT via your system BIOS to get it to recognize the key under DOS.)

2.  Plug in the USB Key and boot to a MS-DOS/Win9x boot floppy.  Use FDISK to partition the key, reboot, and use format /s to format the key and transfer the system files and write the MBR (Master Boot Record).  *MAKE SURE YOU FDISK AND FORMAT THE KEY AND NOT YOUR SYSTEM DRIVE!*  On many systems (notably Dell's) this does not work. It will go through the steps without error, but it still won't boot.  If it doesn't work,  go to step 3.

3.  First, you'll need a copy of GHOST.  Old (6.0) works just fine, so no need to run out and buy the latest copy. (I perused the Symantec website where they say only Ghost 8 supports USB.  They are wrong.)  (DriveImage may work, I haven't tested it.  Acronis TrueImage does not work.)  (*THIS WILL NOT WORK WITH SATA DRIVES AND OLD VERSIONS OF GHOST!*   Norton is aware of the problem, and they suggest you upgrade to Ghost 8.  SATA is an option in the GX270 line.)

Create a DOS environment on a spare hard drive.  Test it to make sure it boots, and then use GHOST to do a disk to disk copy from the hard drive to the USB key.  

I've had great success with this (with exception to the IBM T series laptop, which only recognizes its own proprietary memory key as a bootable flash device.)  You can even install a highly stripped down version of Win98 on the hard drive, and GHOST it to the key, assuming the key is big enough. (I did it on 256mb, with a LOT of tweaking!)  Good luck!

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How do I install Windows 95*/98/ME on my USB Key?

Insure that your PC supports booting from USB.  (A BIOS update may add this feature.  Consult your vendor's tech support.)

Find a spare hard drive for your system.  Small works, but it should be bigger than the USB key just to save you some frustration in getting everything ready.

Install all of the necessary files to get the base OS up and running.  When installing, it is best to use the Laptop/Minimal Install option.  Make sure your finished product is small enough to fit on the USB key.  You can use drive compression.

Once the OS is up and running to your liking, use GHOST to do a Disk to Disk  image to the USB drive.

Disconnect the hard drive (Just to make sure you aren't booting to the wrong place), and bring up the system.

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