FreeDOS 1.1 Bootable USB Image

Here is the FreeDOS image file. It can be used to create a bootable USB. At the end of this post I describe, in detail, how I created the image file from the FreeDOS ISO.

1 Download

Here are the download options.

URL Format Size Checksum Extraction
fdos11.tar.bz2 tar, gzip 28MB 25175 27686 tar jvxf fdos11.tar.bz2
fdos11.tar.gz tar, bzip2 32MB 25477 32340 tar zvxf fdos11.tar.gz zip 32MB 28567 32337 unzip

Once you have downloaded and unzipped it, you need to flash it to your USB.

1.1 Linux

On linux use the dd tool as follows:

1.2 Windows

On windows you need to unzip the file and then use a tool like imgburn to flash the USB.

I would appreciate any feedback here from windows users.

2 Motivation

Why would anyone want to do this? Well I certainly can’t speak for other folks but I use these USBs when building cloud filers to flash the firmware of SAS/SATA controllers to HBA (I/T) mode so that I can install the ZFS file system without hardware RAID. The flash firmware is always available in DOS format and this distribution is very small so it easily fits on 1GB USB sticks with all of the drivers that I need. For the record, I think that DSL (Damn Small Linux) would be another good alternative.

3 How to Create the Image

Of course the previous sections only describe how to use the image. In this section I describe how to create the image from the ISO on linux by following these steps.

  1. Download ISO
  2. Create Local Disk as File
  3. Install ISO to Disk
  4. Test Image
  5. Flash the USB

Each step will be described in detail in subsequent sections. You will need root privileges to flash the image to a USB (step 5).

There are a lot of screens displayed during the FreeDOS installation process but don’t worry the process is pretty fast and once the image is created you can reuse the image over and over.

This documentation was generated as I went through the process using gimp (the option to select a window came in very handy).

3.1 Download ISO

The FreeDOS ISO is available here.

3.2 Create Local Disk as File

Create a dummy disk file that will act like a disk or USB for the installation in the next step. Note that I made it slightly smaller that 1GB to give a bit of overhead for formatting tools.

3.3 Install ISO to Disk

I did this using qemu which is an open source machine emulator and virtualizer. I tend to use it for all sorts of things like booting from ISO’s and images while my host OS is running.

In this case, it is going to act like machine emulator that boots off of the ISO to perform the installation to the local disk file. Later I will use it to test the install by booting off of the disk file.

If qemu is not installed, see this page for installation details.

The command I used is shown below. It is probably a bit daunting for newbies so each of the fields is described in the subsequent comments.

3.3.1 Initial Window

Once the command is started the following window will pop up. Select install to hard disk. Note that the hard disk here is the fdos11.img file that you created earlier.

3.3.2 Install to Hard Disk

This is the install hard disk screen. Select f to format the disk.

3.3.3 FDISK FAT32 or FAT16

This is the first format hard disk screen. Select N. When I tried to build with Y it didn’t work.

3.3.4 FDISK Options – Create DOS Partition

This is the main option menu for FDISK. It appears many times during the process. At this point select option 1 “Create DOS Partition or Logical Drive”.

3.3.5 FDISK Create DOS Partition

This screen provides options for creating DOS partitions. For this exercise we will only create a single partition for the entire USB so choose option 1 “Create Primary DOS Partition”.

3.3.6 FDISK Create the Primary DOS Partition

This screen asks whether you want to use all of the available disk space. Answer yes (Y).

3.3.7 FDISK Created the Primary DOS Partition

This screen displays after the partition is created. Press the Esc key to continue.

3.3.8 FDISK Options – Active Partition

Select option 2 to make sure that the partition is active. Normally it is set to active by default but it never hurts to check.

3.3.9 FDISK Set Active Partition

This screen shows that the active partition has been set so you only need to press the Esc key.

3.3.10 FDISK Options – Display partition information

We are back at the main options screen. At this point you will want to do a final verification check by selecting option 4 “Display partition information”.

3.3.11 FDISK Display Partition Information

The partition information is correct. There is only one partition. Press the Esc key to continue.

3.3.12 FDISK Options – Done

We back at the options menu. We are done with formatting so press the Esc key to continue.

3.3.13 FDISK – System Restart

The system is ready to restart. Press the Enter key (or any other key) to proceed.

3.3.14 FreeDOS Installation Screen

Now we are back at the installation screen. Choose option 1 “Install to hardisk” now that the hard disk is formatted. Remember, the hard disk in this case is the fdos11.img file.

3.3.15 Install FreeDOS to the Hard Disk

On this screen type the “1” key. It is no obvious because there is no prompt.

3.3.16 Select the Installation Language

Select your installation language. I chosee option 1 (US English).

3.3.17 Format Disk

This disk was partitioned earlier but it was not formatted. This step does that. Ignore the message about FAT32. It will correctly format the FAT16 partition we created. Select the “Yes” option.

3.3.18 Warning About Losing Data

This screen warns about losing data. That is perfectly fine because it doesn’t have any data yet. Type in YES and press the Enter key.

3.3.19 Continue with the FreeDOS Installation

At this point the disk is partitioned and formatted so we can continue with the installation. Select the first option.

3.3.20 Start the Installation

This screen asks you whether to start the installation. Select the first option.

3.3.21 EULA

This is just a message. Press the Enter key or any other key to continue.

3.3.22 Ready to Install

This is just a message. Press the Enter key or any other key to continue.

3.3.23 Install From/To

This screen presents the from and to directories. You don’t want to change anything. Press the Enter key to accept the default values and continue.

3.3.24 3.3.23 Install From/To Prompt

This screen also presents the from and to directories. You don’t want to change anything. Press the Enter key to accept that the directories are correct and continue.

3.3.25 Choose the Modules to Install

This screen displays the top level modules that you can install. Don’t change anything. Use the defaults. Press the Enter key to continue.

If you want to choose other modules use your right/left arrow keys to navigate and use the space bar to select/deselect.

Later you will be prompted for the individual packages in the modules.

3.3.26 Choose the Packages to Install Prompt

Same screen as 3.3.25. Choose the Yes option from the “Proceed with Installation?” dialogue.

3.3.27 Package List for the Kernel

The packages for the kernel are displayed. You want all of them.


3.3.29 Installation

This is the longest step. Be patient it takes awhile. You do not have to hit any keys.

3.3.30 Done Installing this Series

The initial kernel packages have been installed. Press the Enter key or any other key o continue.

3.3.31 Syslinux Bootloader Collection

This is the bootloader. Press the Enter key to continue.

3.3.32 Syslinux Bootloader Collection Proceed Prompt

This screen displays this dialogue: “Proceed with Installation?”. Select “Yes” to continue.

3.3.33 Installation Progress

This is the installation progress screen. Don’t do anything. It will eventually finish and the next screen will popup.

3.3.34 Installation Finished

This is the screen that pops up after the installation has completed. Press the Enter key or any other key to continue.

3.3.35 Configuring the Disk

This screen shows the progress for configuring the disk. When it finishes, you are prompted to define how the Volume Boot Record is configured. Choose option 1 (Write FreeDOS specific code to this area so KERNEL.SYS will be loaded).

3.3.36 Boot from System Hard Disk

Select the boot from system hard disk option (third option).

3.3.37 Load Without Drivers

Now load without drivers (option 4). You don’t need them.

3.3.38 FreeDOS Booted from the Disk Image

We have the FreeDOS prompt which indicates that it successfully booted off of the disk image!

3.4 Test Image

Although the image worked correctly in the previous section, I also did an alternate test by booting directly from the disk using this command.

3.4.1 Initial Screen

Here is the window that you see initially. Choose option 4.

3.4.2 FreeDOS Prompt

Here is the DOS prompt again.

3.5 Flash the USB

Now that we know that the disk image works properly using qemu, we can flash a USB and test it.

3.5.1 Flash Command

Here is the command to flash the USB:

3.5.2 Boot from USB

Now you are ready to go. Remove the USB and plug it back in to mount everything properly. Then run qemu again to boot off of the USB.

Here is a screen shot from the live USB showing the boot menu.

Select option 4 and this is what you get.

3.5.3 FreeDOS from the USB

I ran the DIR command to demonstrate that it is working.

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