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How to create and use a bootable USB memory stick as a floppy drive replacement
Published Date : 09 Dec 2003   Last Updated : 15 Jul 2013   Content Ref: TEC134761  


To make a bootable USB memory stick which emulates a floppy drive (i.e. Drive A:) when it boots, a USB-FDD or USB-ZIP device is required.

A USB-FDD device appears as a 1.44MB USB floppy drive and should appear as drive A: or B: under both MS-DOS and Microsoft® Windows®.
A USB-ZIP device appears as a large USB floppy drive/USB ZIP drive, under MS-DOS it should boot as A:, under Windows it will be given a higher drive letter such as G:.
A USB-HDD device appears as a large USB hard disk, under MS-DOS it will boot as drive C:, under Windows it will be given a higher drive letter such as G:.

  1. A bootable USB memory stick that can emulate a USB-ZIP or USB-FDD device.
    Suitable USB-FDD devices are the Netac Triple-Boot or the 1GB Netac U207 or U208 (RM NTU208 can emulate a 1.44MB USB floppy disk). Suitable USB-ZIP devices include the RM MiniSafe Pro.
  2. Software that will format the USB memory stick (provided with most, but not all memory sticks).
  3. A computer with a USB port which is running Microsoft Windows® XP/2000 (or Windows® 98 SE).


Preparing the USB memory stick

Please note: Always follow the manufacturers instructions if available!

To prepare the USB memory stick you must format it as a USB-ZIP or USB-FDD device (for drive A: emulation).

  1. If you have any files on the memory stick, copy them to a hard disk first as they will be destroyed by the preparation process.
  2. Install the utilities that were provided with your memory stick onto a Windows 98 PC (or Windows XP if supported by your memory stick software). Note: Many drivers do not work correctly on Windows 98 First Edition and can only be used with Windows 98 Second Edition.
  3. Insert the memory stick into a USB socket on your Windows PC - it should be detected automatically by Windows.
  4. Run the Format utility program (e.g. VFormat, MFormat, etc) and look for an option to partition and format the device as a Startup disk or bootable disk.
  5. Ensure that you select the option to enable bootable features or 'Startup disk'.
  6. Select the USB-ZIP bootable type (for emulation as a floppy drive) or USB-FDD if available.
  7. Do not enable password protection (if provided).
  8. Execute the partition and format process to prepare the memory stick.
  9. Remove the memory stick, wait a few seconds and then re-insert it.

To check that the preparation was successful, use Windows Explorer to find the USB drive on the same Windows system and check that the following MS-DOS boot files are present:

  • MSDOS.SYS (hidden file).
  • COMMAND.COM (may be hidden).
  • IO.SYS (hidden file).

There may be more files than this, but these are the essential ones.

If these files are not present or you do not have a suitable utility, you can use the MS-DOS SYS utility on a Windows 98 system as follows:

  1. Find the drive letter assigned to the memory stick by looking at the list of drives in My Computer.
  2. Open an MS-DOS window.
  3. Type DIR X: and DIR /AH X: (where X: is the drive letter found in step 1 above) - no files should be listed.
  4. Type SYS X: to prepare the memory stick (e.g. SYS B:).
  5. Repeat step 3 to confirm that the files have been copied correctly - it should now list the files.

The SYS command does not work with some memory sticks (e.g. Sony USB 2.0 Micro-Vault). In this case you can simply boot to Windows (XP or 98) and copy these three files from a bootable floppy disk to the memory stick.

If you have a USB-FDD device and are using Windows XP, it is better to prepare a bootable floppy disk, test it, and then use the Windows XP disk-copy function. Select the Floppy drive with the floppy disk in it in Windows Explorer, right-click the floppy drive (e.g. A:) and choose the 'copy disk...' menu item, then select B: (the memory stick) as the destination device.

Note: On the RM NTU208, you need to set the side switch to the FDD position before you connect it to the computer.

Preparing the target PC

The target PC should be configured so that it will boot from the USB memory stick before it boots from the hard disk.

  1. Switch off the target PC.
  2. Connect the USB memory stick to a known working USB port.
  3. Switch on the PC and press F1 or F2 or DEL (as appropriate) to enter the BIOS Setup Menu.
  4. Change the boot order so that USB-ZIP is the first boot device.
  5. Check that USB Keyboard support (USB legacy Kbd) is enabled.
  6. Save and exit the setup program.

Booting the target PC

The target PC should now boot from the USB memory stick and you should see an A:> prompt on the screen.

You can add further files to the memory stick simply by using normal file copy operations, either under MS-DOS or under Windows (98, 2000 or XP).

If you have a floppy disk that you wish to emulate as a memory stick, simply copy all the files to the memory stick. Note that you should also copy all hidden, read-only and system files that were on the original floppy disk. For instance, if you download the RMRESTOR floppy disk (see Other Useful Articles section below) and copy the contents to the memory stick, you can run RMRestor on any PC using a memory stick rather than use a floppy disk.


Issues booting

If the target PC does not boot from the memory stick, check the following:

  1. Check that the USB port you are using actually works by booting to Windows® and checking the contents of the memory stick under Windows on the target system.
  2. Check all the BIOS Setup Menu options to ensure that booting from a USB device is enabled. The option of 'Legacy USB kbd support' may also be required by some BIOSes.
  3. Place the memory stick into the USB port and switch on the system. Many systems (eg RM MX46 mainboards) will list the devices that they find on the initial startup screen (e.g. Hard disks, CD-ROM drives, etc). Check that a USB Storage Device is listed.
  4. Allow the system to boot to a floppy drive (either the standard floppy drive or a USB floppy drive) by changing the boot order in the BIOS to allow this. Once it has booted from a bootable floppy disk, check for a drive B: device and then a drive C: device, etc, until you find the memory stick files (i.e. dir B:, dir C:, dir D:). If a drive B: device is found, then your system has correctly detected the memory stick as a USB floppy drive. If a drive C: (or higher) drive is found, then the memory stick has been detected as a USB-HDD device and so it will only boot if you select the USB-HDD option in the boot-order menu of the BIOS.

If your device is being detected as a USB-HDD device, you can boot to DOS and use FDISK, FORMAT and SYS to prepare this device; however you must ensure that the partition on this device is marked as Active (bootable). This can be done using FDISK, but FDISK will only allow this to be done if it is the first hard disk. Alternatively, you can use the RM partitioning tool (RMPTN, as on the RMRESTOR boot floppy - see Other Useful Articles section) to make the memory stick partition Active. 

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Document Keywords: usb ram drive, memory stick, pen drive, mini drive, usb disk on a key, dongle, pendrive, flash memory, flash card, minisafe, mini safe, rmminisafe

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