Boot DOS from USB - RUFUS

Creating a Bootable USB flash drive to Boot DOS from USB can be complicated. However, a tool called Rufus or (Reliable USB Format Utility) created by Pete Batard, can make this task relatively simple. This utility can also be used to create a Bootable USB of a given distro from an ISO or image file.

Originally, when first introduced, the software was similar in appearance and operation to the old HP USB Format tool "HPUSBFW.exe", and shared many of the same features. However, unlike the HP format tool, this app is, and always was Open Source.

What is DOS?

DOS, also known as "Disk Operating System" or (MS-DOS), is an operating environment that can be used to control and manage files and programs on a PC. It used to be very popular and was commonly used throughout the 80's as the main operating system in IBM compatible PCs. Back then, it was usually run from a floppy disk.

How does DOS work?

DOS works by allowing the user to interact with their computer using text commands. Basic DOS commands include "dir" to see a list of files, "cd" to change directories, and "copy" to make copies of files.

What happened to DOS?

In the mid 1990's DOS was superseded by modern operating systems like Windows that use a GUI or (Graphical User Interface) making it easier for any user to navigate and use a computer. More specifically, in 1994, due to the popularity of Windows, Microsoft released the last version of MS-DOS which marked the end of the Disk Operating System. However, DOS is still very useful today for doing things like installing firmware updates, playing old games, running old programs, controlling hardware settings, and managing files.

Additionally, learning DOS can be a helpful exercise in understanding the history of computing and the basic principles of operating systems.

How to Boot DOS from USB using Rufus

To run DOS on USB, we can easily create a DOS Bootable USB flash drive using Rufus. Here's how;

Authors Website: Pete's Project Page

  1. Download Rufus and click the executable to launch the program.
  2. (1) Select your USB flash drive from the Device drop down.
    (2) Choose the FreeDOS option under Boot selection.
    (3) Press START to Create a DOS bootable USB.
    Boot DOS From USB using Rufus
  3. Restart your PC, set your system BIOS to boot from the USB device, reboot and enjoy DOS on USB!

Keep in mind that this post was originally written back in 2011. Rufus has since evolved into a tool that can be used to format, create master boot records, and install an ISO or an Image based distribution to USB. Today it works much like its predecessor, the classic Universal USB Installer | bootable USB maker which was produced a few years earlier.

Though this particular Windows bootable USB software can only be used to run one Live distribution from a flash drive at a time. Tools such as YUMI (Multiboot USB Creator) or Ventoy can be used in its place to allow for storing and booting multiple ISO files from one flash drive. Enabling you to do things like run multiple Live Linux distributions, or system diagnostic tools from a flash drive, and install Windows 10 on USB, all from the same storage device.