Microsoft OSs (was: Install Floppies)

Liam Proven lproven at
Mon Jul 26 10:48:37 CDT 2021

On Sat, 24 Jul 2021 at 18:41, Grant Taylor via cctalk
<cctalk at> wrote:
> Talk about a chicken and egg / priming problem.  How do you get the
> CD-ROM drivers off of the CD-ROM that you need a driver to access.  ;-)
> The quintessential answer is to have (access to) another system (or
> driver) assist.

One of the things I liked about Windows -- from 3 to 7 and probably
still, I think -- is that you could just copy all the files off the
media into a folder, run SETUP.EXE or WINNT.EXE and that DOS program
would build enough of the OS to boot into and install the rest. In
other words, you can install NT from DOS.

I used this in production around 1999 or so. A client needed to expand
their Netware network but they had a cupboard full of old 386 PCs,
generic cheap clones. I did a deal with a PC builder I knew. He came
around, filled his van with 386s, took them away, gutted them, fitted
new 6x86 motherboards with onboard graphics, cheapo NICs, EIDE hard
disks, and delivered them back. I reconnected the old screens and
keyboards and mice, booted them and installed DOS 6.22 on them, into a
tiny C: drive -- I don't remember now, maybe a 512 MB partition. I
copied a Netware stack on from floppy, connected to the server, and
copied the NT install files onto the C drive, then I ran the setup

Result, a couple of dozen new NT4 workstations, with no sound or CD
drives -- nothing to distract the workers -- for a few hundred pounds
per seat. The keyboards were good, better than new ones, and though
the screens were rubbish those are trivially easy to upgrade.

I remember discussing the problems installing OS/2 2 with an IT journo
and OS/2 expert I knew, the late great Terence Green. I said to him
that OS/2's famed installation pains could be alleviated if IBM
offered a similar tool, to install the core OS *from DOS* and
bootstrap the installation from that.

He was incredulous and contemptuously dismissive. I still think it's a
good idea. You didn't have to make the multiple NT boot floppies. You
didn't need an optical drive that the PC could boot from. You didn't
need to configure a boot floppy with drivers for optical media -- and
especially bear in mind that in the mid-1990s, many optical drives
were connected to sound cards via proprietary (and slow) interfaces,
such as Mitsumi and Panasonic. 32-bit OSes like NT, OS/2 and Linux
never supported those sound card-attached drives out of the box, and
definitely not off boot floppies.

Going via DOS made it very easy. The machine never needed to boot off
anything except its own hard disk, which is [a] easy and [b] a sine
qua non -- if it can't boot of its own HDD it's not going to work.

Liam Proven – Profile:
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