Create custom boot sector manually with Boot Build utility

Most of the time, a boot sector is created automatically when we format a disk, but at times it's useful to create one manually. A specialized utility called Boot Build allows you to do this by offering a blank template for a boot sector that you can fill in manually or automatically.

Most of the time, a boot sector is created automatically when we format a disk, but there are times when it's useful to create one manually—for instance, when building a bootable CD image or creating some other form of media in a customized way.

This is when a small, specialized utility, such as Boot Build, a tool for creating boot sectors, can come in handy just as much as larger utilities.

When you run Boot Build (no installation required; you can run it anywhere), it offers you a blank template for a boot sector that you can fill in manually or automatically. The latter can be done by "harvesting" a boot sector from an existing piece of media (which is probably the easiest way to do it, since the options for a boot sector are not self-documenting).

The resulting boot sector can then be written to an actual (floppy or hard) disk, or saved to an image file and used in a CD/DVD-creation program to make a disk bootable. Note: The exact configuration of the boot sector to use may vary depending on what you're specifically trying to achieve. (See the CD/DVD burning program's instructions for more details.)

One drawback to Boot Build is that it doesn't have much in the way of templates or documentation. The only pre-built boot sector template available with the program is for a 1.44MB floppy.

Another disadvantage: It is not possible to extract boot sectors from a system disk currently mounted in the system. For instance, if you're running Windows from your C: drive, you won't be able to copy out the boot sector from that C: drive. (You can, however, install a hard drive that has another Windows installation on it and "harvest" that drive's boot sector, as long as that drive wasn't booted from.)

About the author: Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the Windows Insight, (formerly the Windows Power Users Newsletter), a blog site devoted to hints, tips, tricks and news for users and administrators of Windows NT, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Server 2003 and Vista. He has more than 12 years of Windows experience under his belt, and contributes regularly to SearchWinComputing.com and SearchSQLServer.com.

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This was first published in July 2007

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