Install FreeDOS without any CD, floppy, USB-key, nor any other removable media

This document used to be part of the larger documentation Install Linux without any CD, floppy, USB-key, nor any other removable media. The rationale was back then to first install FreeDOS as a intermediate step to be able to run Loadlin. Thanks to GRUB for NT this long and preliminary step is not longer needed to install linux without any removable. So these FreeDOS instructions have been moved apart here on this page, in case some people interested by FreeDOS still find them useful. Or in case GRUB for NT does not work on your hardware.


Probably the most painful thing is finding one's way in FreeDOS documentation, dodging the numerous instances of the irrelevant "create a CD / a floppy" directive. Understanding how to install and boot FreeDOS from Windows without any CD nor floppy was one of the tasks where I wasted most of my time. Once you got it, it's easy.

It is possible to make FreeDOS coexist with Windows in your existing C: system partition, but I will not explain that because:

Instead, I recommend making a FAT primary partition dedicated to FreeDOS. 50Mo is more than enough for the "mini" install. From now on, I will call this partition F:. Please substitute F: everywhere by the letter appropriate for you. If you really want to install FreeDOS in the same partition as Windows, this nice NT boot process article and the FreeDOS FAQ will help you understand what you are doing (you can find many other helpful articles about this topic on the web). But you are on your own.

Warning: Some versions of windows will not allow the FreeDOS installer to touch the F: partition unless it is formatted by Windows in FAT16 (not in FAT32). Moreover, it better be a primary partition to ease later booting configuration.

Since FreeDOS unfortunately provides its installer only as a CD or floppy bootable image, I prepared a more convenient zip archive with the exact same content [t]. Download and extract this zip archive in F:. Then double-click on F:\FREEDOS\SETUP\INSTALL\INSTALL.EXE and just answer the questions. Avoid problems by avoiding the graphical installer. The "mini" install is enough for us, and the appropriate source and target directories are something like: F:\FREEDOS\PACKAGES and F:\FDOS respectively.

The final step of the installation makes the FreeDOS partition bootable and is normally performed by the script F:\FDOS\POSTINST.BAT. Do not launch this script, since it assumes that you want to install FreeDOS to C: Instead, use the following commands:



cd NLS
set lang=EN

Booting FreeDOS

Now you have to add FreeDOS in your Windows boot menu.

Warning: this is the sole risky part of the procedure, since an error here may render your machine unbootable. So it's time to launch your daily backup and check that this rescue boot floppy/CD you made a long time ago is still working [b]. On the other hand, it's short and easy. Just proceed slowly and carefully.

Edit the file C:\BOOT.INI. Oh wait, by default this file is hidden, read-only, system and fireproof. To remove all that, type: attrib c:\BOOT.INI -s -h -r. Now edit the file C:\BOOT.INI. Do not touch any existing line, just add at the end the following line:


The following command may help you sleep better: attrib c:\boot.ini +s +h +r

Warning: when you will reboot in FreeDOS, F: will become C:. (don't try to understand the way Windows systems name the partitions, it's not interesting).

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[b]since you are installing a new system, you should do that anyway.
[t]If you really want the official release, you still can mount the iso image on your desktop without burning it, thanks to Daemon Tools for instance. Then follow the same instructions.