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Make your floppy drive obsolete

I need to update my BIOS or run a hard drive diagnostic which requires a floppy disk. How can I do this without a floppy disk drive?

Windows 2000/XP


The floppy disk is dead. 1.44MB is just too small to do much of anything anymore, and computer networks have rendered the "sneaker net" nearly obsolete for transferring files from computer to computer. Not only that, but flash memory (Compact Flash, Secure Digital, Memory Stick, SmartMedia, xD, etc.) and USB thumb drives are becoming insanely cheap and can hold much more data than a stack of floppies. Recently, desktop and laptop PC's no longer come with floppy drives. Unfortunately, some hardware manufacturers have failed to recognize this trend and come out with utilities that need to run from a floppy. So how can you update your BIOS or run a hard drive diagnostic without a floppy disk drive?

Most modern computers have a USB port and the ability to boot from a drive connected to it. We are going to take advantage of that. Do yourself a favor, and pick up a USB "thumb" drive. If you want, buy the cheapest you can find...32/64/128MB will be more than enough. Alternatively, buy a USB flash memory card drive and compatible flash memory card. Some computers have an internal flash memory card drive built-in, and that's ok too, so you'll just need a compatible flash memory card. If you have a digital camera, chances are you already have some flash memory on hand. Got the hardware? Good! Let's continue...

Hopefully, you don't have anything on the flash drive because it will be toast. Plug in your USB drive and let Windows detect it. In Windows Explorer or My Computer, right-click on the removable drive and choose Format... It's probably best to format the disk using FAT for the File System. Click OK. It should only take a few seconds depending on how much capacity the drive has.

Creating a DOS Boot Disk
To update a BIOS or firmware, often you'll download a couple of files (the firmware and the application to update it) that you are supposed to copy over to a DOS boot disk that you just happen to have lying around from the Windows 9x days. Unfortunately, DOS is about as dead as floppy disks, but you can click the link below to create a DOS boot disk.


Double-click the downloaded file to start. Select the drive letter of your flash drive and click OK. Whew, that was fast! Copy over your BIOS/firmware files over to the flash drive and you are ready to boot.

Emulate an A: drive
Some utilities, especially hard drive diagnostic utilities, will create a boot disk for you. Just put a disk in the A: (floppy disk) drive and go! Uh, wait a minute, I don't have an A: drive! The trick is to fool your computer into thinking it has one. Go to the Start menu > Run... and enter

subst a: f:\

where f:\ is the drive letter of the flash drive. This is an old DOS command that sets a drive letter equal to a path on another drive. You can go into Windows Explorer or My Computer and verify that you have an A: drive now. Whatever is on the removable drive (in my example, F:) is also accessbile on the A: drive now. Run your utility to create the boot disk. Restart the computer and boot from the flash drive.

Last updated December 5, 2004