Windows Power-User Series

How To Create a Windows 95
DOS-Boot Menu System
( Have easier access to a Real-DOS prompt
and No more cold-booting just to
Return to Windows after using DOS ! )

[ NOTE: Windows 98 users do not have to deal with the same type of reboot mechanism used by Windows 95... When you ask a Windows 98 machine to Shut Down and 'reboot' to Real DOS, it does NOT really do a reboot! Instead, it simply shuts down Windows and places the user at a Real DOS prompt... the very thing this page intends to accomplish for Windows 95 users! ( Under Win'95, you have to physically reboot the machine to do so! )
      Also under Windows 98, if you want to return to Windows WITHOUT having to reboot the machine, you simply ENTER the word "exit" at the DOS prompt and the OS will return to full 32-bit Windows operation.

WARNING: Trying to use what I call the 'Personal Options Menu' under Windows 98 will cause you a lot problems! Windows98 does NOT allow you to use the command WIN.COM from a DOS Batch file, and will even remove it from the AUTOEXEC.BAT file if found there! Windows 98 users can, however, make use of the 'Startup Menu' information provided here, which will allow them to boot directly into Real 16-bit DOS without having to first load Windows. ]

If you need any help setting up your CONFIG.SYS or AUTOEXEC.BAT files for the Personal Options Menu, or have some other question, please use this online form to reach me.

Windows Power-Users know that some tasks (such as changing the appearance of the Taskbar's "Start" button) can only be finished after exiting to Real DOS. Other users have special programs or games that must be run under DOS only. And some programs, such as a Windows debugger which must be initiated from a DOS prompt before Windows boots, are best placed in a Menu or even a batch file rather than running them every time you power-up your computer!

This page tells you how to set up a Menu System which allows you to boot directly to a DOS prompt at power-up, or more importantly to 'drop back' into real DOS from a Windows session and then go back into (boot) Windows again -- without having to reboot your whole system!   ( If you're old enough to remember using Windows 3.1, this procedure not only returns your system to the freedom of choosing whether or not you want to use Windows at boot-up, it also gives you the choice of personal options from your own menu. This Personal Menu is limited only by your skills and imagination! )

Although it may seem like a round-about-way, to do this correctly (that is, so we can return to Windows by simply entering:  win  at a command prompt ) requires us to set The Windows Startup Menu to always boot DOS first. And don't worry : If you know you'll rarely use DOS at boot-up, you can simply set a batch file (AUTOEXEC.BAT) to automatically boot Windows with very little difference compared to how your system boots now!   A second menu which we'll refer to as your "Personal Options Menu" can also be used.   ( The settings for this second menu -- with a variety of choices as to how it appears being set by the user, including the use of color -- are controlled by the file  CONFIG.SYS with various commands for each option set to run from  AUTOEXEC.BAT . )   The reason for booting Windows from a DOS prompt is to ensure that you will always be returned to DOS at the end of each Windows session.

If your system already boots-up with The Windows Startup Menu, then review the material in Step 1 ( How to Edit Msdos.sys ) and make any necessary changes described in Step 2 ( the Options Header )
BEFORE proceeding to Step 3 ( Removing Logos.sys )
or Step 4 ( The Menu System ).

If your system still boots directly into Windows (called the 'Graphical User Interface' or GUI ), you need to make the following changes to see The Windows Startup Menu at boot-time:

Step 1   How to Edit   MSDOS.SYS

For those of you already familiar with changing system file attributes at a DOS prompt, you may wish to use the DOS-window Experts approach below!   If this is the first time you've heard of a file called   MSDOS.SYS  or you're still an entirely GUI-dependent user, you can follow the graphical directions here:

The GUI Approach

Making a Backup Copy of MSDOS.SYS

Open the Windows Explorer, click on your C: Drive icon in the folder pane and locate the file   Msdos.sys in the "Contents of 'C:\' " pane. Right-click on the filename and choose Copy from the menu. Now scroll down to the bottom of the files list in the Contents pane, right-click in any empty space there and choose Paste from the menu. ( If you don't see Paste on the menu, that means you still have a filename highlighted somewhere; right-click in an empty space and try again.) You should now see a new file at the bottom of the list called " Copy of MSDOS.SYS " (without quote marks). Right-click on this file and 'Rename' it to:
MSDOS.SYS.SAV   ( This window should pop-up; click on ' Yes ' ):

This file, MSDOS.SYS.SAV, is a 'backup' of your original file if you should ever need to refer to it in the future.

Changing the Read-only File Attribute

Now, right-click on the original file, Msdos.sys, and choose 'Properties' from the menu. You need to UN-check the ' Read-only ' box in this window:

Jump over these 'DOS-window Approach' instructions... to 'Editing the MSDOS.SYS File' section below.

The DOS-window Approach
Open a DOS-window (click here to review the use of DOS-windows) and change to your root directory ( cd\ ). Change the attributes of your MSDOS.SYS file so you can edit it:
C:\>attrib -r -s -h msdos.sys

If you're a DOS fanatic, you can even use EDIT to open MSDOS.SYS
( C:\>edit msdos.sys ) and complete the changes there.

( Don't forget to return the attributes to 'read-only, system and hidden' after saving the changes:
C:\>attrib +r +s +h msdos.sys )

Editing the MSDOS.SYS File

Start NOTEPAD, click on 'File' then 'Open...' and in the " File name: " box enter the following:   C:\msdos.sys

For the MS-Windows Operating System, this file contains only text (rather than binary code; like it did in MS-DOS) and it should look similar to the lines of text shown below. There may be other lines in your file which are not shown here, or in some cases, there may be no [Options] lines at all!
( An explanation is given for each possible line under the [Options] header in the next section.)

Example MSDOS.SYS file (Do _NOT_ copy this one!) ======================================================

BootDelay=2  <-- Not used in Windows 98

;The following lines are required for compatibility with other programs.
;Do not remove them (MSDOS.SYS needs to be > 1024 bytes).


Step 2   Necessary Changes under
                    the [Options] Header

Note: Unless specifically directed to do so in the instructions below, do _NOT_ remove or change any lines in your Msdos.sys file (UNLESS you have decided that the change is appropriate for your system)!
If your file is missing one of the required lines below, then you must, of course, add it.
( You may wish to read my DISCLAIMER statement at this time; its near the bottom of this page.)

To view The Windows Startup Menu at boot-up and boot into DOS (where our "Personal Options Menu" can be created), you need to make the following changes to your Msdos.sys file:

BootDelay=2  <-- Not used in Windows 98
BootGUI=0   <--- You MUST do this!

Logo=1  <-- If you want to hide the MS splash screen at boot-up, make Logo=0.

BootMenu=1   <--- You SHOULD do this... UNLESS you want to skip seeing the StartupMenu altogether once you get used to running your system this way! ( I now have both my BootGUI and BootMenu lines set to ZERO, so the first thing I see is my "Personal Options Menu" which you'll learn about later. For now, I'd recommend setting this to a 1.)

BootMenuDefault=5 (or 6<-- You MUST change this setting to agree with the item number for "Command prompt only" in your Startup menu! If you have
a line in your file that states: "Network=1," then use a setting of 6 here. Otherwise, set this to 5.   ( Note the choices on your Startup menu after instructed to Re-Boot your system; if necessary, change it.)  A setting of 1 here, means your machine will immediately Boot-up into Windows rather than booting only to DOS.

Note: Some MS-updates and 3rd-party Internet file installations will add the "Network=1" line to your MSDOS.SYS file! If this happens, you'll have to edit this line again... So, it might be best to just go ahead and add the 'Network=1' line now if it's not in this file, and then set this line to a 6.

BootMenuDelay=30  <--- You may wish to leave this set for 30 seconds until you have completed your DOS menu. I have this set to only 3 seconds to shorten my own Boot-up time.

The Meaning of the [Options] lines

The [Options] Header itself may be missing from your original   MSDOS.SYS  file; simply insert it as shown above.
If any [Options] line is missing from the file, then its Default setting (see below) will be used when booting!

Default:  2

Purpose:  Sets the amount of time the "Starting Windows 95" message
          remains on the screen before Windows 95 continues to boot.

NOTE: BootDelay is not supported in Windows 98.
BootGUI=[Boolean]   Our setting must be: 0
Default:  1

Purpose:  A setting of 1 forces the loading of the GUI interface. A
          setting of 0 disables the loading of the GUI interface. 
Default:  1

Purpose: A setting of 1 forces the default Windows 95 logo to appear. A
         setting of 0 prevents the animated logo from being displayed.
         A setting of 0 also avoids hooking a variety of interrupts
         that can create incompatibilities with certain third-party
         memory managers.
BootMenu=[Boolean]   Our setting must be: 1
Default:  0

Purpose:  A setting of 1 enables the Startup menu. If this setting is 0,
          then you must press the F8 key when "Starting Windows 95"
          appears, (or press and hold the CTRL key when your Windows
          98-based computer restarts) to invoke the Startup menu.
BootMenuDefault=[Number]   Our setting is: 5 or 6
                           It depends upon the Network line!

Default:  1 if the system is running correctly
          3 if the system hung in the previous instance

Purpose:  Use this setting to set the default menu item for startup.
Default:  0

Purpose:  A setting of 1 means a network was installed and adds "Safe
          mode with network support" as an option on the Windows
          Startup menu.
Default:  30
Purpose:  This setting is used to set the number of seconds your system
          will pause on the Startup menu. If the number of seconds counts
          down to 0 without intervention, the BootMenuDefault is activated.

NOTE: This option is not functional unless BootMenu=1 has been added to
the [Options] section of the Msdos.sys file.

[Options] lines NOT mentioned elsewhere on this page:
Default:  1

Purpose:  A setting of 1 enables the use of the function key boot
          options (that is, F4, F5, F6, F8, and CTRL). A setting of 0
          disables the use of these function keys during the boot

NOTE: A setting of BootKeys=0 overrides the use of BootDelay=n.
BootWarn=[Boolean]   WHY would anyone set this to 0 ?!
Default:  1

Purpose:  A setting of 0 disables the safe mode boot warning message
          and the Startup menu.
Default:  0

Purpose:  A setting of 1 forces your computer to boot in safe mode.
   NOTE:  The OS itself will toggle this setting when it has certain
          problems booting Windows!
Default:  1

Purpose:  A setting of 0 disables the multi-boot option. (For example,
          with a setting of 0 you cannot boot your previous operating
          system.) A setting of 1 enables the F4 and F8 keys to boot
          your previous operating system.
Default:  1

Purpose:  A setting of 1 forces Windows 95 to load at startup. A setting
          of 0 disables Windows 95 as your default operating system (this
          is useful only if you have MS-DOS version 5.x or 6.x on the

NOTE: Pressing F4 inverts the default only if BootMulti=1. (For example,
      pressing the F4 key with a setting of 0 forces Windows 95 to load.)

Default:  0

Purpose:  A setting of 1 is a conditional setting that enables double-
          buffering for controllers that need it (for example, SCSI
          controllers). A setting of 2 is an unconditional setting that
          enables double-buffering regardless of whether the controller
          needs it or not.
Default:  1

Purpose:  A setting of 0 does not let Windows 95 load COMMAND.COM or
          DRVSPACE.BIN/DBLSPACE.BIN at the top of 640K. If you are
          having compatibility problems with software that makes
          assumptions about the available memory try setting this to 0.
Default:  1

Purpose:  Defines whether or not ScanDisk is run after a bad shutdown.
          A setting of 0 does not run ScanDisk; 1 prompts before
          running ScanDisk; 2 does not prompt before running
          ScanDisk but prompts you before fixing errors if any
          errors are found.

          This setting is used only by OEM Service Release 2 and
          Windows 98.
For the meaning of any other lines in your own Msdos.sys file or for any [Paths] statements, take this link to the Microsoft Knowledge Base article:

Make sure to set the file attribute for MSDOS.SYS back to Read-only :
IF you used the Properties window (under the GUI Approach above), then right-click on the filename, MSDOS.SYS, in Explorer and make sure all four of the boxes under "Attributes" are checked.

If you used the ATTRIB command from a DOS-window prompt to remove the Read-only, System and Hidden attributes, then you should use the following command from a DOS-window prompt again:
C:\>attrib +r +s +h msdos.sys

You can now reboot your system to view the Windows Startup Menu.

If you changed the Logo line under [Options] to: Logo=0, then you'll no longer see this screen at boot-up.
If you have any comments or questions about using the Windows Startup Menu, I'd be glad to hear from you. You can send me an email using this online reply form (opens in a new window).

The pics below show examples of what you might see on your monitor after following the directions above.

If the item " Command prompt only " is highlighted, you can either wait for the countdown time to expire or press the ENTER key. If it's not highlighted at boot-up, use an arrow key to highlight it, note the correct item number (so you can change it in your MSDOS.SYS file) and then press the ENTER key.

Logow.sys and Logos.sys

Step 3   Making Sure You can see the
                   DOS Prompt after Shutdown!

NOTE: Again that trying to carry out Steps 3 and 4 under Windows 98, will cause problems!

The two screen images below are what you would normally see after using the Shut Down... Windows selection from the START button. ( Many new computers today, however, have an auto shut-off feature which means you'll never see the second screen shown below. If this is the case, you'll need to consult with your vendor to learn how this can be disabled; or if possible, triggered by some other command. If you happen to know any details about how these types of computers power down automatically, please write to me. )



You can leave Logow.sys ( actually a .BMP picture file ) as it appears above. But if you don't have one of those automatic shut-down computers I mentioned, then to be technically correct this pic should state that you are actually waiting for WINDOWS to shut down not your computer!

The file Logos.sys, however, must be renamed or moved to another folder (if you wish to save it), or deleted from your WINDOWS directory if you expect to easily (and consistenly) reach the MS-DOS prompt after shutting-down Windows!
Leaving this file in your C:\WINDOWS folder causes the screen to be placed in a special GRAPHICS mode of 320 x 480 pixels instead of the usual 80 character by 25 lines TEXT mode; not to mention the fact that the picture itself blocks your view of the DOS prompt which is hidden behind it. The only way to return to the DOS prompt after this happens is to blindly enter the command:   mode co80   without making any errors!

After renaming, moving or deleting Logos.sys; provided you've made the suggested changes above as well, you should finally be able to see the following after shutting-down Windows:

Go ahead and shut-down Windows now to see if you get the DOS prompt as shown above. IF you do, then simply ENTER the command ' win ' at the DOS prompt to boot Windows again!

Step 4   The Menu System

When Windows 95 first came out, many people who wanted the option of booting to DOS simply used just The Windows 95 Startup Menu to boot either DOS (#6 'Command prompt only ' above) or Windows (#1 'Normal ' Windows boot) at power-up. By creating a second menu using the file  CONFIG.SYS, you can have any number of specialized options for both DOS and WINDOWS at Startup! Here's a fairly simple one that 1) Continues booting into WINDOWS normally or 2) with a RAMDRIVE or 3) Installs mouse and CD-ROM support for a DOS session, or 4) Boots just DOS alone:

Click here: to see a copy of a CONFIG.SYS file that includes all the info you need for creating various colors; I prefer yellow text on a blue background myself!

You can either insert a PAUSE command as I did in my own AUTOEXEC.BAT file, or leave it out for a completely hands-free boot-up into Windows... Click here: to see a copy of the AUTOEXEC.BAT file associated with the CONFIG.SYS file above; note that you must use the exact same Labels as you did in your CONFIG.SYS file.

You can now reboot your system to view the new Personal Options Menu.
Again, if you have any comments or questions about using a menu system, I'd be glad to hear from you. You can send me an email using this online reply form (opens in a new window).

If you end up having many commands in your AUTOEXEC.BAT file (although I can't imagine at this particular time what difference it would make), you can always boot back into Windows by using the command 'autoexec' instead of just 'win' as shown here:

Last Update: 21 DEC 2001.


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