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Old 08-08-2010, 06:44 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Question Booting DOS from a CD - Invalid System Disk

I've been trying to boot DOS from a CD on my custom rig for the past two days. FreeDOS does not proceed past "FreeDOS" with a blinking "_" cursor, and disks created with the .iso files on the site http://www.allbootdisks.com/download/iso.html display the message "Invalid System Disk" and advise the user to remove the disk and restart. I was able to get a bootable floppy diskette created with WinXP to boot. All of the CDs I tested work successfully on an old machine with an IDE CD drive, so the disks themselves are fine.
The SATA CD/DVD drive I am using is the TS-H653, and it is able to read and write CDs and DVDs as well as boot Vista and Ubuntu install disks. I think the problem might have something to do with my motherboard or BIOS settings and have - to the best of my knowledge - set the SATA port to which the drive is connected to Legacy IDE mode.

Potentially relevant specs:
- Gigabyte motherboard GA-P35-DS4 Rev. 2.1
- 4 GB DDRII RAM (just tested with Ubuntu's memtest)
- Intel ICH9 6 Port SATA AHCI Controller - 2922
- Intel Core 2 Quad processor (Q6600, 2.4GHz).

Potentially relevant BIOS settings:
- SATA RAID/AHCI Mode: [AHCI] (other options are [RAID] and [Disabled])
- Onboard SATA/IDE Device: [Enabled]
- Onboard SATA/IDE Ctrl Mode: [IDE] (other options are [AHCI] and [RAID/IDE])
- SATA Port 0-3 native mode: [Disabled] (When disabled, as it is now, those ports run in legacy IDE mode (my CD drive is in port 2))

Thank you in advance for any help you can offer.
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Old 08-08-2010, 08:50 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Booting DOS from a CD - Invalid System Disk

Welcome to TF, jrobot!

Why not use DOSBox?
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Old 08-08-2010, 09:02 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Booting DOS from a CD - Invalid System Disk

DOSBox is a DOS emulator - it needs to run on a booted system. I want to run SpinRite, a hard drive maintenance/recovery program (getting 2 new drives soon and want to test them before using them), and it needs DOS to run. Running from a hard drive would prevent the drive in question from being scanned. The application comes with FreeDOS, but, as I said before, it hangs on startup. Using a bootable floppy disk to run the program does work, but I really don't trust my only floppy and FDD to last very long, and the only XP install I have is on an old, failing system for which I never got the install disk.

I just want to know why I can't run DOS from a CD and if this is a symptom of a more serious system problem.
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Old 08-08-2010, 11:46 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Booting DOS from a CD - Invalid System Disk

I am familiar with SpinRite, but isn't there another more upgraded program? I don't know if it even recognizes SATA.
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Old 08-09-2010, 08:53 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Booting DOS from a CD - Invalid System Disk

I am using the newest version of SpinRite (6.0) and can get it to run from a DOS prompt by typing "spinrite" or "spinrite.exe" when the executable is in the active directory.

In response to your question:
http://www.grc.com/sr/faq.htm:
"SpinRite provides complete interaction with IDE-interface PATA (parallel ATA) and SATA (Serial ATA) drives, and it can also be used with any other type of drive — SCSI, USB, 1394/Firewire — that can be made visible to DOS through the addition of controller BIOS or add-on DOS drivers. To obtain the best performance, IDE drives can be temporarily removed from their external USB or Firewire cases and attached directly to the PC motherboard."

Even though SATA is supposedly supported, I had to switch my motherboard to IDE Legacy support (which makes the BIOS pretend that the SATA ports are actually IDE) to get a WinXP-created floppy boot diskette to run it on my machine - I think this is a BIOS limitation specific to my motherboard; when I boot up, the words "no hard disks detected" are displayed when operating in native SATA mode (the machine works fine nonetheless, and my HDs are in near perfect health). SpinRite relies on the BIOS for hard disk access. By the way, I tried using the command prompt from the Vista 64 Ultimate install disk, and it wouldn't run SpinRite ("the system cannot execute the specified program"); I'm guessing this recovery prompt is locked down to prevent program execution, or maybe the standard DOS drivers aren't loaded.
GRC tech support was very helpful in creating a bootable floppy, but they informed me of the existence of Google ("success on the web requires the use of high-quality search engines" LOL) and told me my CD problem was beyond their domain, which I fully understand.

But I digress - my original question still stands: how can I boot DOS from a CD, not a floppy, and why am I getting an "Invalid System Disk" error with CDs that are clearly not broken and run fine on an older machine? This is not related to SpinRite other than indirectly, and I could and have come up with workarounds that don't involve the CD/DVD drive. However, it bothers me that something as simple as booting from a certain CD doesn't work.

I've looked through many threads regarding the "Invalid System Disk" error, but they almost exclusively talk about hard drive problems (like viruses on the boot sector) and faulty disks/disk drives. My CD/DVD drive obviously works, the media runs on other systems, and the message is appearing when booting from CD, not HD. Boot order is FDD, CDD, HDD. In order to verify that the HDs and FDD were not causing problems, I unplugged them all from the system entirely (power and data cables) with no change - still "Invalid System Disk" on booting from a DOS boot disk.
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Old 08-09-2010, 09:44 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Booting DOS from a CD - Invalid System Disk

All right, sorry about that. I think I was using 2.0 or something back in the Win 98 days...
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Old 08-09-2010, 01:35 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Update: I switched all the BIOS settings over to SATA from IDE emulation mode, and SpinRite still recognized my disks. This is still booting from FDD, though, so my original problem is not resolved.

Has anyone else had problems where perfectly fine system disks were unable to run on their machines on CD/DVD drives that can boot newer images?

I decided to try installing the IDE optical drive from my old computer (which booted the DOS disks) in my newer machine but am having no luck. My motherboard has a separate "IDE" port and "FDD" port, and installing the FDD with the latter involved a simple IDE cable and the appropriate power connector from my PSU. However, I have now connected the optical drive to the IDE port, but it is not recognized as a boot device. In Ubuntu, I now, strangely, have two displayed CD drives even though I disconnected my SATA optical drive. I am unable to access any media in the newly connected IDE drive through that OS; I haven't tried any others, though.
I have never installed IDE devices before, so any help would be appreciated. In my old computer, an additional slot was used on the IDE cable by another optical drive. Is this relevant/important?

Could someone please try burning a DOS .iso and booting from it with a SATA optical drive? I want to know if this problem is limited to just my computer.
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Old 08-10-2010, 03:10 PM   #8 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: Booting DOS from a CD - Invalid System Disk

Did you make sure that IDE was enabled in your BIOS first? Many newer PC's disable IDE by default because it isn't very commonly used and wastes time autodetecting when you turn on the PC. Look through to make sure your BIOS has IDE enabled and set to Auto mode. On most BIOS' you can see a list of detected IDE devices, sometimes you have to press Tab at the main logo screen. This could help you determine if your BIOS sees it. If the BIOS doesn't see it, no OS likely will.
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Old 08-10-2010, 09:25 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: Booting DOS from a CD - Invalid System Disk

This is getting stranger and stranger. CalcProgrammer1, I had everything in BIOS set correctly. I was correct in assuming that the existence of an additional drive was important - the jumper settings were set as "cable select," and they needed to be "master".

Anyway, the IDE drive is able to boot DOS CDs on my machine. Would I be correct in assuming that a DOS cd needs SATA drivers in order to boot in a SATA optical drive? If so, could someone point me to a place where I could download a DOS .iso with such drivers included?

The problem now is that my computer will sometimes not boot (not even a POST beep, and the monitor stays off), especially when there is a CD in the IDE drive. I can boot from CD by inserting a disk directly after I press the power button or, sometimes, by rebooting with a cd in the drive. On other occasions, the system booted fine from a cold boot. There is no real pattern.

Even more worrisome is that my computer now detects only two of the 3 SATA hard drives I have installed. The computer also takes a much longer time to boot and has twice given me a very long beep-coded error message (that I have not identified so far, but it is either "power error," "graphics card not inserted properly," or "BIOS ROM error")

What is going on? I'm starting to get really worried.
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Old 08-10-2010, 09:26 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: Booting DOS from a CD - Invalid System Disk

Update: Ubuntu just failed to boot, dropping me to a shell prompt (though it did boot fine, twice, a few minutes ago). I'm taking out the IDE drive and hope that everything will return to normal.
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