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System Files and the Boot Process

The process of starting a computer has long been referred to as booting. Before you can use your computer, you need to be able to boot it to a point where the operating system (OS) is functional. Otherwise, your computer is like a safe without a known combination. This tutorial will help you get that "safe" open by examining the boot process.

The boot process encompasses a series of steps, from the application of power to the loading of the OS shell. This tutorial will review the hardware POST (Power-On Self-Test) process and will concentrate on the OS portion of the overall process. This tutorial will also introduce you to the standard Windows XP boot process and the files that are required, and also how to correct or deal with boot problems related to the boot files. The Windows 9x/MS-DOS boot process will also be covered in this tutorial, as you will likely use the MS-DOS boot process when creating your own boot disks and you may still encounter a number of Windows 9x computers in the field (although the number is falling rapidly). The Windows 9x/MS-DOS boot process is covered together, since MS-DOS still performs the role of boot loader for Windows 9x, so the initial process is the same for both. A solid understanding of the Windows XP boot files and a general knowledge of the other files will prepare you for working with these systems in the field. After covering the MS-DOS/Windows 9x boot process, you will look at memory management; good memory management can only help you if you need to revert to using an MS-DOS boot disk.