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Boot Process for Operating Systems


1. Upon powering on the machine a POST (Power on Self Test) is executed, this
does a quick test on things such as the memory and power supply of a machine.
POST transfers control to CMOS (Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor)
which contains the BIOS (Basic Input Output System). The BIOS loads various
low level settings such as boot-order and network settings. The BIOS is also a
very useful tool for testing memory or hard drives, as well as finding out basic
information such as serial numbers and asset tags. Note if POST fails it is usually
identified by various light or audible beep codes which often can be searched for
by model on the manufacturers' website.
2. The Master Boot Record (MBR) is then read which is a set of tasks to load the
operating system. It will check the floppy, CD-ROM, or hard drive (Not
necessarily in that order). The MBR points to the boot sector, which locates
IO.SYS and loads the file into RAM.
3. IO.SYS is a file that loads low level drivers for hardware devices like the
keyboard, serial and parallel ports, floppy drive, and hard drive. Next, IO.SYS
will run Sysinit which in turn loads Msdos.sys into RAM.
4. MSDOS.SYS in turn helps manage the input and output for the hard disk. It
processes the commands in Config.sys. Config.sys loads all the other device
drivers and manages memory for optimization.
5. is loaded into RAM. is a file that stores all your
internal commands.
6. then processes Autoexec.bat which will set the initial
configuration of DOS. The user can add what programs to start each time the
computer boots.
7. The last step will get you the command prompt.

WIN95/98/ME BOOT PROCESS (Similar to DOS)

1. POST is performed.
2. Master Boot Record (MBR) is loaded into RAM and locates the boot sector. The
boot sector then locates the Io.sys.
3. The Io.sys runs Sysinit and loads Msdos.sys into RAM.
4. Io.sys then loads System.dat, but does not process at this time.
5. Io.sys then loads Config.sys and Autoexec.bat. These are not necessary to load the
operating system, but are needed when 16 bit (real mode) drivers are used.
6. Io.sys then loads which starts the operating system.
7. loads drivers specified by the registry.
8. processes the System.ini and Win.ini files. System.ini is used to
configure the memory cache and buffers. Win.ini is used for 16-bit applications.
Otherwise, they are run by the registry.
9. will start KERNEL32.DLL, KERNEL386.EXE, GDI.EXE, and
GDI32.EXE. The Kernel files are the operating systems. The GDI files are
responsible for the graphical functions and display.
10. The Kernel files will load the Explorer user interface, which includes the Desktop,
Taskbar, and Start Menu.
11. The Kernel will then process anything in the Startup folder and restore network
12. The user can now interact with the operating system.


1. BIOS runs POST.

2. Computer finds the boot device and loads Master Boot Record (MBR) into RAM.
3. MBR looks for the active partition on the boot device and loads the boot sector.
4. The boot sector in turn starts the Ntldr file which will load the operating system.
5. Ntldr configures the computer’s processor to recognize all of the memory.
6. Ntldr will start the file system, and the operating system will load, whether it is
7. Ntldr checks the Boot.ini file to find the operating system(s) and to create the boot
8. After the operating system is selected, Ntldr will run which will
make the hardware list.
9. Ntldr will load Ntoskrnl.exe which is the kernel of the operating system.
10. The operating system will start the graphical interface.
11. Ntoskrnl.exe loads Smss.exe which is the Session Manager.
12. The user logs on.


1. BIOS run POST.

2. Computer finds the boot device and loads Master Boot Record (MBR) into RAM.
3. MBR looks for the active partition on the boot device and loads the boot sector.
4. The boot sector in turn starts the bootmgr file which will load the operating