Notes, comments and opinions about electronics

Booting an EBOX-2300 to DOS From a Compact Flash

I had some difficulty setting up the eBOX-2300 to boot from a compact flash disk, and the following explains my solution.

The eBOX-2300 Spark kit comes with a pre-configured eBOX-2300; this unit has an internal flash IDE which is configured as a boot disk and is preloaded with DOS. If you buy an eBOX-2300 without the Spark kit you need to load DOS on to some memory media yourself.  I considered purchasing an IDE flash disk and loading DOS from my Windows XP desktop computer by simply using an IDE adapter cable,  and then installing it into the eBox-2300, but I prefer having DOS, Windows CE, and my application all on a single compact flash card.

This is my procedure for loading DOS on a compact flash. Once you can boot the eBox-2300 from the compact flash, loading Windows CE (or Linux, or whatever) and your application on the flash is trivial so I won’t explain that.

1.

      With the EBOX-2300 power off, plug a new compact flash into the compact flash drive and a bootable DOS USB flash key into one of the USB ports.

2.

      Power up the EBOX-2300 and enter the BIOS setup. Confirm that the BIOS can detect both the USB flash key and the compact flash as an IDE in the boot devices section.

3.

      Set the BIOS to boot from the USB flash.

4.

      Boot to the DOS prompt on the USB flash disk.

5.

      When the system boots, the USB key should be assigned as drive C: confirm this by typing dir and verifying the files listed are those on the key.

6.

      Run:

FDISK

      to create a  primary DOS partition on the compact disk. When using FDISK remember to select option 5 to change the selected drive to the second one, the compact flash. I typically use a 1G flash and split it into two partitions. Now (this is important) make sure to set the primary DOS partition as the active partition: do this using

FDISK

      main menu option 2.

7.

      Reboot the E-BOX. DOS should now load and start. You’re almost there.

9.

      Type

DIR D

      : and

DIR E:

      (if you have two partitions) to check if the compact flash shows up as two logical drives to DOS (only C: if you did not partition for the second drive). If DOS does not see the drives don’t worry: type

FORMAT D: /S

      and (

FORMAT E:

      for two partitions on the compact flash). Note, for some strange reason, if DOS does not find the new partitions using

DIR

      they can still be formatted: I found this quirk only by persevering and taking a wild guess when nothing else would work.

10.

      Copy all the DOS files from the USB flash key to the D:

11.

    Done.

A key requirement for the above procedure is having a bootable DOS USB flash disk: that sounds trivial, but can be a headache. I still had a copy of DOS 6.22 on their original floppies, but if you don’t, you can download a copy from various online sources. To format and create the USB flash key do boot to DOS, I used the HP utility: HP USB DISK STORAGE FORMAT TOOL which you can download from various sites on the web.

Important Update.
Since the posting the above I have discovered the following:

1. Use a high speed compact flash card formatted as FAT32 since the slower compact flashes may intermittently cause an “error writing while reading disk” error while loadcepc loads.

2. Instead of DOS6.22 use DOS7.1

3. The DOS7.1 version of fdisk will not allow you to set the active partition of the compact flash when you boot from the USB flash. The only way I was able to resolve this was by using a third-party partitioning utility: I used Ranish Partition Manager.

Feel free to post any questions or comments below.

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