Mel's Macintosh Universe: Macintosh Boot Discs
Mel's Macintosh Universe

How to Make a Macintosh Boot Disc

System 6.x | System 7.x | System 8.x | Finding System Files

You need a System & Finder to create a Boot Disc
Your basic bootable floppy should contain at least a System file and the Finder.
This System folder contains System 6.08 on an 800K floppy disc.


How To Boot Your Macintosh Up From a Floppy Disc

This section applies only to those classic older Macs and Power PC models that have a floppy disc drive.

System 6 or Older For Macintoshes

What you need to create a start-up floppy disc for your Macintosh Plus is an 800 K disc that you can use to create a start-up floppy. It is best to start with a new, clean, blank disc... or erase one so that no files are on the disc. You can use a 1.4MB floppy disc if you are creating this for a Mac with a high density floppy drive.

Copy your System 6 (or older) files from the master disc to your floppy. Be sure to put them in a folder labeled "System Folder." The 2 most important files to put in your System folder are the System and Finder. These two files enable the Macintosh computer to run its start-up routine and boot into its familiar desktop interface.

After that you are free to put whatever you want to on your start-up floppy, be it a printer driver, fonts, a few desk accessories or emergency utility software, such as a virus checker.

Of course being on a floppy disc, your options for more software on one disc are limited. You'd be better off to install a start-up volume on your hard disc.

People with older Macs (such as the Plus and 512K) can run software on a floppy only system. This requires older System software such as System 4.2 and possibly a 2nd floppy drive to handle one or two small applications and room for a few files. It sounds awkward to do things this way today, but if your resources are very limited it can be done.

Remember that older software and system files are very small when you compare them to what is around today. So such a limited set-up is possible with an older Mac (like the Mac 512, Plus and SE).

System 6.x floppy start-up discs can be used on the Mac SE, SE-30, Classic, some LC models and some II series models. Some of these Macs let you use high density 1.4 MB floppies to create slightly larger start-up floppies.

System 7.x

System software for System 7.x began the gradual spiral toward Macintosh "bloatware", especially for later versions of System 7.x.

Still with System 7.01 and System 7.1, you can scrape by using a floppy disc to start up your Mac. The main reason why you would be doing this is because there could be something wrong with your hard drive. Several utility and anti-virus software titles like Norton Utilities and Symantic Anti Virus came with emergency floppy only start-up volumes which enabled you to start your Mac with a floppy to do system diagnosis and repair, if possible.

Apple's own Disk Tools software also came on a start-up only floppy. These can be used to diagnose and repair some disc problems and format Apple branded hard discs. Disk Tools were included with several versions of System 7.x.

If you are forced to make a System 7.x start-up floppy, the best thing to do is put a small System file and finder on the floppy disc. This may be the only 2 files that can fit on the start-up floppy, and maybe one or two small utility programs.

System 8.x & 9

Macinsoh OS 8 can be booted up with the CD that comes with the OS8.x software. To boot up your Macintosh with the OS 8.x CD, hold the "C" key down during the start up process after inserting your OS8.x disc into the CD ROM drive. The original version of Mac OS 8 also came with a start-up emergency floppy disc. It may be a good idea for you to back this disc up and keep it in a safe place in case of an emergency.

Macs with OS 9 can generally follow the same procedure for OS 8.

Where To Get System Software

If you have an older Macintosh such as a Plus, SE or IIsi, you can still get free copies of selected System software from Apple's website. Go to and select the links for technical support to find older systems.

The following System software may still be available for free from Apple's ftp site (as of March 1999), though you may have better luck going to the main Apple website and head for the tech support pages.

The following System software is NOT available for free, but must be purchased through retail channels.

    System 7.1.x
    System 7.6.x
    Mac OS 8.0
    Mac OS 8.1
    Mac OS 8.5
    Mac OS 8.6
    Mac OS 9
    Mac OS X

Please note that links posted on this page are subject to change without notice.


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Last update: February 16,2003.