The MS-DOS Fdisk utility usually updates the master boot record (MBR) only if no master boot record exists. Repartitioning with Fdisk does not rewrite this information.
Fdisk has an undocumented parameter called /mbr
that causes it to write the master boot record to the hard disk without altering the partition table information.
Writing the master boot record to the hard disk in this manner can make certain hard disks partitioned with SpeedStor unusable. It can also cause problems for some dual-boot programs and disks with more than four partitions.
What is the MBR?
At the end of the ROM BIOS bootstrap routine, the BIOS reads and executes
the first physical sector of the first floppy or hard disk on the
system. This first sector of the hard disk is called the master boot record
(or sometimes the partition table or master boot block). There is a small program at the beginning of this sector of the hard disk. The partition information, or partition table, is stored at the end of this
sector. This program uses the partition information to determine which partition is bootable (usually the first primary DOS partition) and attempts to boot from it.
This program is written to the disk by the fdisk /mbr
command and is usually called the master boot record. During typical operation, Fdisk writes this program to the disk only if there is no master boot record.
: The fdisk /mbr
command only re-writes the MBR on the system drive (DISK-0) using BIOS calls. You cannot specify any other drive for the fdisk /mbr
command to operate on other than DISK-0.
Why is the MBR Changed During Setup?
During the installation of Microsoft MS-DOS Upgrade, Setup replaces the master boot record on the hard disk with code to display a message similar to:
The MS-DOS 5.0 Setup was not completed.
Insert the UNINSTALL #1 diskette in drive A.
Press the ENTER key to continue.
This message should be erased and the master boot code rewritten before
Setup is completed. If a problem occurs during Setup and you return to the
previous version of MS-DOS, Uninstal should also remove this message.
However, if Setup or Uninstal does not remove this message, or if the
master boot record becomes corrupted, a new master boot record can be
written to the disk using the following command:
Do not use this command if any of the following conditions exists:
- The disk was partitioned using the Storage Dimensions SpeedStor utility with its /bootall option.
- More than four partitions exist.
- Certain dual-boot programs are in use.
The Storage Dimensions SpeedStor utility with the /bootall
option redefines the drive's physical parameters (cylinder, head, and sector). The /bootall
switch stores information about how the drive has been changed in an area of the master boot record that MS-DOS does not use. The fdisk /mbr
command erases that information, making the disk unusable.
Some older original equipment manufacturer (OEM) versions of MS-DOS and
some third-party partitioning utilities can create more than four
partitions. Additional partition information is commonly stored information
on partitions in an area that the fdisk /mbr
Some dual-boot programs have a special MBR that asks you at startup which
operating system you want to use. The fdisk /mbr
command erases this program. Dual-boot systems that boot whichever partition is marked Active are not affected by the fdisk /mbr
For more information about how to partition a hard disk, click the following article number to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
How to Use the Fdisk Tool and the Format Tool to Partition or Repartition a Hard Disk
The third-party products that are discussed in this article are manufactured by companies that are independent of Microsoft. Microsoft makes no warranty, implied or otherwise, regarding the performance or reliability of these products.
More information on partitioning, disk organization, and the boot sequence
can also be found in Chapters 3 and 8 of the DOS Programmer's Reference
by Terry Dettmann, published by the QUE Corporation; Chapters 2 and 10 of Advanced MS-DOS Programming
by Ray Duncan, and article 3 of The MS-DOS Encyclopedia
, both published by Microsoft Press.