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A self-booting disk, sometimes shortened to self-booter or booter, is a floppy disk for home or personal computers that loads directly into a standalone application when the system is turned on, bypassing the standard operating system. This was common in the late 1970s to early 1990s, with video games being the type of application most commonly distributed using this technique.
The term PC booter is also used, primarily in reference to self-booting software for IBM PC compatibles. The term "PC booter" was not contemporary to when self-booting games were being released and was introduced later.
- The software starts automatically, without any further action required by the user.
- Copy prevention, because self-booting floppies often use a nonstandard filesystem or format.
- Bypassing the normal operating system to use a specialized replacement.
- The user needs to reboot the system to run other software.
- The application cannot co-exist with other data or applications stored on a hard disk.
- Hardware normally supported by the operating system may not work.
- Infocom offered the only third-party games for the Macintosh at launch by distributing them with its own bootable operating system.
- A scaled down version of GeoWorks was used by America Online for their AOL client software until the late 1990s. AOL was distributed on a single 3.5-inch floppy disk, which could be used to boot GeoWorks as well.
- In 1998 Caldera distributed a demo version of their 32-bit DPMI web-browser and mail client DR-WebSpyder on a bootable fully self-contained 3.5-inch floppy. On 386 PCs with a minimum of 4 MB of RAM, the floppy would boot a minimal DR-DOS 7.02 system complete with memory manager, RAM disk, dial-up modem, LAN, mouse and display drivers and automatically launch into the graphical browser, without ever touching the machine's hard disk. Users could start browsing the web immediately after entering their access credentials.
- Maher, Jimmy (2013-03-20). "The Top of its Game". The Digital Antiquarian. Retrieved 2014-07-10.
- "Download Caldera DR-WebSpyder 2.0 Today! The complete Web browser and E-mail client that fits on one 1.44 MB diskette!". Caldera, Inc. 1998. Archived from the original on 1999-05-08.