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A self-booting disk 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.
- Between 1983 and 1984, Digital Research offered several of their business and educational applications for the IBM PC on bootable floppy diskettes bundled with SpeedStart CP/M, a reduced version of CP/M-86 as a bootable runtime environment.
- 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. Archived from the original on 2020-02-11. Retrieved 2014-07-10.
- "Look What's New in the CP/M Applications Library for the IBM PC - Time Saver Offer - Get Concurrent CP/M Free" (PDF) (Product flyer). Pacific Grove, California, USA: Digital Research, Inc. 1983. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2020-02-11. Retrieved 2020-02-11.
[…] SpeedStart makes our software easier to use. All of the software in the CP/M Applications Library has the new SpeedStart version of the CP/M Operating System embedded right on the program disk. All you have to do to use these applications is to slip the disk into your IBM PC, turn on the system, and you are ready to go. This eliminates the need to load a separate operating system, change disks, and boot the applications program. SpeedStart software from the CP/M Applications Library also: […] Provides you with a free run-time version of CP/M […] Eliminates the need to install each new applications program […] Gives you compatibility with Digital Research's powerful 16-bit operating system, CP/M-86, and the state-of-the-art, multi-tasking Concurrent CP/M Operating System. […]
- Digital Research Inc. (December 1983). "Introducing software for the IBM PC with a $350 bonus!". PC Magazine (Advertisement). Vol. 2 no. 7. PC Communications Corp. pp. 306–307. ISSN 0745-2500. Archived from the original on 2020-02-11.
[…] Introducing SpeedStart - the exclusive load-&-go software system. The CP/M Applications Library offers more than just the best name-brand IBM PC software in the business. Each of our applications delivers the unmatched convenience of our exclusive SpeedStart single-disk system. SpeedStart is a special version of the powerful CP/M-86 operating system that's built into each of our software disks. When you're ready to work, just load the disk, turn on your IBM PC and go! SpeedStart eliminates the time-consuming task of loading a separate operating disk and then "installing" the software. In fact, the SpeedStart system gets you to work faster and easier than any other software available today. Best of all, it's yours at no extra cost. What's more, SpeedStart can be by-passed to run software under the IBM PC operating system of the future - the remarkable, multi-tasking Concurrent CP/M. […]
- Digital Research Inc. (1984-02-07). "Introducing software for the IBM PC with a $350 bonus!". PC Magazine (Advertisement). Vol. 3 no. 2. PC Communications Corp. pp. 50–51. ISSN 0745-2500. Archived from the original on 2020-02-11. Retrieved 2020-02-11.
- Digital Research Inc. (February 1984). "Introducing software for the IBM PC with a $350 bonus!". BYTE (Advertisement). Vol. 9 no. 2. pp. 216–217. Retrieved 2013-10-22. 
- "DRI ships 128K version of Dr. Logo" (PDF). Micro Notes - Technical information on Digital Research products. 2 (2). Pacific Grove, CA, USA: Digital Research, Inc. May 1984. p. 4. NWS-106-002. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2020-02-11. Retrieved 2020-02-11.
[…] Dr. Logo first appeared on the retail market in fall of 1983 for the IBM PC and climbed to the top of the Softsel Hot List. The retail release included SpeedStart CP/M, an abridged version of CP/M that boots automatically when the system is turned on. […]
- "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.
- "Download Caldera DR-WebSpyder 2.0". Caldera Thin Clients, Inc. 1998-05-10 [1998-02-17]. Archived from the original on 2020-02-08. Retrieved 2020-02-08.  (NB. Self-extracting archive DRWEBDEM.EXE (1387560 bytes) contains DRWEBDEM.IMG, a bootable 1.44 MB floppy disk image file.)