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DOS Boot Menu for NetWare

Novell Cool Solutions: Feature
By James Rudd

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Posted: 27 Sep 2007

It is often useful to have some way to troubleshoot NetWare servers crashing during startup and the ability to upgrade firmware easily.

This guide shows you how to setup a DOS boot menu for your NetWare server, which can be used to boot in to DOS for firmware upgrades or load the server with flags for troubleshooting.

This guide should also work for NetWare servers running as virtualized guests on OES2.

(Notes: The following uses DR DOS that comes with NetWare. MS DOS uses different commands. The boot menu is based on an example boot menu from This menu adds extra options and settings to assist in using the load stage command for troubleshooting of NetWare 6 and 6.5 servers)

Boot Loader

First you need to make sure that your server is booting using DOS and not the NetWare Boot Loader. If you are using NetWare Boot Loader then you can use ?"NWBOOT -UNDO" to use DOS. Further details on switching between the two can be found at

Startup Files

You will need to modify 2 files to create your boot menu, config.sys and autoexec.bat. You may want to copy across some other files, such as cd-rom drivers and motherboard event viewers.

First make a copy of the existing files. At server console type the following to make c: accessible over network.


Now browse to the new mounted drive, usually \\serverName\dosfat_c

If you can not see these files you may need to enable viewing system and hidden files.

Make a backup copy of config.sys and autoexec.bat, and also note any server specific items in these files that may need to be added to the new menu.

Replace config.sys with following:

echo=Netware Server Boot Menu
echo=MyServer.SERVERS.HOME.AU in My-TREE
echo=Intel Server Board SE7520BD2
echo=Dual Xeon 2.8Ghz, 3Gb Ram, Dual 1Gb Net
echo=SCSI and SATA Raid 5, Intel SRCS16

echo=1. Boot Netware Server 6.5 SP6 Normally
echo=2. Safe boot without loading startup files
echo=3. Boot to DR-DOS with CDROM driver
switch norm, safe, dos

set config=norm

set config=safe

set config=dos

And the following in autoexec.bat

rem autoexec.bat
IF "%config%"=="norm" goto NOVELL
IF "%config%"=="safe" goto SAFE
IF "%config%"=="dos" goto DOS

nwcdex.exe /d:CD001
rem echo=Use SELView to view event log.
goto DONE

@echo Start NetWare with No Logo (-nl)
goto DONE

@echo Start NetWare with No Logo (-nl), no STARTUP.NCF (-NS),
@echo and no AUTOEXEC.NCF (-NL)
@echo Use Loadstage # (enter) commands to progress
@echo 1. startup.ncf
@echo 2. loadstage 1, mounts sys
@echo 3. loadstage 2 ... 4
@echo 4. autoexec.ncf
@echo 5. loadstage 5 ... all
goto DONE


You should customise any server settings, drivers and paths required based on your original files. I also recommend adding echo statements with hardware information on the server and details of on any additional DOS utilities installed to make emergency troubleshooting less painful (see example SELView line in autoexec.bat).


When severe problems happen you don?t need the added stress of remembering all the step by step troubleshooting boot commands. Just select "Safe Boot" from boot menu and it will load server.exe with correct parameter and provide a list of the commands to run and in what order to run them.

Flashing Firmware

If you ever need to update the firmware of devices on your server (M/B, RAID, etc) you can just use the dosfat.nss to copy files to a folder in c: drive, reboot selecting DOS option and run update from HDD rather than trying to get it to run off a floppy, which may be quite difficult with firmwares been over 2MB for newer servers.


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