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HDG Guide to Taking Screenshots of Boot Environments

Have you ever had to boot from CD or DVD and wanted to take some screenshots while in this bootable environment? You may be trying to fix your computer and are booting from the operating system DVD, but you cannot figure out what to do. You can take a screenshot and send it to your technical friend. You can also just take a screenshot using your smartphone or digital camera.

Or maybe you are like me and you want very good screenshots, not the blurry, grainy, or flickering that you usually get when trying to take a picture of a computer screen. Unfortunately, it is not possible to take a screenshot of the boot environment if the operating system is not loaded. What program would you use to take a screenshot?

Fortunately, there is a way around this. Here’s what you do. Instead of loading a CD or DVD when you reboot your computer, boot it into a virtual machine running on your current operating system. If this sounds daunting to you, don’t worry, it’s not that bad.

Virtual machine software basically allows you to run another operating system inside your current OS. So, you can run Linux on Windows 7 or Windows XP on Windows 8, etc. Etc. So how do you do this? Install the virtual machine program. There is actually only one free and well-functioning one: VirtualBox

It is completely free and has many features. For our purposes, we don’t care about all the bells and whistles, we just want it to load our CD / DVD or ISO image if you are using it. Other virtual machine applications include Parallels (Windows / Mac / Linux), VMware (Windows), and VMware Fusion (Mac). These are commercial applications that you only need if you work with virtual machines on a regular basis.

Use VirtualBox to get screen shots

First, download VirtualBox for your operating system and install it. After installation, open the program, it should look something like this:

– /

Go ahead and click the “Create” button and you will see a pop-up window where you will need to enter some information about the virtual machine you are creating.

Give your virtual machine a name and then select the Type and version. For Type, you will have options like Windows, Linux, Mac, BSD, Solaris, and so on, but you’ll want to choose Other since you don’t really plan on installing anything. You just want to boot from disk or image and that’s it.

For Type, your choice will be mostly DOS or Other / Unknown. There are other options, but these are very specific things that you would only choose if you were installing this particular OS.

Click “Next” and you will need to select the amount of RAM that you want to allocate for the OS. Here, I would pick something like 64MB or 128MB just in case.

Click Next and you have to choose whether you want a hard drive or not. In my case, I chose “Don’t add virtual hard disk” because I only want to load the boot screens and I don’t need to install anything.

When you click Next, you will receive a pop-up warning that there is no hard drive. You can just ignore it. Go ahead and click Finish to shut down the virtual machine. Now that you’ve configured it, you must tell VirtualBox where the boot device or image actually resides.

To do this, select the virtual machine in the left menu (in my case, a bootable CD) and click the “Start” button. You will receive a pop-up message asking where the boot disk is located. By default, it will show you the drive letter for your physical CD / DVD drive. Make sure the CD / DVD is inserted before pressing the Start button.

If you have an ISO image, click on the small folder icon to the right of the dropdown and you can select the ISO image. That’s all. Click on Start and you will be surprised to see the entire boot process right in your current Windows / Mac / Linux session!

As you can see from the screenshot above, I have a boot recovery ISO that I downloaded into VirtualBox so that I can take screenshots of it for my next article. Pretty cute! Have questions? Let us know in the comments. Enjoy!

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