Most users of PS/2s will know that reference disks (and certain other
maintenance-related disks) have a special property. This property is that they
will, barring a major misconfiguration, always boot even if the
machine has a configuration or other problem which results in error codes being
displayed on power-up or reboot.
This special property is not provided in a very magic way; the BIOS simply
looks for three particular bytes that make up a 'signature' in the boot sector
of the disk. If these three bytes are found, in the right place, the disk will
boot despite any POST errors. As a bonus, if you have a reference partition on
the hard disk, you will find that for the duration of that boot, your reference
partition will appear as drive C:. This provides a good way of deleting
unwanted files without going to the trouble of restoring the reference
partition from the original disks.
It is quite useful to be able to 'stamp' a disk with this signature. One
reason might be that you are making a utility disk which you want bootable at
all times (such as a disk containing IDMCA). Another
might be that the 'signature' has been destroyed (this can happen even if you
just look at the disk under Windows).
The traditional way of placing the 'signature' on a disk is by using the DOS
utility DEBUG. However, this may not be available, and its use is somewhat
error prone. REFSTAMP is a utility whose sole purpose is to add that
signature to a disk; it touches nothing else on the disk except those three
bytes. It is also very small, so it will fit on a disk of emergency tools!
The program can preserve the original boot sector in a file on the disk
being altered, and restore its original state if required. It can also report
the current state of a disk (i.e. whether or not it has the signature on