Windows 98: The Quest Continues

My foray into obsolete hardware continues to provide puzzles and frustrations that would not be out of place in an old-school text adventure. I’m seriously considering adapting them to that format.

One bit of progress: I managed to burn a bootable Windows 98 CD. I probably burned several, actually. I wasted a number of CD-R’s, trying different software each time (including the built-in CD burner in MacOS X), but the machine I’m trying to install Windows 98 on didn’t recognize any of them as bootable. But with this last one, I thought to try booting it in my Windows 10 machine, and it worked there. This is most peculiar. The other machine is willing to boot other bootable CDs, such as my Windows XP install disc. The BIOS even displays “BOOTABLE CD DETECTED” in a text-graphics box during the startup sequence, so it’s easy to tell that it doesn’t consider my bootable CD-R to be bootable. Maybe it’s prejudiced against CD-Rs? Is that a thing that can happen?

Over on the other fork, I actually managed to procure a PS/2 keyboard, which allowed me to use the Windows 98 installer boot floppy. But this just led immediately to another blocker: the floppy runs DOS. To read from a CD-ROM drive, it needs a DOS CD-ROM driver, and, while it has several drivers on the floppy, it doesn’t have one that works with the one it has, or for any of the others that I tried swapping in, such as the one from the Windows XP box. I am once again impressed at how running DOS removes functionality that’s in this machine’s BIOS. It’s like an anti-operating system.

Now, it’s actually not hard to find DOS CD-ROM drivers online. There exist sites with incredible numbers of drivers from different manufacturers. But that just leads to the problem: How do I get them from the net to the install floppy? The obvious solution was to mount a floppy disk drive in the XP box, but by this point, between taking out the CD-ROM and installing a new CMOS battery, I seem to have rendered it unusable. For a while, it sometimes showed the POST screen when turned on, then didn’t do anything else. At this point, it isn’t even doing that. I can’t even access the BIOS. So much for having a working XP box.

I do still have one working machine that could be of use, though: the Windows 10 machine, my primary gaming device. Could I install a floppy drive in that? It looks like I can’t; the motherboard doesn’t have the connectors for it. But I could take things to a greater extreme. I know I can boot the Windows 98 install CD on it. What if I were to disconnect its hard drive, swap in the hard drive from the other machine, install Windows 98 there, and then swap it back? This might or might not work — there’s no telling what the Windows 98 installer would make of that hardware. And it has the additional risk that I might wind up permanently breaking the Windows 10 box as well.

Another possibility I’ve considered: Start with Windows 95. I have Windows 95 entirely on floppies. Once I have that installed, I can upgrade to 98 from CD. The 95 boot disk is kaput, though. I could presumably download a replacement boot disk, but then we have the “how do I get it onto a floppy” problem again.

5 Comments so far

  1. DANoWAR on 25 Jun 2018

    Hi,

    – how about using CD-RW instead of CD-R? This way you don’t have to waste a CD-R…
    – Have you looked into the BIOS of the Win98 machine? Maybe the boot from CD option is disabled
    – Or maybe the CD-Rom drive only recognizes original bootable CDs. Do you have one to check?
    – You could buy a USB floppy drive
    – If you install Win98 on your Win10 machine, Win98 will overwrite your boot sector so that you couldn’t boot to Win10 anymore

    You should probably name the machines you’re working on so that it would be easier to reference them ;-)

  2. DANoWAR on 25 Jun 2018

    – What tool did you use to burn the CD-R?

    – Have you tried turning it off and on again?

  3. Jota on 25 Jun 2018

    Can you burn your Windows 98 boot image to a CD R instead of a CD-R? I believe some drives — especially older ones — only recognize one of or -, but not both.

    Alternately, there are external USB floppy drives. You could probably plug one of those into your Windows 10 box without needing to do any surgery on it.

  4. Jota on 26 Jun 2018

    Er, I just noticed on re-read that apparently this blogging platform filtered out the plus signs from my post. Assume I said “CD plus R”, not “CD R”.

  5. malkav11 on 28 Jun 2018

    Yeah, a USB floppy drive seems like the way to go.

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