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Win 98SE on Dell 2400

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Some people have favorite software that doesn't run under later OSs; others just like being out of the mainstream. Dell 2400s are often $25 on local BB's, even FREE at dumpsites and from friends. With CPU speeds 2.4-2.8 gHz or so and hard drives of at least several gigs they're potentially super performers with 98SE.

Realism is important -- '98SE CANNOT replace a general Win XP or later system -- but it's possible to have a very fast reliable way to run 95/98 software with necessary tools (Firefox ...) to support it.

The same probably is true of other make machines with chipsets supported by Intel for Win 98 but not by the maker and most of what follows would also apply to them. I would, however, avoid HP: They've made every effort to vacuum up all support for machines over a week old and unless you find one new in the box with a restore disk, probably not worth picking up off the curb.

I spent dozens of hours searching for answers to problems on my '98SE Dell 2400 project. There's some excellent info out there but nothing like a complete story; this topic is the result.

Because Dell never supported this machine with Win 98 (so some drivers must come from elsewhere), AND '98 is famously buggy, AND '98 native USB support is ElSucko, AND the PC architecture was changing during this time there's more to this install than I thought when I started but only finding the right road is hard. Here's the -- hopefully -- direct route.

OVERVIEW -- Get the machine, check hardware out update BIOS and set options. Download software -- links provided. Do a full fresh Win 98SE install. Update USB support. Update Win 98SE. Install software as needed.

DETAILS -- You will need:

-- A Dell 2400. Win 98 may hang on start (claiming not enough memory to start Windows) if over 768M is installed so pull memory if necessary. I think the minimum is 64M but get as near 768M as you can.

This machine needs a way to get the file needed to make USB mass storage support work. Probably the easiest thing is a 3-1/2" floppy drive. If it doesn't have one you can temporarily steal a drive from another machine: TEST FIRST. Dead floppy drives nearly always respond to careful vacuuming/brushing with the top off and a gentle Q-tip swabbing of the heads. There's a socket on your MOBO for the floppy cable, even if no drive is installed.

You don't have to install this in a tray; just hook it up and set it where it won't touch anything while you do the rest of the job.

-- If you want 'net access, then a modem card, a cable to go to your Ethernet connection, or (if wireless) a wireless adapter that supports Win 98SE. There are MANY WLAN options now and they're cheap.

-- Any specialized device(s) such as a game card. Note that game cards often have some combination of audio, joystick, AND dial up modem built in: Since this will affect what other devices and drivers you need, I'd get this in hand WITH THE APPROPRIATE DRIVERS, right at the start.

-- A floppy disk and a USB flash drive with most of a gig of space.

-- A Microsoft Win 98SE 'full install' disk.

-- Another machine for downloading stuff from the 'net. Start by downloading these items:



That's close to 280 MB of needed MS fixes: Wait'll you see what all is in there.

*** NUSB 3.6e (USB upgrade to make it work on Win 98), here:


Or (in case of link rot on that) you could use NUSB 3.3 which will get you going.


*** Intel chipset ID utility here:


*** Dell chipset driver here:


THAT is the one I used: While Dell says 'only 2000 and XP,' when you look in the file it also says 98SE.

THIS seems to be more recent.


*** Intel 82845 graphics adapter driver here:


*** Sound and Ethernet driver below, unless you'll get it from an add-in card. It's probably easiest to install everything else first: Since this chip does all kinds of back end I/O stuff, once you install these files Win will nag you every time you bring the system up about actually INSTALLING those drivers, but obeying will complicate installing what you really do want.


*** Driver(s) for your Internet connection and any other devices.


*** I recommend getting Desktop Restore, here:


so you can de-scramble your icons after Windows punishes you for the sin of using Microsoft products before they're 100% debugged. You want the DESREX.EXE file for this project.

The other Win 98 version there (uses MSI) did not work for me.

*** If you will use 'net access at all, download FireFox which is the last version for Win98 and works well on simpler sites, though not on the most modern ones. But you can see text at least on most 'blank' sites by clicking View->Page style->No style.


Many later versions of FireFox claim to support earlier systems but they do it by packaging with all the later stuff ...

If you just want a reliable web browser for the very simplest jobs, go with It will work without tricks when it works at all. Later versions can be installed, will display more pages correctly and many add-ons work but won't have a working default browser feature, password saving, bookmarks, or any of that.

There isn't a best post- Firefox for 98SE.3.5.19 is the last to use Java Classic, 3.6.x is considered stable (but no JAVA on '98), 8.0.1 worked well for me. Some people have gotten 10.0.12ESR (Extended support release) to work. All are available at 'oldapps.'

The various FF versions are discussed here:


To try Firefox after,download KernelEx from that link. The last version was 4.5.2 and that's what you want. This simulates many WinXP interfaces for XP-only packages and will allow much (not all) XP software such as some post FF versions to run. There's also a unicode module there that you'll need.

Put all that on your USB flash drive, making a backup copy on the 'other machine' HD in case of flash trash later on.

*** ALSO PUT NUSB36E.exe (or NUSB33E.exe) on your floppy disk.

-- You'll need at least 6 hours of time, some patience. But anyone 'doing' obsolete computers already knows that.



1. Get the new-old machine going with whatever system it has and do a full scandisk (etc.) including a surface scan of the C drive. There's much to be said for putting some hours usage on a 'new' junk machine to smoke out MOBO and similar fatal issues before investing your time in software installation.

(Yes, some machines people throw away are actually dead ... who knew?)

Confirm that you have the A05 (latest) BIOS version; if not, go here:


to download and install the update flash.

Once you have the latest BIOS, enter SETUP (F2 while starting) and click Integrated Devices (legacy ...). Turn OFF 'USB Emulation.' (Leave 'USB Controller' ON.) If emulation is on, you'll have two levels of OS trying to figure out what USB device(s) you have, it may take an hour to get the machine up, and there's a chance for two views of the same device and if you somehow write to both ...

Use the Intel chipset ID utility to determine what you have. Most likely that'll be an Intel 82801 chipset and 82845G/GM/GV (...) graphics controller.

2. Format the C drive. NO, DO NOT try to save what's on it by not doing a format. With a different OS, a different 'home' machine, and perhaps other changes, anything you carry over without a reinstall is likely to bring cooties that will cause you no end of trouble. Plus the disk can't be defragged in the way a fresh install will be.

3. Boot from your Win 98 install CD, but DO NOT allow it to start the install. Instead, get a command line prompt and enter:

SETUP /p i (that's pee eye ...)

That switch is CRITICAL.

The 90's were when Microsoft and others were figuring out how to make things automatic: PnP devices, ACPI (Advanced Configuration and Power Interface), and so on. A LOT of this stuff didn't work reliably and going back now with generic (not specific-to-Dell) Intel drivers and who knows what flavor of a Dell system to get Win 98 going can be, well, a week long nightmare if you let the robots play. Go ahead, ask how I know that.

Robots have no sense of humor and do not give a d***.

In particular the Intel graphic controller driver has IRQ conflicts caused by IRQ steering AND it has memory resource conflicts caused by ACPI. The SETUP command above (with /p i) tells '98 that your machine is too dumb to do that automation; it has to operate as if on a PC of the non-automated generation. Others who tried using third party video have reported the same problems with other makes. Just KILL ACPI at the start.

This works FINE: How many strange devices will you plug and unplug in an average YEAR on this machine? And Win 98SE actually does well, discovering and installing them the old (software) way on a machine where a drunken robot isn't lurching about.

Proceed with the WIN 98 install. It'll be the fastest one you ever saw.

Depending on the make and model of your USB flash drive (and perhaps the phase of the moon) you MAY have working USB support; if so, you won't need the floppy. HOWEVER I've put Win 98SE on several old machines and never seen the built-in support really work, so probably you should:

4. Put in your floppy disk and double click NUSB36E. READ THE BRIEF EULA AS THE DIRECTIONS ARE THERE. They are simple, but you MUST follow them. In particular, note that you must first clean out all the Win-installed USB stuff AND THAT two reboots are necessary after the EXE finishes.

EXCEPTIONS: You don't need to remove anything with 82801 in it (in Device Manager): These are real Intel chipset drivers packaged by Microsoft, NUSB won't improve them, and they can be left alone. You don't need to remove all the PCI unknown devices -- only any USB unknowns.

5. Insert your flash drive. Go to System - Device Manager and look at what you've got. Expand the USB device class at the bottom and look for a USB Mass Storage device. If you have that then open Windows Explorer: With NUSB 3.6 you should have a new drive letter (perhaps E) for your flash drive and you are good to go.

If using NUSB 3.3 you probably have a bogus disk drive: Delete it. I donno why but after the NUSB 3.3 USB setup works the first time it'll keep on working. NUSB 3.6 fixed this.

WHAT YOU GET from 'NUSB' is working USB support for mass storage devices. It IS NOT all-purpose USB support for printers, scanners, etc. If you
want to better understand the USB issue and NUSB's fix for it, the fifty-some page discussion HERE:


is literally invaluable. Time again to thank M-D who created NUSB and wrote much of the discussion, also several others whose detailed knowledge and patience made my project possible.

Time to start with the software on your (newly working) USB flash drive.

6. Double click the AUTOPATCH download file. This installs the AUTOPATCH software and gives you an icon -- it does NO patching. STOP the flash drive and TAKE IT OUT.

7. Double click the new AUTOPATCH icon and watch it go. For the next 45 minutes or so it will install all kinds of fixes and essential basic software, looping through installing and restarting a dozen or more times. This is one of the very slickest packages I've ever seen and when it finishes, you'll have about the most up-to-date fresh install of Win 98SE that's possible.

No kidding, this does over a hundred installs and while there are a couple of error messages, the thing seems to clean them up later on. I do recommend watching it, though: That's an awful lot of work to be allowed to happen in a closet.

8. NOW uninstall any generic graphic controller and install the Intel graphic controller by double clicking:


When you get the system back up you should have a new brightly colored icon at the lower right and Device Manager should say that your graphics adapter is Intel AND that the device is working properly -- no ugly yellow stuff. You can go to Display - Settings and set whatever your monitor is capable of, from the choices offered.

At this point I'd install Desktop Resetter. While this will likely be the most stable Win 98SE you've seen, Win 98 punishes any slight passage of gas by scrambling your icons and DESREX gives you two additional choices when you right-click the desktop: Save Desktop and Restore Desktop.

You still have a couple of uninstalled PCI devices -- Eithernet and sound -- but what (if anything) to do about them depends on what you want and they cause no trouble. You're on your own for the rest -- Internet access, your own software, whatever.

If you will use the 'net, now's the time to install Firefox. is basic, a quick install, and will work correctly under 98 SE on many sites, it's the minimum.

If you need more sites, add-ons, etc. then also install a later (XP-dependent) version.

For post-FF start by installing the unicode module linked on the KernelEx download page, then KernelEx itself. There are no instructions: Just double click the d/l's in turn.

Then go ahead and install the later Firefox.

-- If you need Java, go with 3.5.19 or earlier. 3.6.28 is considered a good stable FF. Some people have gotten 10.0.23 to work but I could not.

-- If your post-2.0 FF hangs, try disabling crash reporting and auto-updating. Can also try right clicking the FF icon and under 'properties kernelex' select Win 2000 rather than 'default' which is Win XP. This has worked for some people but not for me.

-- If you get garbage characters displayed in some places go to

Options->Content->Fonts & colors->Advanced

and UNCHECK 'Allow pages to choose their own fonts.' There are obsolete fonts out there that won't display correctly.

I installed FF using defaults. Then I said 'custom install' and put 8.0.1 in a separate folder. I renamed both desktop icons including the version number. I can start FF 2 for a smoothly working browser that allows bookmarks, 'default browser' status and more but won't display all sites. Or I can start FF 8 and see most all web sites except those that display using Java but lose bookmarking, etc.

Gee, less than twelve years after support ended, Win 98SE is maturing nicely.

Comments -- especially corrections! -- welcome!

Edited by waltah
Clean ups ...
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No need for any floppy disks and CD's. Just grab any USB Flash drive, format it using Rufus for MS-DOS, copy all stuff onto it, and FDISK. (if problems occur, replace command.com and io.sys with the ones from 98se setup cabs, io.sys is winboot.sys in precopy*.cab, you have to rename it)

Then you boot off it, use "fdisk /actok" This switch is very important! Then, change the drive to the second one (the first one is the usb flash drive) and make a partition, and make it active. (without the switch, it won't be possible to set it as active)

Then reboot, boot again, and format the d: drive (the c: is the usb flash drive)

Then copy command.com, io.sys to the root of the d: drive. and the rest of the stuff whenever. Just remember that long file names will be truncated to 8.3.

Then take out the usb flash drive, and boot from the hard drive, then simply run the setup. (with /is /ie /iv /iq /im /nr /p i)

It will install 98se from a hard drive...to the same hard drive in the light of speed!

That's the method I use to install 98SE on any PC that does not have a floppy drive not a cd-rom drive.

Also, why not install Revolutions Pack? It's not unstable on my high end 98SE rig.

Also, for me, the RLOEW's USB Mass Storage Drivers are better from here (the lexar ones):


Also, why not U98SESP3 but outdated Autopatcher?

Also, why not Opera 12.02? Firefox 2 is sadly not good for even basic sites. Too bad Opera 12.02 is also getting worse and worse, I've ranted about it enough.

Edited by MrMateczko
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Many thanks for the long detailed reply, MrMateczko.

Overall, I chose a path that would be simple for most people who might consider doing this installation to understand. Experts of course will see many choices at each step. I often use a file on the disk rather than the CD to actually do such installs.

I had a number of bad experiences with USB mass storage support using the 98SE support; among those were permanently destroyed thumb drives and other kinds of data loss. This was years ago: Drive manufacturers are much down the learning curve now and perhaps they're not as fragile with respect to software errors. But my instinct is to NEVER use 98SE mass storage support for anything that matters: Upgrade that first. The floppy certainly isn't the only way to fly but most Dell 2400's have them and anyone doing Win 98 will most likely to have spares.

An additional consideration in a procedure that involves booting from a flash drive is that such boots are critically dependent on the machine and bios, possibly also on the make of the drive. Some combinations will work, some will not. Experts can troubleshoot such issues but not everyone who might want a faster and more modern 98SE machine is an expert.

NUSB because I have used it a number of times over the years and never had a problem. Perhaps there's now something better out there and I should investigate further. AUTOPATCHER is the same deal: The A-P'd system is so much more stable than 98SE 'as installed' that I don't know how I'd notice further improvement.

After you posted I tried Opera in various flavors including 12.02. It didn't render any sites that FF 8.01 won't and it failed on one of those that FF 8 handled. For an obsolete system (98SE on a 2400) I'll learn a new interface and deal with quirks but the thing MUST cover as many modern web sites as possible.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Further use of my Win 98/Dell 2400 system turned up a new issue. Among the reasons for this system is a software package that is too old to run well on even an XP system. That package needs a printer so I cheerily hooked up an HP 952C and installed the software. OOPS! My system has no LPT1. None. It was turned off in the BIOS but turning it ON and trying the various options (AT, PS/2, ECP ...) did nothing for Win 98.

My guess is that this is a consequence of all the stuff that I turned off to prevent resource conflicts. LPT1 is SO 'OFF' that Windows 98 can't tell it's there, even when it is.

Any suggestions for a way I can tell Win 98 "Hey -- You've GOT an LPT1 port"?

More to come, in any case.

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  • 2 weeks later...

"... Add New Hardware in the Control Panel ..."

I should have tried that. This project has been a series of loops (often have to go back a step in the hope of advancing one and a half or two) and if I get back there again, I will try it.

FOR NOW, the answer is a PCI card that provides a parallel port. I tried a StarTech PCI1P2 which -- though it does not claim to support Win 98 on the package or offer drivers on the CD, DOES have win 98 drivers on the mfr. web site: I could not make it work. It kept showing as an 'adapter' of no particular character in Device Manager.

THEN I got a SIIG 1-Port ECP/EPP Parallel PCI Adapter (JJ-P01411-S1). This SAYS it supports '98 but no drivers on the CD for that one, either. However the Win 98 drivers on the SIIG web site work FINE. Device Manager shows LPT1 and when you plug in a printer it shows up and you can install the mfr's software. Amazon has this item.

One of the software packages I want to run on this machine is Autosketch 1.03. Bought in the mid-90's AIRC, AS was ideal for what I was doing then and should be equally good for the same things now -- but it does not seem to support changes in line weight. (Program was distributed on two 3-1/2" floppies -- this is NOT a large package!) Printing with a modern hi-res printer the lines are often invisible. I no longer run Win 3.1 and in any case that machine -- 66 mHz I think? -- was very S-L-O-W with that package. However a HP 952C installed on LPT1 on my Dell 2400/Win 98 system produces perfect drawings and the package does everything INSTANTLY.

So there's the two steps forward. The one step back is the 2400 has only three real PCI slots. One is devoted to a WLAN card, LPT1 takes a second. Functions laying claim to the third slot are: Sound (internal sound is off); a 56k modem (everything here has to be able to go voice-grade line as backup) and a joystick for games. There's a way to do all that in one slot, but ...

Edited by waltah
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Only one slot left on my Dell 2400 and I need sound, a joystick, and (preferably) a 56k modem for times when only a voice grade line is available.

There is a card for machines of this generation running Win 98 that provides sound and a game port: Search for Ensoniq 1370; there were also cards with 1371 and 1373 chips though I don't know if these would work. EBay has the cards and drivers are available at the usual places; I found the 1370 card trick-free to get going.

Wanting a modem too, I had exactly ONE choice: the Rockwell/Conexant Riptide 90079. This card has sound, joystick, and modem all in one and works on Win 98 machines. It too is available from eBay. This one, though, COMES WITH A TRICK. Namely, there are two near-identical cards but only one of them will work for this job.

The card was introduced in October '97, began shipping summer of '98, and about November was adopted by HP for installation in their 'Pavilion' series of machines. The early cards supplied all three functions. Full-funcition cards can be identified by having a Conexant RDSP020 chip at the lower right corner when looking at the chip side with the PCI connector at the bottom. This chip is about 3/4" square. The card back side has the number '90079' with NO number after that.

Some time after the introduction on their machines, HP changed to a version of this card that did not have the RDSP020 chip: There's a place for it, but nothing there. I bought an HP Pavilion desktop at WalMart in 1999 and got my first card with it. Machines having this 'Model 90079-2' card do audio decoding on the motherboard: There is an audio amplifier chip on the card, but the decoding chip isn't there. If you install this card on a machine without on-MOBO decoding it will load drivers for 'NOAUDIO' and all the audio controls (system sounds and multimedia) will be grayed out and locked.

THIS LATE CARD APPEARS USELESS FOR GENERAL WIN 98 AUDIO. Since the audio still has to go to the card to get to the amplifier and various audio jacks this card is likely good only as a replacement on a computer originally shipped with it.

When I noticed that eBay cards were of two styles and found a photo clear enough to read the number on the sometimes missing chip the rest of the story was an easy guess. I don't know exactly what HP models got the early 'full service' card and which got the later 'crippled' one. I do know that when I installed an early card and the proper driver in my Win 98 Dell 2400 verything including sound, worked.

My GUESS: The crippled card was part of the answer to the AC '97 codec which does indeed put the digital functions on the MOBO and analog functions on the sound card. So HP machines supporting AC '97 likely have the late card and those that don't, the earlier one.

There are half a dozen different driver packages and updates floating around; the one that worked for me is the one that's about 11 megs in size, found HERE:


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