Jump to content

Running Windows 98 in 2020 and beyond...


Recommended Posts

This whole topic contains tons of gems (although most far over my head, when system and DOS knowledge needed, major pity)
I just keep thinking it's a bit sad that it's aimed mainly at "just for fun" users, for theoretical use. Mostly by and for people who use modern systems for real stuff and only play a bit with this old OS for nostalgic reasons and "fun".
But users who really depend on it daily and exclusively would be rather lost when strictly sticking to a "vanilla" version only, without any updates, just for an ideal of "purity". IMO that's just not realistic in real life. Am not meaning to add all sorts of complicated system stuff which needs expert knowledge (excludes me too), to turn 98 into a semi-XP, with all up- and downsides and especially just too complicated for ordinary people. But just a few tiny, easy updates make it already so MUCH more usable! Of course, talking especially of that miracle update with the old, official KernelEx version, incredibly tiny with less than 1MB, and the dll for unicode. Which was already delivered decades ago as official Windows update for Win98 (although always denied to exist when an app is declared "not compatible with 9x" merely due to supposedly missing unicode, while funnily no one ever insisted that their apps were "not compatible with XP as a whole" if not compatible with pure Vanilla first version without ANY official updates ever, but that's offtopic)
Just mentioning since I keep thinking it's a bit a pity this is aimed at just-for-fun users of "vanilla" 98 ;-)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@siria:  I could be wrong, but my impression of what @Wunderbar98 meant by "vanilla" Win98 was that he was fine with official MS updates and service packs designed and released for Win98 to the general public. He just didn't want to add any unofficial Service Packs, or Revolutions packs, or 98SE2ME, or KernelEx, or anything else that wasn't officially released by MS specifically intended for Win98. Which is also the way I understood @rloew to be on the whole, though he was willing to write his own improvements to allow it to work on more modern hardware. So maybe not as vanilla as what I understood you to say. 

Cheers and Regards

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Goodmaneuver, you don't need to justify, colour is subjective and beautiful. My Windows 98 presently looks plain and pale, having too much fun with software. I used to spend hours playing with Desktop Properties -> Appearance tab -> various Item dropdowns.

Pretty much what bphlpt said, thank-you for summarizing. I just want to see how far a vanilla installation can go today and like to keep software installs more pure. There are so many threads, after Windows 98 support officially ended in 2006, that pertain to custom tweaking. This makes it difficult to determine how a base system runs and what software versions work.

Thank-you for your feedback siria. Correct it is primarily a hobby system, though i now spend almost all of my computing time on it, including internet. The only login, however, is this site. For email, banking and more sensitive computing i multi-boot or use another system.

For users where Windows 98 and old hardware is their only system, i don't think the situation is so grave. My hardware specs are poor by modern standards, not if running appropriate software. Windows 98 SE flies on this system with comparable performance to a lean GNU/Linux install.

From my perspective, kernel extensions and other additions have made Windows 98 more functional, though most of this development has stalled, leaving the systems once again compromised on the modern internet. A step higher, still compromised. Not in regards to the basics, such as setting up a good firewall, but rather secure internet protocols, supported web browsers, proper page rendering, etc.

If Windows 98 was my only system, without upgrading hardware i would just dual boot an open source operating system. Earlier in this thread is an example of a dual boot that does not compromise the system's master boot record. Nor does it require creating a new parition, transferring a new OS onto a USB stick or burning a CD. The available software will be more up to date and functional on the modern internet.

Not the biggest fan of Puppy Linux, just used it as an example. There are hundreds of freely available operating systems and 'distributions'. Another method is to burn and boot a LiveCD for banking, see https://livecdlist.com. Security is a primary advantage, as the OS can not be written to and altered during the session.

I just booted into the Tahrpup Puppy Linux installation, used in the earlier example, to check things out. The system runs okay on the same hardware but not as snappy as Windows 98. Definitely adequate if just logging in for an hour to catch up on banking and email. A 512 MB - 1 GB encrypted save file should be adequate to upgrade browsers and install a few extra packages.

Although newer Puppy releases can be installed, available web browsers for this dated though perfectly functional Tahrpup include: Dillo v3.0.3, Chrome v41, Chromium v65.0, Palemoon v27.1.0, SeaMonkey v2.26 and Tor-browser v3.6.6. For Firefox v66.0.3 is available, it installed fine, ran sluggish and crashed when loading tabs. I believe it is because the newer Quantum releases dropped support for non-SSE2 capable processors, like mine. So i installed the base Firefox v32, it ran very well and immediately updated itself to Firefox v45.0.2 without drama.

To me it's not like hobby system only versus completing real work. I just view an OS as a tool, whichever tool gets the job done. If Windows 98 is a preference, then spend as much time using it as possible, knowing additonal tools are available as needed. Hopefully i did not offend anyone, just my viewpoint.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Don't apologize for that viewpoint. I hope that most of us at MSFN are 100% behind the idea that ANY user should have the right to use ANY software, including ANY OS, on THEIR machine if it meets THEIR needs, and we should not criticize them for it. We are here to talk about their, and our, experiences and help others as we can.

Cheers and Regards

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Completely in agreement, bphlpt!

I'm actually one of the ones who uses his 98SE ("pimped up" with all those un-official extensions) as his primary O/S... even for work (meaning i do stuff for work at home -- at work, we have some new-ish version of Windows that i only use when i can't avoid it).

So anybody who can help keep Win9x/DOS working... and thriving... for any purpose has my thumbs up!

- Doug B.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Random thoughts from my scattered brain on Windows 98, registries, software installs, etc based on recent experiences.

Back in the day DOS purists probably detested the new and improved Windows registry. Personally i think it's all good. For the most part Windows 98 does a decent job of backing it up and compressing it at boot. The registry should be safeguarded, a key to avoiding system failure.

Not sure if any OS is better than another, to me Windows 98 remains a strong contender. Pure DOS is elegant and simple, no registry, hard to get into trouble but limited for modern computing. In Windows 9x the registry adds complication but is simple to maintain, although the OS is showing it's age. With limited experience of later Windows iterations, other than Windows XP, registry maintenance is still reasonable but these systems are overly complicated for most home computing, no longer have true DOS fallback and have issues with activation.

Although GNU/Linux doesn't use a registry, it has it's own complications. Compared to most DOS applications, Linux and Windows typically use high scatter software installation methods. New software files go everywhere and generate during runtime. In Windows 98 files may get written to Program Files, My Documents, C:, C:\WINDOWS, C:\WINDOWS\Application Data, C:\WINDOWS\TEMP plus registry entries. In Linux files go to various /bin directories, /etc, /lib, /usr, /tmp, $HOME, etc.

IMHO managing software gone awry, mixing and matching software versions, pinning back and holding old versions can be a bigger mess in Linux, unless using rollback software, a modular distribution or compiling your own programs. If available updates are not installed en mass, version conflicts may cause issues. If updates cause regressions, it's not always easy to roll back.

As Windows 98 receives no more updates, once the initial install is done and any desired manual patches applied the system is stable. Windows 98 also makes it easy to remove newer software in favour of installing older versions, as needed or desired.

In Windows 98 a software install gone bad is usually a simple fix, even when encountering un-installer issues. Just manually delete the files, clean and/or restore the registry. In GNU/Linux removing software is generally not an issue but a user needs to be wary of removing a meta-package, in Debian-based systems anyway, which may flag and remove other critical software. Both Windows and GNU/Linux still leave cruft behind after uninstalls, which requires an OCD user to perform some manual cleanup.

With proper management the need for a re-install of any of these OS' is rare, usually only due to hardware failure. As GNU/Linux configures most hardware at boot, it probably holds the advantage for rebooting after catastrophic hardware issues, even motherboard swaps, without an OS re-install.

Like a kid with a new toy i run registry cleaners and occasionally optimize the registry manually. Without benchmarking, uncertain if there is an appreciable performance improvement, probably only if the registry wasn't 'cleaned' for a long time.

Whatever registry maintenance software is used, configure it to create backups before deletion. It's best to avoid using more than one registry cleaner or running more than one cleaning cycle per boot. This minimizes breakage and makes it easy to find the culprit and restore an accidental registry deletion.

Consider running this in COMMAND.COM, especially before installing software of questionable origin:

scanreg /backup /comment="RunningWellBeforeXYZ"

It's also a good idea to run the above command before manually tinkering with REGEDIT.

Using REGEDIT, the registry can also be backed up and restored by selecting Registry -> Import or Export Registry File. Registry keys can be deleted manually after searching (Ctrl-F) for keywords, like the software vendor's name, but exercise caution, reboot and check for issues.

Registry backups only take a few seconds and can save lots of grief. I've never restored using REGEDIT and prefer the DOS commands, as REGEDIT will not be available if Windows fails to start. In case of emergency, reboot to DOS, select and restore the registry that contains your comment tag:

scanreg /restore

Run scanreg /? to view usage help.

Registry backups are stored in C:\WINDOWS\SYSBCKUP as *.cab or *.CAB files. By default, only five backups are maintained. To confirm your system is regularly backing up the registry, check the date stamps of the *.cab files. Can also run MSCONFIG and check the Startup tab for a SCANREG autorun entry. Review C:\WINDOWS\SCANREG.INI for default settings, adjust as needed, only after backup up the original file.

Exercise caution when running with a problematic registry, better to restore and fix immediately, as by default every reboot creates a new registry backup and shuffles out the oldest backup, even if it was a good one. In this manner, a few reboots and there will be no good registry backups to restore.

Since i prefer manual methods, when the system is running well perform a commented registry backup as outlined above. Then copy all five *.cab / *.CAB files to other media, such as an external drive or USB stick. This way a good restore is always available.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Cool knowing people are still using Windows 98 full-time @siria and @DougB. Don't downplay your skills @siria. If you have learned to tweak your system to keep it usable today, so many years after release, you've done a great job.

FWIW i can see why many users have tweaked Windows 98 to be more useful for modern computing. I was gifted Windows 2000 and Windows XP Pro in the early 2000s, which prompted moving on from Windows 98, then onto Linux mid-2000s when i no longer liked the way the new MS systems were heading. Without these gifted OS', i would have also probably dug in my heels and max tweaked Windows 98 to run as long as possible.

Thanks for your comments and wisdom @bphlpt.

Thanks for the tip on ERU @deomsh. Nice, lean and configurable. I copied the program files to C:\ERD, which is what it wants to default too for backups, aside from a floppy drive. It runs nice, will keep it around.

An issue i've encountered before with creating a desktop shorcut, maybe someone can help. Right-click on C:\ERD\eru.exe and select Send to Desktop (create shortcut). Attempting to launch eru.exe from the desktop shortcut results in an error, in this case 'Could not locate file ...'. Yet when clicking on C:\ERD\eru.exe directly the program runs fine.

Sad so much good software quickly gets forgot. My Windows 95 CD with USB support (Win95_OSR25) probably hasn't spun in 20 years. One of my favourites, which is on both the Windows 95 and 98 CDs is help.com in the oldmsdos directory. It's a detailed DOS help guide with examples that i copy to the C: drive after installation.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

For muti-booters a simple Linux copy command can back up an entire Windows (or other Linux) install, example:

sudo cp -axv /mnt/sda1/* /mnt/sda2/save_directory/

Where /mnt/sda1/* is the root directory of the Windows install, typically sda1 (change as needed). And /mnt/sda2/save_directory/ is the target directory for the backup files, change as needed.

Target and source directories must be mounted. It works on NTFS Windows XP type partitions too, just ensure the ntfs-3g package is installed, or whatever it is called in your distribution.

Obviously it is preferable to backup files to other physical media, such as a second hard drive, external drive, USB stick. The -ax switches maintain ownership, permissions and attributes, which may not be applicable for Windows files, but it does no harm and i use it out of habit. The verbose switch is optional if you want to monitor the action.

If preparing a new hard drive for these Window files, especially if it is going to be a new C: drive Windows installation, it is useful to use Linux tools, such as fdisk or gparted, to splice up the drive into primary partitions beforehand. Just reserve the first partition for the Windows filesystem, then create Linux filesystems for the rest (eg. ext2). Then use the Windows 98 boot CD to properly format the first partition, the new C: drive, to create a FAT filesystem.

Using proper Windows tools will help ensure the C: drive is bootable after the backed up Windows files get tranferred over. From personal experience and failures, it is generally best to use Windows tools to create Windows filesystems and obviously Linux tools for Linux filesystems.

Although i have no direct experience, creating the first partition <137 GB, with the rest Linux partitions, may be a simple workaround for the Windows 98 large drive limitation. IIRC the Windows 98 boot disk does not recognize Linux partitions created beforehand when it's time to create the FAT filesystem.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

>> An issue i've encountered before with creating a desktop shorcut, maybe someone can help. Right-click on C:\ERD\eru.exe and select Send to Desktop (create shortcut). Attempting to launch eru.exe from the desktop shortcut results in an error, in this case 'Could not locate file ...'. Yet when clicking on C:\ERD\eru.exe directly the program runs fine.

Manually creating new shortcut from the program and then copy to desktop :- does that work? Compare any differences, auto created shortcuts to other drives have parentheses quotations around the location on my desktop :- they still work.

I do not let registry checkers  auto clean the registry at all. The internal string registry settings are different between operating systems. In registry there will be a number after a comber that references the icon to be used but there is also string functions built in shell32 for example and other reference files that are different between OS's. What you have talked about only running once gives a clue; it is a dangerous idea to fully trust, especially ActiveX deletion. If the reg checker program does not understand or comply with the program's settings then it is usually flagged for deletion. Registry is continuously running in RAM & if HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE settings get altered before HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT for Win9x than this could be a problem. Just a warning.

Edited by Goodmaneuver
parentheses; did not know what i was thinking
Link to comment
Share on other sites

57 minutes ago, Goodmaneuver said:

Manually creating new shortcut from the program and then copy to desktop :- does that work?

You have to rightclick on ERU.EXE, hold the button and drag to your desktop. Then you can choose "Create shortcut" ,or something like that, in the menu shown by Explorer. Dragging works in Progams too.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi @Goodmaneuver. Okay this worked, thanks.

Right-click and selecting Send to Desktop (create shortcut), creates a broken shortcut to desktop. But right-click and selecting only Create Shortcut, creates a shortcut in C:\ERD and when dragged to desktop works.

The shortcuts are not identical. The broken shortcut properties does not have the Start in text field populated, while the working method contains Start in -> C:\ERD.

Strange behaviour though, to me this is maybe a bug in the Send to Desktop function, as one would think either method should work equally well. Probably too late to send a bug report :)

Do you mean you never use registry cleaners at all, not even in safe mode? Or you use a registry cleaner and then just manually select the items you want deleted from the list?

Hi @deomsh, your method works equally well and properly populates the Start in field, thank-you.

Edited by Wunderbar98
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have used auto reg cleaning just like you have described many years ago with too many regrets. I have commented about this in other posts.

>> Strange behaviour though, to me this is maybe a bug in the Send to Desktop function

I doubt this, check your registry. I tried my self but cannot find it so can not help much.

Edited by Goodmaneuver
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Okay, thanks for the feedback Goodmaneuver.

Found some useful links for ancient browser extensions. Many tested to work in SeaMonkey v1.1.19. Also available for old Mozilla. Often provide different version releases too.


Installing extensions in this old browser is different than modern releases. Basic howto:

1. Manually download the *.xpi extension from the website.
2. In preferences, temporarily allow Advanced -> Software Installation.
3. Select File -> Open File, select the desired extension's *.xpi file, install the extension.
4. Manual browser restart usually required to activate.

There is no about:addons in this old SeaMonkey. Search around to find extensions settings and control options. Depending on extension, may be in status bar, drop down menus, right click context menu.

Installed extensions are stored in the SeaMonkey profile's chrome directory. As far as i can determine, removing extensions requires manually deleting the applicable file from the chrome directory and restarting the browser.

Some extensions may require modification to modernize. The *.xpi files are just zip files. Manually rename to zip extension if needed, extract and modify. The users.skynet.be link above has an extension hacking tutorial link.

Useful to me extensions briefly tested thus far:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...