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Downgrade from Win XP to Win 98SE

By Telegraphman ยท 19 replies
Jul 15, 2013
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  1. Greetings all.
    Still plugging away at my old Dell Inspiron 3800 (never going on internet).
    HDD 10 GB
    Pentium III processor 598 MHz
    320 MB RAM

    Current OS is Win XP Home Edition.
    Goal is to make clean install of Win 98 SE so that I can run older programs more suited to this OS.
    On hand I have:
    Win 98 SE boot disk
    Win 98 SE installation disk

    XP OS uses NTFS
    Win98 probably uses FAT 32

    Current system (XP) doesn't recognize these disks, unable boot from them.
    In addition this model of Dell laptop has one slot only for floppy drive and CDRoM drive to share. With my limited knowledge, this is Catch 22 for me. Does anyone have a solution please. TIA
  2. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 11,197   +4,857

    Lets see if I understand correctly.

    You have a Windows 98 Floppy Boot Disk and Windows 98 Installation CDROM. And the problem is you can't Boot to a Floppy and use a CDROM at the same time because the slot for Floppy or CDROM is a shared slot. The easy way out would be to purchase a USB (assuming you have USB) Floppy or CDROM drive.
    1. The CDROM should be bootable, so you wouldn't need a Floppy Boot Disk.
    2. If not then format the HDD drive with the Floppy Boot Disk and the switch the floppy drive for the CDROM. Before switching drives, you may need to setup CDROM drivers first.
    3. After loading config.sys/autoexec.bat with CDROM drivers, you will have access to Windows 98 CDROM.
    4. I always copied Windows 98 setup folder to C:\Windows\Win98, and installed from there. This step would help prevent Windows from asking for the Windows 98 Setup Disk everytime you made a change to your system.
    This confuses me, because if the disks and drives are good Windows XP should recognize both Floppy and CDROM.
  3. gbhall

    gbhall TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,419   +77

    For USB sticks, you will need a driver. That used to come with the stick as a small CD, but is probably a download today (if available at all). There also was an unofficial service pack for Win98SE which added many very important features (possibly including USB drivers, I'm not quite sure). Still available here http://www.softpedia.com/get/System/OS-Enhancements/Unofficial-Windows-SE-Service-Pack.shtml

    As to the shared floppy/CD drive, rarely heard of that. In all the dozens of win98 PC's that crossed my desk, the CD drive was always a normal HDD connector connected as an ATA slave. That is not an option on a laptop where there is an external floppy/CD connector. If the CD drive you have will not read anything, you are stuck if you can't acquire another. Test it with a video CD or something. If it works at all, you will need to configure it as a bootable drive in the bios.

    Obviously, I can't double-guess why you need the real Win98 to run 16-bit programmes, but there are a couple of alternatives worth mentioning. First off, the fact is, Windows 7 professional has XP mode, which is more capable of running older applications than XP ever was, but usually not 16-bit games accessing the hardware direct. Secondly, you can run a virtual OS from MS (virtual PC), Oracle (virtual box), VMWARE (VMplayer and others). And that virtual PC can be run on any modern PC from XPSp3 onwards, but will install as good a copy of Win98 as you are likely to need.
  4. Telegraphman

    Telegraphman TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Thanks. Here is some amended info. You understand correctly about the setup here. I tried to boot the laptop from a USB floppy but have found that the bios does not support booting from external USB devices. The floppy DOES boot OK from the slotted floppy drive. Ref your point #2: The problem remains (I'm sure) that one can't change periphals without turning the computer off first so what ever progress made with the floppy is lost. Is this not so? And on the subject of the Win 98 installation disk, I think you must be correct about it being faulty. The CD RoM works OK on other CDs but does not boot the laptop. When the disk is put in the drive a flashing disk icon appears next to the cursor, "properties" show a full disk graphic with no used space and no free space, (zero bytes all round). "Explore" brings up "Please insert a disk into Drive D". So it looks as though I need to find a good copy of the installation disk to carry on. The installation disk I am trying to use is a copy so I guess it must be suspect.

    For gbhall: Thanks for the info. The particular program I want to run will give the full benefits only if run with true MS-DOS, not DOS-in-WINDOWS and WIN 95 and WIN 98 have been recommended. If the applications you mention can do this would you please give me a pointer to where they are available so that I can check them out. In my previous attempts to make progress the bios has been configured correctly to boot from floppy or CD RoM as required. I'm not very savvy with computers but I'm learning fast!
  5. gbhall

    gbhall TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,419   +77

    As I understand you, the floppy drive will boot, alternatively you can plug in a CD which will read fine, but the setup CD will not boot. You suspect the CD may be faulty. This is very likely. A 'proper' install CD is definitely bootable and actually contains a Dos OS. When someone merely copies that CD for you, unless the copy is made with correct 'clone' options, you won't get the bootable capability. There will be a setup.exe on the CD though, and if the CD was actually copied onto a hard disc partition (but not the partition you are going to install Windows on), then you can install Windows from it.

    I know this might be confusing for you, but in effect an expert could use the disk you have, boot from the floppy (giving you a DOS install) and could then run the setup.exe on the CD or from the HDD copy on a separate partition. I'm repeating steps 2-4 in cliffordcooley's post actually......

    On the question of virtual OS, you need a fairly powerful PC with one of several possible virtual OS hosts installed. Some taster here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VMware_Player (free) but the eventual virtual OS, if it is a version of Windows, is not free and needs to be licensed and be properly installed from genuine install CD. So just as before, you will need a proper install CD whichever way you go.
    cliffordcooley likes this.
  6. Telegraphman

    Telegraphman TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Thanks for all the useful info - a bit more added to my (steep) learning curve. It appears that the simplest solution for me is to buy a genuine Win 98 SE installation disk and this is the path I will follow. The techy info you have supplied is interesting but at this stage it is going into the "too hard" basket ( on my hard drive). Regards.
  7. bazz2004

    bazz2004 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,585   +252

    I tried to go the Virtual OS route with VmWare Player some time ago. It was difficult, time consuming and I gave up with a 98 installation that looked fine but lacked graphics acceleration. In other words the virtual 98 OS wouldn't run any games and was pretty much an ornament. There was support on the VM forum and I did wonder about trying downloading some of the earlier VMPlayers from the archive to experiment. In reality I couldn't be bothered with it. Although virtual OS's are useful I can't recommend them for anything older than XP. I have that running beautifully on VMPlayer. When I use it it wants me to "upgrade" VMWare but I'm wary that it might introduce problems so I'm staying with what's working.
  8. Christ67

    Christ67 TS Rookie

    Try creating a boot disk cd?
    Are you using an OEM 98se Dell cd or something along those lines? If so that may be the issue. XP should read the boot disk and the install cd without issue. Basically you need to download the Boot iso from Allbootdisk and edit the iso to add the install cd contents to the iso and burn the new iso to a cd.
  9. Telegraphman

    Telegraphman TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Update...have purchased a genuine new installation disk with the Microsoft/Genuine hologram. I am following the instructions to install from CDROM at this address (can't use the floppy boot option because of only one slot for CDROM or floppy):
    The same problem described earlier persists (does not boot from CD). Have tried disk on my (much) newer PC (MOB Asus P5G41T-MLX) dated 2011 with no luck.
    Any further comments appreciated.
  10. gbhall

    gbhall TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,419   +77

    If the disk does not boot, the most obvious reasons would be

    You have failed to correctly set the CD drive as the first drive in the bios.
    Or the drive is faulty. It might read, but will not boot.
    Or you are trying to run the install for win98 on a 64-bit PC.
    Or the CD is not genuine.

    Some of those reasons could be true on your original Dell, any of the four could be true on another PC.

    I would like to be sure you actually are able to correctly perform the bios change necessary to permit booting from the CD. The best way you could prove that would be to borrow a known genuine, working boot disk (or could be a bootable .iso download of linux burned to a CD, does not have to be a Microsoft install disk). First ensure the CD works on a newer PC, then try it on the old Dell.

    One point not yet made to you is that Win98 will very likely not boot (although it might install) on a PC with more than 480Mb memory. That limit does not apply to the Dell, of course, I'm just warning you in case you try installing on a newer PC. It could mislead you into thinking the install disc is faulty when it's just memory-limited.

    More on the disk you have purchased. I was not aware it is legally possible to still buy Win98se, but maybe it is. If my memory serves me, no CD of Win98se had any special marking - the hologram was on the packaging - the box, or inside on a manual with a hologram sticker of some sort. I also seem to remember that by that time, MS were already concerned about pirating, and major OS manufacturers were instructed to issue CDs which were tied to their own specific motherboards. So if you have one of those, you have a dud. You need what was called a full retail CD.
  11. bazz2004

    bazz2004 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,585   +252

    Your hardware looks mega powerful for a Windows 98 set up. My first PC had a Pentium II 350Mhz cpu and a gigantic 8Gb hard drive. It was one of the first to have Windows 98 installed. I now regret dropping it off at the recycling centre. Had I known how poor Windows compatibility mode was for some of the old gaming favourites I'd have held on to it. If you are determined to resurrect Windows 95/98 legacy software there are Windows 98 Laptops ready to roll on eBay. Unfortunately, they seem to be quite expensive and so I am unlikely to play Hogs of War again.
  12. SNGX1275

    SNGX1275 TS Forces Special Posts: 10,545   +429

    Here is what I'd do, I don't remember how to do this, but someone here might. It also should be somewhat easy to find on google.

    1. Install DOS from a floppy.
    2. Switch whatever out so your CD drive can be used.
    3. Boot into DOS
    4. D:\setup.exe (Windows 98 install).
  13. MrBungle

    MrBungle TS Booster Posts: 151   +67

    Two words... Virtual Machine
  14. bazz2004

    bazz2004 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,585   +252

    This looks more like the sort of restoration undertaken by classic car owners so a virtual machine is not really appropriate. Support for really old software and games is even less effective for Windows 95/98 in a virtual OS than Windows compatibility modes.
  15. SNGX1275

    SNGX1275 TS Forces Special Posts: 10,545   +429

    Yeah. I've tried 9x in a VM before with horrible results. Plus, he's wanting to do this on a P3 600. It would be a HORRIBLE experience to put XP on that and then run 9x in a VM. 9x will install on that just fine, and run great. My post above (#12) is the right way to proceed, I just don't know the exact step by step instructions, but the method is correct.
    cliffordcooley likes this.
  16. bazz2004

    bazz2004 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,585   +252

    That sounds exactly right but it's that strange combined DD/Floppy that's the problem. I've never heard of such a thing and presumably you can't just plug in an external usb CD drive to side step it.
  17. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 11,197   +4,857

    It is a laptop that shares a drive bay. Either a CD or a floppy can be used, but not both. There is no room for a combo drive. It's a choice of drives that has to be made, as to which one to install in the laptop.
  18. Telegraphman

    Telegraphman TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Hi all...just done something that I should have done before: downloaded the laptop user manual from the Dell website. It seems that when one of these is sold retail, there is an accompanying cable with which either the floppy or hard drive can be connected using the parallel port while the other is in the bay. I got the laptop from the original buyer and the cable was not mentioned, presumably lost. So that solves that little problem. Going to buy one on internet and see how we go from there. During the process of installing Win98SE I would like to try a dual-boot set-up with Win XP. Does anyone have a link to a step by step procedure for this preferably including fdisk?
  19. gbhall

    gbhall TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,419   +77

    Are you a fully-paid-up masochist? Get win98se up first. XP can wait. If you are really thinking that what you wanted win98 for will also work on WinXP, you are sure to be disappointed, and I could prove it if I still had a WinXP PC. It's a case of direct access to the hardware. Win98-yes, XP-no.
  20. SNGX1275

    SNGX1275 TS Forces Special Posts: 10,545   +429

    I think you'll want to do fdisk with DOS from 98 setup disk first, and create partitions that way for 98, leave rest unpartitioned (for XP). Install 98. Then put in XP disk, run the setup from there and choose New Installation rather than Upgrade. It will reboot and then you can install to the previously unpartitioned space.

    I think :) It has been a long time since I did a dual boot with 9x and XP.

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