Installing Windows 98 onto an Asus EEE PC 701 4G

May 28, 2013 11:27 am Published by 3 Comments

In case you got in the mood for nostalgia, or just feel like Windows XP is too much for you while it takes a lot of system resources, this is one of those things you may want to do.

Step 1. Preparing the installation USB

This is the most painful part in the whole process.

First make a bootdisk with MSDOS with Rufus.

Rufus screenshot

Add a copy of the Win98 folder from the 98 install disc, for the sake of booting and installing from it. Please note that Rufus installs a Windows Millenium DOS, so you better get an image of the Millenium boot floppy (for example from here) and grab Fdisk off it onto the USB.

Step 2. Set up the SSD

Get yourself a bootable flash with a partitioning tool. I recommend using Gparted. Once you’ve booted into it, go on and remove all of the stuff for the sake of creating a single 4GB partition on the SSD, and don’t forget to backup prior to that!

Once you’re done with it, move on!

 

Step 3. Make a first install

Enter BIOS and make sure the SSD is the first drive on the system. Then boot off the flash from Step 1. You’ll end up at the DOS prompt:

C:\>

Now enter DIR and make sure you see the files you had on your installation USB.

Then enter cd Win98 (I blindly assume you didn’t rename anything you got from the CD, right?) and then setupcor /c /it /p a;b. This should start the setup process. If you use setup.exe, it will just stare at you with its deep black screen.

If it doesn’t start, well, there’s a solution for that too. Find a relatively-new PC (that supports USB storage on BIOS level), plug in a hard drive that you will install into, and your installation media, off which you will boot. After the installation to the USB drive is done (oh, make sure its size won’t exceed your EEE’s SSD length of 4000MB! I made mine 3200.), boot to some Linux LiveCD on your EEE and use DD to copy the HDD right onto the SSD. For example if the HDD with 98 is /dev/sdc and the EEE’s SSD is /dev/sdb you will have to execute this in the Linux shell:

sudo umount /dev/sdb; sudo umount /dev/sdc; sudo dd if=/dev/sdc of=/dev/sdb bs=1M

Win98 installer freaking out on my Core i3 (yes I had to go the failed-to-start way)

The system will ask you some questions, and then proceed with the installation. If it decides to reboot on its own, point it to the installer media, not the SSD or the target disk! It doesn’t write any bootsector until it’s done doing stuff! By the way install it to D:\WINDOWS, because the C: drive is gonna be the installer flashdrive. You may try installing DOS and copying the Win98 folder onto the SSD, and starting the installation from there, but it didn’t work out for me.

Right when it’s gonna detect devices it will ask you about every detection attempt. Always say “yes” so in case it hangs, you know where to substitute it for a “no” if it decides to hang on you.

 Step 3. Drive the drivers

Alright, you got the thing running. No sound, no network, and not even any decent resolution or color depth. And if you used the install-from-flash-onto-external-USB-disk method, no bootloader either (that’s why I recommend to use an SD as an installation media, I did it that way, and the SD is always here as the bootloader, and for the sake of keeping the installer handy). You’re so mad you even reboot your desktop Windows 7 computer by hitting the Reset button, but you did it. And all you got is this. Well maybe you installed Word and wrote a couple of docs, but still not satisfied.

Well it means it’s time to get some drivers!

The only ones I was able to find by now are video and USB ones. Sadly it seems that there are no Realtek HDAudio drivers, as well as no wireless ones, and even though it might be possible to get the Ethernet port to work using the Ndis drivers, it didn’t work out for me (if you know how to solve Ndis.vxd error code 2 – tell me in the comments), I had to make a special directory into which I had to expand all of the Driver*.cab files in order for Windows to at least let me install that. Maybe that’s just me, I’m not sure at all.

For the video drivers, you are gonna need the Universal VESA drivers for Windows 9x, called VBE9x. However, even though the graphics will be fast and smooth, get ready for some problems:

  1. Even though it works awesome when using Windows applications, in case you launch a DOS box with a program, fullscreen or whatever – it’s gonna screw stuff up with interesting textmode graphical effects. Sometimes hitting Alt+Enter to go fullscreen and again Alt+Enter to go back helps.

    The funky graphic effects after starting command.com from Windows

    The funky graphic effects after starting command.com from Windows

  2. Either you have the resolution or you have the colors – the driver cannot fit the whole image into the memory if you set 16bit at 800×600, except if you patch the BIOS, a way of what is something they forgot to tell us about, so you either have 640x480x32 (which is, to be honest, pretty usable, even x16 is fine for me), or 800x600x8, just 16 colors.
  3. You may try to launch the TSR fix they claimed would fix this, but for me it just made a nice fade-from-black-to-white screensaver, that’s all. That is because you need to add them into Autoexec.bat at the very beginning, and you better do to give it a fancy resolution, in my case the line was:
    lh c:\vbe9x\0800×480\Alv_1411.exe

Actually, I only got the 800×400 version to work, but in 16bit High Color, so it’s cool with me. However this doesn’t fix the ‘funky textmode’ problem at all.

As for the USB support, the first thing to do is set the OS installation mode in BIOS to ‘Start’. Then install this USB driver carefully, paying attention to the instructions, and you’ll be good to go.

And now it’s time for some screenies!

So for now I am getting on with it. I can play the old games in DOS mode or Windows itself, even though without sound, most of those I liked didn’t have it anyway, and for music I have a portable CD player. Word 97 is awesome in terms of the rare writing I do (like, for example, this article, written completely under Windows 98).

To summarize, let’s compare the pros and the cons of installing Win98 onto an EEE PC.

Pros:

  • Nostalgia!
  • All local IT people would know you as that-portable-Windows98-guy
  • Old games
  • Battery life (about 5 hours for me on a relatively old battery pack!)
  • Bootup time (30sec from power-on to desktop, 10sec from shutdown to completely-off)
  • Resources consumption (goodbye spinning cooling fans)
  • Distraction-less (No internet as I said, no sound either :P)

Cons:

  • Complicated installation (sort of — once you get to know it, it’s easypeasy)
  • No sound
  • No internet/WiFi
  • No battery indicator
  • Weird GPU bugs, not yet fixed
  • Win9x is unfortunately abandoned (KernelEx to the rescue, sometimes when you need an XP program running right there)

It’s up to you whether to install it or not, but if you want to – it surely is an interesting time-travel adventure!

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