September 5, 2021 at 4:15 pm #107VoodooKeymaster
REF: https://www.reddit.com/r/windows98/comments/n1v43e/guide_can_i_run_windows_98me/ by u/oscareczek in May 2021.
One of the most common questions on this subreddit is something along the lines of “Is my computer able to run Win98?” There is some kind of a guide on sidebar, but it isn’t really specific and that’s why I made this post. Windows 98 and Me support (about?) the same hardware, so everything I say about 98 applies to Me. Feel free to suggest changes in comments.
In my definition, computer running Windows 98 is the one that doesn’t have any question marks in Device Manager and has graphics card installed (there are drivers called SciTech Display Doctor and VBEMP, but these are comparable to the default driver for GPUs in Windows XP upwards). For the sake of simplicity, I’ll limit the devices to GPU, sound card and USB, because even some late Windows XP machines can have Ethernet network cards compatible with 98 and wireless cards are swappable.
Can I install Windows 98/Me as host?
Host operating system is the one you boot to straight from BIOS, without using any kind of virtualization or emulation.
See what CPU you have on your machine (in System Properties, accessible by pressing Win+Pause on Windows, or in BIOS) or google your motherboard/PC/laptop (further I’ll just say “motherboard”) and check supported CPUs.
I have Intel Pentium (I/MMX/Pro/II/III), AMD (K5/K6/Athlon [MP/XP/4]/Duron), Cyrix, VIA, any mobile version of these CPUs or Intel Mobile Pentium 4, the computer is older than from 2000 or my motherboard has socket 478 or 754
It just works™, you can skip the rest of this guide, except if you have a dedicated graphics card. You can check your socket by trying to find this information on a motherboard, using CPU-Z or by checking the specs website.
I have Intel Core i3/i5/i7/i9, AMD Phenom/FX/A4/A6/A8/A10/Ryzen or any mobile version of these CPUs
If you have any GPU or sound card on your motherboard, you can’t configure it on 98. USB 3.0 and wireless network card won’t run. Ethernet network card will most likely not run, but there are some exceptions. Of course, all these problems can be solvable by getting era-appropriate PCI devices, but it’s probably cheaper to just buy a Win98 laptop.
I have CPU not listed above made in or after 2000
It might work, continue reading.
I have something else
Unless it’s not x86 (and Windows 98 is only x86), how?
To check what sound card you have, you can either read the specification of your motherboard online or check it in Device Manager (Win+R, devmgmt.msc).
I have a Sound Blaster or AC’97 compatible sound card
Your sound card is most likely compatible. If it’s AC’97, there’s a possibility you won’t get sound in pure DOS mode, but it’ll work from inside Windows.
I have an HD Audio compatible sound card
Windows 98 doesn’t support HD Audio architecture. There is an unofficial driver for Windows 3.1, compatible with 98, that lets you configure the sound card with a bunch of parameters, but if you’re reading this looking for help, then it will be too complicated for you. First Windows compatible with HD Audio is Windows 2000 SP4 with KB888111 installed. If it’s a PC, you can also try looking for some kind of a PCI Sound Blaster that’s old enough for Win98.
To check what graphics card you have, you can, as with a sound card, either read the specification of your motherboard online or check it in Device Manager, or just look at it if it’s a dedicated PC GPU. PCI Express isn’t supported by 98, but people had some luck with it.
I have Intel GPU
If the model starts with GMA, HD or Iris, it’s not compatible, otherwise it is.
I have ATi/AMD GPU
If the model starts with X1 or HD, it’s not compatible, otherwise it is.
I have Nvidia GPU
If you have [Quadro FX600 or newer](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Nvidia_graphics_processing_units#Quadro_FX_(x600)_series) or GeForce starting with 8, 9 or letters, it’s not compatible, otherwise it is. If it’s GeForce series 6 or 7, the compatibility with DOS games won’t be as great as with earlier devices.
I have something else
It’s probably integrated to motherboard or it’s been defunct at least since early Windows XP days, you can assume it works.
Same as sound card, you can either read the specification of your motherboard online or check it in Device Manager.
I have Intel chipset
If it starts with a letter, it’s not compatible. If it starts with 9, you might have USB working in 1.1, which is slow, but it’s better than nothing. Otherwise, it’s compatible.
I have AMD chipset
Either you have Win98-era computer and you’re wasting time reading this, or it’s too new.
I have Nvidia chipset
If the number starts by 5 or more, it’s not compatible. If it starts with 3 or 4, there are some unsupported features, but it should work to some degree. Otherwise, it’s compatible.
I have SiS chipset
Unless I missed something, all models are compatible.
I have VIA chipset
If the model starts with C or V, you’ll at least have some troubles setting it up. Otherwise, it’s compatible.
If you have more than 1 GB of RAM, use PATCHMEM. If you use a SATA hard disk, use SATA. If you use an SSD, use TRIM. All three programs are available at rloew’s website (RIP). If you want an USB stick support on Windows 98 (Me has built-in support already), use NUSB. There are some other drivers available on the last website, which might help some people.
Can I install Windows 98/Me as guest?
A guest operating system requires a host operating system and some kind of a program to make a guest environment to install OS on. Most likely you will be able to install 98 in some way or another.
A word of warning if you use AMD Ryzen: there are some problems with virtualizing Windows 98, you can get countless crashes of system programs. You can disable VM acceleration to see if that helps.
The best, but also the heaviest CPU-wise, way to install Windows 98 on x86 Windows or any other system with 32-bit Wine, is to use 86box. There’s also a Linux version of PCem, but I prefer 86box. All three are able to emulate anything starting with original IBM PC and ending at first AMD Athlons, perfect for 98. Obviously, the newer CPU you emulate, the stronger machine you need. The main advantage of using these emulators is much higher compatibility with old games compared to virtual machines.
VMware Fusion/Workstation Player/Pro
If your computer is too weak for emulation, you can try making a virtual machine. I recommend VMware for one simple reason – it has a graphics card compatible with 98.
Connectix/Microsoft/Windows Virtual PC
If you have a PowerPC Mac OS (X) or Windows and it’s not a 64-bit version of Windows 10 and up, you can try Virtual PC. It’s fully compatible with 98, but it’s also old (Windows Virtual PC was released in 2009) and people don’t really use it anymore.
The main advantage of QEMU is that it’s ported to every architecture and operating system imaginable. I suggest running it by a command
qemu-system-i386 -accel kvm -vga cirrus -nic user,model=pcnet -soundhw sb16,pcspk -hda disk.img(soundhw is deprecated, but the non-deprecated way requires knowing what’s your sound system on host). If you use it on architecture different than x86, it becomes an emulator. You need to remove
-accel kvmin that case. You can instead add
-cpu pentium2to the command, maybe it will make things run faster.
Mac-only, I never used it, apparently you can at least get a normal screen resolution on this.
Oracle VM VirtualBox
Unless you really have to, don’t use it, for two reasons: lack of Guest Additions for 98 means you can’t used VirtualBox’s Shared Folders feature and instead you have to rely on HTTP, floppies or CDs (for the last one there’s an option to create VISOs on fly, but while it takes about no space, you still have to do it manually). There was also never a graphics card driver for it and VMware SVGA II driver doesn’t work, even if you choose VMSVGA in machine options. That means you can’t freely change resolution and your best drivers are VBEMP or Display Doctor, both or which simply use VESA, just like the lack of drivers on Windows XP and up. Emulated graphics is also terribly slow in standard 640x480x4 mode, which is what you get during installation.
It’s an emulator, it’s not as popular as the rest, just why.
DOSBox is made, as the name suggests, for DOS programs. It is possible to run Windows 98 on DOSBox, but that’s not the best way to do that, because, as Bochs, it’s an emulator.
Most of the Android devices aren’t x86, but rather ARM (and some ancient ones are MIPS), so most likely you will need to emulate x86, which means that it’ll be pretty slow, don’t expect running NFS Underground 2 on that. If you can choose an emulated CPU, you should find a balance between speed of emulated CPU and speed of emulating (if you select 486, then Win98 will work slowly, but your Android CPU won’t be used that much; if you select Pentium 4, then Win98 will work quickly, but your CPU might not keep up with it). You can find a list of CPUs by date for example on Wikipedia.
Android version of QEMU, the fastest, but might not work on all devices.
Mostly compatible with all devices, a “default” way of installing Windows from Android.
You can also try DOSBox, but I can’t really imagine installing it using only the Android device.
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