Can Windows 98SE run on an Intel I7 with SATA gard drives?

mark at mark at
Thu Jan 28 14:11:15 CST 2016

> Date: Thu, 28 Jan 2016 11:44:44 -0500
> From: "Jerome H. Fine" <jhfinedp3k at>
> Subject: Can Windows 98SE run on an Intel I7 with SATA gard drives?
> I run Windows 98SE on a 14 year old Pentium III.  I have
> replaced the power supply twice and all three hard disk drives.
> Aside from the daylight savings time changing 3 weeks too late
> in the spring and a week early in the fall, I really like the system
> and I would like to use it for another 20 years.  Since I am
> 77 years old now, I figure that will be just about satisfactory.

Win-98 SE was definitely one of the higher points of the Windows lineage. 
For most of what I did (and do, for that matter), it worked very well; it 
would have been nice if it recognized USB storage devices natively.

> The Pentium III hardware is more than a bit of a concern.  I would
> be very pleased to upgrade to 64-bit Windows 10, but the DOS
> variant of Ersatz-11 is not supported and I really would prefer to
> keep using Netscape 7.2 since I have over 100,000 e-mails
> and posts to newsgroups that it is important to be able to keep.

The hardware is worth worrying about.  Replacement power supplies will 
probably continue to be available, but those disks are likely to be 
unobtanium, and are practically guaranteed to fail at some point.  My 
personal "sweet spot" for operating systems was Windows XP, and it was with 
with quite a bit of trepidation that I eventually moved on to Win7-32. 
Eventually, I needed a new laptop, and moved to Win8.1-64, which took a 
great deal of massaging to make comfortable (the "Classic Shell" product is 
very nicely-done, and free, and went a long way towards making things 
usable).  However, there were still a lot of problems:

- 64 bits absolutely breaks any 16-bit code, whether it be a DOS program or 
a Windows 3.1 application.  Unfortunately, I have a large industrial 
application that I've maintained for the last 20 years (things last a long 
time in industry), written in Visual Basic 3.  Maintaining it under XP was 
easy, because XP would just magically fire up ntvdm (NT Virtual DOS 
Machine), then run a Windows compatibility layer (wowexec) on top of that; 
this all made everything work just fine, and with almost complete 
transparency.  For DOS programs, it would capture any physical I/O calls 
(for example, to the com port addresses) and do a fantastic job of emulating 
them - again, completely transparent to the application program.  Win7 
(Vista, actually, but nobody cares about that) broke all of that.

- I have an application that I like and use a lot (CircuitMaker-2000) which 
runs fine on every version of Windows from 98SE on up to at least Win8.1-64 
bit, and presumably Win10, though I haven't tried it.  However, printing has 
been broken on everything since Win98SE.

- The versions of Office and QuickBooks I was using started exhibiting 
numerous problems; Word continued to work "OK", sort of, but QB was 
completely unstable, and I depend upon it to run my business.

- The security implementation of pretty much everything, starting with Win7, 
makes a lot of things difficult; registry writes are now tightly controlled, 
registering DLLs and OCXs requires elevated privileges, network firewall 
functions are highly complex, convoluted, and depending upon the version 
(Premium, Pro, Ultimate, etc.) the tools may not even be provided to 
completely manage all of this.

My solution to most of this (except some of the network issues) has been to 
use VirtualBox.  It's free, and does a great job of handling XP as a guest 
operating system.  With XP, mouse movements, virtual disks, networking, and 
even the clipboard are all nicely integrated into the host operating system, 
so my XP machine is always just a keyboard shortcut away.

I also have a virtual Win98SE machine, to handle the printing issues with 
CircuitMaker.  This is less well integrated, in that the mouse capture is 
clumsy, and the file system integration features aren't there, but that was 
easy enough to get around by just creating shared folders on the host, and 
setting them up as network drives on the Win98 VM.

It took a solid week of tinkering to get everything set up to my 
satisfaction (I have a lot of disparate interests, and their associated 
applications), but now I have a setup that I'm very happy with.  (I broke 
down and advanced a single version - to 2003 - for both Office and 
Quickbooks, so those both run happily in native mode now.)

> QUESTION:  Is it even possible to run Win98SE on a current
> Intel I7 CPU with SATA hard disk drives?  I realize that it might
> be possible under a virtual machine, but I really want all of the
> advantages that Win98SE provides.  One problem, of course,

Almost certainly not, at least practically.  Even if you can get it to boot 
and install, it will have no idea how to handle any of the modern 
peripherals, and drivers certainly won't be available.  So sound won't work, 
the screen will be limited to VGA-16, and I'm not sure about the keyboard 
and mouse (there's a reasonable chance that the BIOS will emulate the legacy 
PS-2 devices, just as it's abstracting the details of the SATA disks).

I really think that your best solution would be to go the virtual route. 
Get a huge monitor (mine's 28" 2560 x 1440 - I would have preferred an even 
larger curved 4k unit, but HDMI wouldn't support it at full resolution, and 
that's all my laptop has) - or even a dual monitor setup, a terabyte or two 
of hard disk, and plan to spend that week tinkering.

As much as you like Win98SE (and I completely understand why!), you might 
find that XP will still run everything you're interested in, and VirtualBox 
handles that very well.  There's every reason to expect that the virtual 
machine will continue to be stable and supported for the foreseeable future 
(like 20+ years), regardless what the host Microsoft operating system 
evolves to be.  Of course there's no reason not to have both XP and Win98SE 
VMs, as I do - I even have a Win3.1 machine, just for the fun of it.

For backup, I stubbornly store everything in two large directory trees: 
C:\Library and C:\Data (actually, I have a C:\Music as well).  The C:\Data 
tree has absolutely everything that I've ever worked on: source, designs, 
correspondence, pictures, taxes, email store, and the VM disks.  It takes a 
bit of persuading for the modern versions of Windows to accept C:\Data as 
the "My Documents" folder, but it can be done.

The C:\Library tree has all kinds of documentation (PDFs of manuals and data 
sheets, and lots of just plain reading material), as well as a large 
sub-tree called Distrib that has the installation sources for all my 
software applications.  In some cases, this is in the form of ISO CD-ROM 
images, but mostly it's sub-directories with the contents of all those. 
Everything is there: all the Visual Basic/Studio versions, all the Office 
versions, compilers, Adobe, Photoshop, PLC and other development systems, 
SolidWorks and AutoCAD, and even the installation media (in both ISO and 
file formats) of the Microsoft OSes as well (DOS through Win-7).

All of this fits comfortably on the single terabyte drive that came with the 
laptop, and backing up is a simple matter of either just copying the two 
(three) large trees, or using some difference software (I use a free program 
called TreeComp, but there are many others too) to sync everything to an 
external USB (3.0 strongly preferred) drive, which I keep in the fire safe. 
Moving to a new computer is simply (if time-consumingly) a matter of copying 
those trees to the new machine, then installing the software directly from 
the \Library tree - no other CDs required.

> Alternatively, does it seem reasonable to attempt to keep a
> system with a Pentium III CPU and associated hardware
> running for another 20 years?

It's probably possible (although the weak link would probably be the disks), 
but if it were me, I'd treat that more as a hobby project than as a machine 
I depended upon.  So far, I've successfully avoided giving up the 
applications and "way of doing things" that I like and am comfortable with, 
while still migrating to current hardware and software.  I have to admit, 
effectively unlimited speed and space are quite nice...
Mark Moulding

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