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Clean install of Win98

A clean install of Win98 se by fitfixer
Posted: 8 Nov 02 (Edited 2 Mar 05)

Rebuilding a Windows 98 installation

This FAQ relates to just Win98SE, installing  other OS require a different approach,
Windows 98 must be the easiest version of Windows to install and configure,a clean install is stable and very suitable for low spec PC's

If your PC is still working;

First make sure that you have backed up everything, including Favorites, e-mail addresses and messages, The best way is to burn them to a CDR, or copy to a network share, then have a look in the device manager and note the make and model of Graphics card, sound card, Network card,modem plus anything special that you have installed, create a small text file and include it with the backup, dont forget to record account details of your ISP dialup, it may be worth downloading the latest drivers for the graphics and sound while you still can, otherwise you will need to have the install disks when you finish the re-install of the OS

Windriver Backup
This free utility will extract your current windows drivers and back them up to a folder
it will also restore them after a rebuild, it can be downloaded from;

This works for a dead or alive PC, just make sure that you can see the hard drive in the BIOS and it is bootable from CD-ROM or Windows 98 startup diskette,
To make a startup floppy;
Go to a any working Windows 98 PC,
start button/settings/ control panel/ add or remove programs
There is a tab here marked Startup Disk, click on this to make a boot disk

You will need;
The Windows 98 CD-ROM with its keycode

Insert the Windows 98 CD or the boot floppy, and turn on the PC, it should boot from the CD,[or floppy]
If the PC insists in booting from its own hard drive, then go to the SETUP as it boots (look for the on-screen message at bootup)
Search the setup for boot options and make sure that the boot order is;
first CD-ROM / floppy
second Hard disk

This enables you to boot from CD-ROM to DOS
Start the PC with the Win 98 CD-rom in the drive
It should boot to a black and white text screen,

You will have 3 choices on the screen;

1. Start Windows setup from CD-ROM
2. Boot to DOS with CD-ROM support
3. Boot to DOS without CD-ROM support

Always select option 2, the PC will boot up to the A:\ prompt

for a complete rebuild, delete and rebuild the partition(S) with FDISK
However, if you are not confidient using FDISK and your hard disk is OK
Skip the bit about fdisk between the asterisks*
and go straight to Formatting the Hard drive

A:type FDISK

Fdisk is a DOS based utility that enables you to manage hard disk partitions

Typing FDISK brings up a long boring screen that warns that your Hard rive is larger than 512MB !!!
answering Yes to this will ensure that your disk will be formatted in FAT 32 rather than FAT 16,
So type [Y] to enable large hard disk support and use FAT 32

This brings you to the main menu

choose one of the following;

1.Create a DOS Partition or Logical DOS drive
2.Set active Partition
3.Delete partition or logical DOS drive
4.Display Partition Info
5.Change current fixed disk drive

CHOOSE 4 to display current partition(s)

You should see a single partition,
[if there is more than one partition see below]
something like this will be displayed;

C: 1 A Primary DOS  FAT 32 100%

(This tells you that there is one Active primary partition using 100% of the Hard disk)
press ESC to return to the first menu

Choose 3 to delete partition
Choose option 1 from the next screen (Delete primary DOS partition)

Type 1, for partition 1
Press enter, you will have to type in the Volume label, if there is no volume label, just press enter,  and answer yes again


Press escape..this will bring you back to the main screen, if you display the partition info again you will see that no partitions exist

If you are deleting a NTFS partition, it will be listed as a "Non-DOS Partition" see below...

Now rebuild your partition, from the main menu accept the defaults by hitting enter

1. Create a DOS partition or Logical Drive [enter]

Answer Yes when asked if you want to use all of the disk for this partition and make it active............

Fdisk will check the disk and rebuild the partition, this takes a minute or two, when you reboot from the CD again you will have one large FAT32 primary partition C:\

If your Disk was formatted with NTFS..
In the delete menu look for ["Delete non-dos partition..]

If you have more than one Partition to begin with..deleting is done in stages
Delete the logical drive(s) first
then delete the extended DOS partition
finally delete the primary partition as above

Practice with fdisk, it is a very powerful tool, if you are repartitioning anyway, you will not do any damage, you can build and tear down partitions at will

Formatting the Hard Drive

After rebooting from the CD you will have to Format the new partition, each new partition , or drive letter, needs to be formatted on it own
If you have only one large partition, the C drive, then you only need to format C:
The basic rule of the format command is that you cannot format the drive that you are currently in, so format the C: drive from the D: \prompt

The Format command is found on the Win98 folder on the Win98 CD ROM

Go to D:\Win98 [where d: is the CD-ROM drive]
and type
format c:

ignore the warning that "all data will be lost"
press Yes

Proceeding with Formatting

Depending on the size of Hard Drive, formatting will take awhile, an 80 GB drive might take an hour,

reboot again from the Windows CD
boot to DOS with CD-ROM support

**The next step is to copy the windows 98 Cab files to the hard disk***
You could install from the CD-ROM now, but a better option is to copy the CAB files from the Install CD to the hard drive, and install from there

Make a folder on c: called Win98
from the C: prompt type this;
md Win98  [md= make Directory, and call it Win98]

Then go to the Win98 folder on the CD and copy everything to C:\Win98
cd win98 [cd=Change Directory to]
this will bring you to the prompt D:\Win98
then type;
copy *.* c:\win98 (Copy star-dot-star [everything] in this folder to c:\Win98)
do not forget the space in front of C:\Win98

there are about 74 cab files in this folder as well other files

***Now Run the Windows Setup from your hard drive***

remove the Windows CD-ROM and go to the Win98 folder on your hard drive;

c:cd win98

from the C:\Win98 prompt, type SETUP
This will launch the familiar Windows setup, the difference here will be a faster setup because of the higher access speed of the hard drive as opposed to the slow CD-ROM,

A typical install will take 20 minutes..

The Windows CAB files will only take up about 200MB on your hard drive,

But the big plus is that you will never have to go searching when windows asks for its install CD
Windows should remember where its install files are

Windows 98 will probably start with its default VGA driver, you will notice the washed-out colors on the desktop, it will only display at 640x 480 with 16 or 256 colors,

You need to install the Graphics card driver to fix this
You will also need Drivers for sound card, modem, network card etc,

You can if you wish apply the Unofficial Service pack for Win98, see details here;


restore your backed up data and thats it!

Updated March 2005

Back to Microsoft: Windows FAQ Index
Back to Microsoft: Windows Forum

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