Observations by readers and myself on Windows 98. The picture above is
Chaos Manor Associate Eric Pobirs, who has been testing Windows 98 from earliest beta. His observations are given below.
We have had off and on problems with installations. One comparatively late beta
installation was so awful that we had to reset the BIOS on one Pentium Pro system; W 98
was rewriting the BIOS cache and messed things up so badly that the machine would not even
boot from a DOS disk. We had finally to remove the battery. On another we could use BIOS
setup software to reset everything to defaults. Microsoft was very interested in that
report, and that problem is, they say, fixed, and I believe them. Certainly I have been
unable to duplicate the problem. Lately I have been seeing Explorer crash for no reason,
but I blush to say that while I have what I think was the release copy of W 98, I have not
installed the shrink-wrapped copy they sent.
Friday, November 13: I have done the shrink-wrap install. This is descrived in View,
and went well, The machine is an AMD k2 with 3dNow! running at 66 motherboard speed and
300 chip speed. It's fast, crisp, and works well; installation was simple, although
because we have an upgrade edition of Windows 98 we installed it over Windows 95b (OSR2)
which was only only there long enough to do FAT 32 formatting and the Windows 98
The Windows 98 system works fine with an STB Velocity 128 video board and Diamond
Monster Sound Card. It has a 100 base T Ethernet (Fry's el cheap special, $29.00 on sale
with 25' of level 5 blue wire) and found the network instantly. No driver problems, no
network problems. My biggest difficulty has been that some STB graphics boards do not like
the Aladdin chip set in the MSI motherboard. That is probably drivers also and will be
fixed at another time.
I have not done extensive tests on Windows 98, but I have used it enough to be able to
say it is as stable as 95b (for me) and I will in fact make this new machine my
"main" Windows 9x machine for most of my work, retiring the CYRIX machine I have
been using to another work station. As of Friday, 13 November, I've no quarrel with
From: Mike Lucas [email@example.com]
Sent: Saturday, June 27, 1998 1:38 PM
ChaosManorMail - Win 98 installs
What are you hearing about Win 98 installs?
I have had the following experience doing my own, the office and friends systems.
AMD K-233 - no problems
Gateway P133 - no problems
Gateway 9100 solo - on reboot got invalid media
type. Tried resetting bios, and fdisk /mbr (to rewrite master boot record). Tried
Microsoft and Gateway tech support. Above suggestions, then fdisk, format and install from
scratch. By the way, found out that if you use a diskette version of Win 95 to verify an
upgrade on a clean disk (as forced here), you will have to insert about 8 of the 13 disks
and wait while the install program verifies them. Use a cd-rom if possible.
Gateway P166 - copied all of the programs, rebooted to hardware detect, kept getting
GPFs as soon as plug and play detect started. As this is my main work computer, I
uninstalled (which went very smoothly - definitely use the option to save system files)
and have not retried to install. I think that the problem may have been caused by Novell's
client32. I had v2.2 which, in the fine print of network.txt, is not supported. I have
since upgraded this machine and the p-133 above (which went with no problems) to v2.5.
Hopefully, that will fix this problem as well.
Gateway Destination - no problems
So my score, 3 no problems, 1 big problem (reformat) and 1 undecided.
Be interested in others experiences.
I would be interested also. Thanks.
From: john biel
Sent: Sunday, June 28, 1998 3:42 PM
Subject: CHAOSMANORMAIL -WIN98 installs
I installed Win98 upgrades to two computers yesterday and today.The first computer was
a Pentium 120 with a Voodoo grapics card and a Win95b O/S. It installed reasonably well,
with the exception that for some reason Internet Explorer (or its integrated part I guess)
wouldn't work. This machine had Netscape on it as well as IE 3.01. Finally had to
reinstall Win98 again and then all was well.
The 2nd turned into a major disaster. It was a PII 266 with an ATI Xpert@play AGP card,
a ViewSonic G790 monitor, a Creative PC-DVD Dxr2 DVD-Rom drive, a Microtek Color PageWiz
Scanner (Parallel version) and a USR 56K Data Fax Modem. It had Win95 OSR3 (and the usb
support was working)
I ran the install and all appeared to be well until it said it was setting up
Plug&;Play devices, It just rebooted without warning, it restarted and seemed ok,
claimed it found everything and finally started up with Win98 in 640x480 16 color. Every
time I tried to increase resolution it would lock up. Also couldn't get the Internet stuff
running. Tried reinstalling 2 more times. More bios problems now sometimes not recognizing
the HD. Decided to add in another pci video card since it seemed the graphics card was the
problem. Had an old s3 card around. Booted up found the card tried to add in the drivers
but it couldn't find the DVD. Gave up took out the DVD put in another CD-Rom I had around
. It put in the graphics card , finally I could do something. Checked the system device
manager and found several occasions of the ati card, removed all of them and rebooted.
System booted ok and except in the device manager it claimed that emm386 was using the
video space and I should take it out of the config.sys, of course I didn't have it in the
config.sys but finally figured out from the display.txt file in c:\windows that I had to
add Emmexclude=C000-CFFF to the system.ini in order for the card to work. Rebooted, it
found the card, found the second monitor. But as soon as I changed the resolution from
640x480 on the ATI ...crash
Gave up took out the ATI , rebooted , all ok. Tried to get on the Internet.
And dialup networking says I need to re-install the files. Well there is no way to
reinstall those files on their own except to uncheck dialup networking. Reboot. Recheck
dialup networking in the windows add/remove files and no luck, still asks to have the
files reinstalled. So Reinstall Win98. Still doesn't work.
Reformat the HD since it's evident that something in the original Win95 registry must
be messing it up. Reinstall, and voila a semi-working computer.
Everything works sort of, except of course I started out with a DVD and now only am
using a CD, started out with a fast ATI AGP card and now have an old slow S3 PCI card and
worst of all about 1 in every 3 bootups my HD can't be found.
The only reason I upgraded was because of supposed native support for AGP, DVD and USB.
(foolish of me since with the drivers for Win95 and OSR3 support for USB everything worked
fine before I started.) But I learned that I won't be buying Win98 at work, I simply don't
have the time to support it. (I am a Netadmin in a manufacturing facility)
We used to joke that Win95 had to be reinstalled 50 times to work and if you changed
anything you had to reinstall it another 50 times, but in over 130 different machine
installs, some older 486's, most newer pentiums I have never had the amount of trouble I
had with this one.
Wow. I am just about to get into doing W 98 here. Looks like I have a
fun time coming... Thanks, and stay well, Jerry (but in fact we did not have such problems
From: Keith Irwin [firstname.lastname@example.org]
June 27, 1998 9:14 PM
To: Jerry Pournelle
Subject: CHAOSMANORMAIL / Win98
OS Installation Stories:
I re-installed OSR2 once, after reformatting my drive, and it messed things up, plug
'n' play wise. I tried deleting drivers and re-installing and things were a mess. The
solution was to boot to "safe mode," delete drivers, and then everything
I upgraded to Win98, and everything went fine there, too, until I started messing
around with my sound card, an SC128-3D. This device insists on installing three devices: a
PCI Audio device, a Gameport device, and a "Legacy Relocator for PCI Audio
Device." Each one of these takes an IRQ, and with all three of them active, I've no
room for my tape back up, which conflicts with the "Legacy Relocator." Since I
don't play any games that need that thing, I thought to delete the thing. WRONG! When I
reboot, Win98 tries to re-install, and I get lots of errors and a "cannot write to
drive c:" error. Here's how I fixed it:
1) pulled out my sound card and deleted the drivers (and everything worked).
2) put in
my sound card (nothing worked, except safe mode, or if I refused to allow Win98 to install
3) pulled out my tape drive, allowed Win98 to install the drivers for the sound card,
then went into the Device Manager, and "disabled" the Legacy driver from the
hardware profile, and rebooted. This freed up IRQ 5 for my tape drive.
MORAL OF THIS STORY: Win98 messed with my previous hardware profile such that
"disabled" devices conflicted. The fault is with the Aztech driver installation
for never asking me if I wanted the Legacy driver installed. Grr! All in all, though Win98
And the title bars are pretty! And you can stick icons anywhere on the desktop with
Active Desktop. Other than this, and other than learning a lot about how I need to install
OS's on this particular machine (and I'm a home user veteran of OS/2 on my ole 486).
Question: What the heck is "IRQ Holder for PCI Steering" which
"conflicts/shares" with my sound card, net card, and "USB to Universal Host
Controller?" Does everyone have this?
Question: I have only one IDE drive, but two controllers (for a possible total of four
drives, two master/slave pairs). Can I disable the second one safely so as to free up an
IRQ? Is this a BIOS setting? Motherboard jumper? Software setting?
Interesting: Our experience has been that OSR2 and W98 solve a lot of
plug and play problems that earlier W 95 versions couldn't handle. Eric has been a W98
enthusiast, and since I have W98, I'll certainly install it on the new Socket 7 system I'm
building. As to the IRQ Holder, I don't know: our machines have all the IRQ's used up, one
reason we very much look forward to USB and Firewire. You can disable the secondary IDE,
but whether that will free the IRQ is not clear. How you do it is specific to the
motherboard and BIOS you have, and there's no general answer I know. Sometimes it works,
sometimes it's a mess.
I wish IBM had continued OS/2 but they didn't.
From: Russell Kay
June 29, 1998 9:19 AM
RE: Windows 98
I've used a couple of beta versions, and most recently installed the one that Microsoft
sent me (it arrived on Byte's last day of existence), which is a full version. I installed
that one on a virgin disk, an IBM 14-GB deskstar, and everything went well.
I've had one problem only, using SciTech's Display Doctor universal video drivers, and
that wasn't really SciTech's fault, it was caused by their following Microsoft's
directions about uninstalls. Turns out that you can delete the driver from the disk and
current settings, but Win98 doesn't update the registry and so it starts looking for a
video driver that no longer exists. Makes it impossible to reboot, so after several
attempts I tried reinstalling Win98. Even that hung twice, but finally succeeded after I
manually deleted the old registry files. SciTech has fixed the problem in their latest
release, but it was a real headscratcher for a while. (SciTech says I could have booted
into safe mode and changed the video driver there and it would have worked.)
Anyway, that aside, I've had no other problems with Win98 that I didn't have with 95,
and it seems like it crashes or hangs less often. My system is a Pentium-233MMX, 64MB RAM,
Number Nine Revolution 3D graphics card with 8MB, and it's got all kinds of stuff hanging
off it (every bracket slot is filled!): 4 serial ports, 2 USB ports; 2 parallel ports
supporting a Lexmark 7200 printer, Storm TotalScan flat-bed scanner, and ZipPlus; a SCSI
Jaz external drive, AWE64 sound card, USR 33.6 modem, CD-ROm and CD-R drives, the
aforementioned 14-GB drive and from time to time another hard drive (as I try to
consolidate things from past computers-that 14GB is great, just copy everything onto it
and it doesn't burp).
I'm using a FAT-32 (or is it FAT-32X?) file system, and some apps don't seem to know
how big the disk really is; they seem to think it's only 8 GB, but it only affects their
So far, I'm happy.
-- Russ Kay
Thanks, Russ. I'm just getting around to building my Win 98 system: with things
the way they are, I don't want to change any system vital to operations here. Fortunately
I have all the parts for building up a good Socket 7 system that I can put 98 on for
extensive tests, and I'll get to that sometime this week. With luck I'll be able to put my
scanners and a new Microsoft proportional force joystick on it too...
Tuesday, June 30, 1998
Still playing with the layout. Looking better I hope. The following was an
internal memo Eric sent that I thought ought to be up here.
From: Eric Pobirs [email@example.com]
With the release of Windows 98 the USB revolution is upon
us. Kind of. Keyboards, mice, adapters for legacy parallel and RS232 devices are available
but that is only half the story. What use is migrating our devices if the system insists
on continuing to reserve resources for those old ports? It should be possible to disable
these items but on most systems they simply wont go away no how much one messes with
the BIOS and/or Device Manager.
Until this problem is overcome there will be little advantage to USB. We will still
have to carefully weigh the value of every internal addition to our systems. I really
enjoy my Creative Labs Encore DVD drive and decoder but it will have to go if Im
going to install a SCSI host to handle the drives I want to add. Reviewing any IRQ using
product means temporarily removing something else.
What about the folks out there in the real world? Have any of you been successful in
creating a USB oriented system with lots of IRQ freedom? Eliminating the keyboard, mouse,
parallel, and two serials of a typical system should free up four IRQs assuming the fifth
is used by the USB host. Move the PCI sound cards down to IRQ 5 to simplify legacy support
without additional resource and a wealth of expansion space is freed up.
What I really want for puritys sake is an otherwise top of the line motherboard
that lacks legacy ports and has a BIOS that defaults to USB input devices. Any candidates?
Eric points up a real problem. USB and Firewire are supposed to save us from IRQ
depletion, but unless the mother board people allow us to disable some of the devices we
no longer need and thus free up the IRQ, it hardly matters.
Thursday, July 2, 1998
Another report from Eric:
From: Eric Pobirs [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Thursday, July 02, 1998 6:13 AM
To: Jerry Pournelle
Subject: About installing Win98
Here are a few things Ive learned along the way:
1. Ill do a full review soon (depending on how this diverticulitus progresses)
but to put it shortly, get Power Quests Drive Image! The 2.0 release is a major
improvement. Take advantage of the incredibly cheap cost per gigabyte we now enjoy and
grant yourself the power to screw up without consequence.
2. Dont panic if you get a crash during installation. If you reboot there is a
good chance the install will pick up where it left off. Other times you need to start
install again but in this instance there is a good chance that it will succeed the second
time around. Who knows, perhaps its something akin to a reverse immune response.
Numerous items that have been on the market only a few months will try to install obsolete
DLLs as part of their drivers. My recommendation is to keep the newer versions since Win98
seems to need them more than the drivers. This seems to be a major cause of crashes that
dont reoccur after restarting.
3. You may have to remove devices to simplify the system. Get rid of the most
extraneous items first i.e. DVD decoder boards. (For the record, the Creative Labs Encore
DVD package works fine under Win98) The two items that must be in place to get started are
the drive youre installing to (It would be a real short show otherwise,
wouldnt it?) and the video board. Most video cards now require an IRQ and will not
permit the system to boot in other than safe mode if that need is not met. Since you
cannot manually assign IRQs in safe mode its a much easier route to remove a few
nonessentials to get initial installation done and then make a backup with the
aforementioned Drive Image. If the remaining device need special coddling it will be much
simpler to work out the details if it only takes ten minutes to start over Vs. doing the
whole install again.
4. If at possible start clean. If the system youre installing on has been running
any version of Win95 for long, chances are its a mess. You can use the various
commercial uninstall and cleanup utilities, you can run RegClean until every byte has been
scrutinized more than the Zapruder film but nothing beats a clean drive for, well,
cleanliness. This would also be an excellent time to make sure you have the latest version
of every driver that might be requested. Evil old drivers can bring everything to a
screeching halt so its best if the new OS never sees them to begin with.
Thanks. This will probably get moved up to the Install section reasonably soon. My
first priority is to get rid of Front Page 98 before it drives me to total insanity.
Actually my first priority is to print BURNING CITY and get it off to my agent.
Then I'll build up the Chaos Manor W 98 machine.
Friday, July 3, 1998
From: Eric Pobirs [email@example.com]
July 03, 1998 1:40 AM
To: Discontinuity Group
Subject: More Win98 grist for the mill
It appears that prospective upgraders should really follow my suggestion about scoping
out new drivers before starting the job.
This also seems in keeping with the advantage of a clean install since that eliminates
the chance of outdated drivers causing havoc.
I'm still trying to keep up with the rest of the world, so I haven't had
a chance to get at the new W 98 machine, but it looks like I'll profit from other's
experiences. The thing about a monthly is that you never know when I got something done. I
can with a burst of speed catch up and incorporate all the other inputs into a column,
trim it for excessive words, and look like a genius. This way you see the process. Bismark
said that the public should not see how legislation or sausages were made lest they become