Win98SE setup won't complete on a clean hard drive, goes to start menu on 1st reboot.

When installing Win98SE onto a clean HD the installation won't complete. It gets to the area where the installation does the 1st reboot after copying the system files, then on the reboot it does not go back into Setup but instead goes to the startup menu options and gets caught in a loop.  It acts just like when the system is powered down instead of being shut down properly. Booting normal or safe mode from the menu has no effect.
I've tried copying everything to the HD and running Setup from there but nothing works. I have the proper boot disk from which starts the system fine so it's not that.
I have wiped the drive clean several times and tried everything that I know to do but no luck.
I have to install this drive for a lawyer's secretary on an older PC ASAP. Thanks for the help.
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snoceraConnect With a Mentor Commented:
I am sure you've tired FDISK, and did a  surface scan.

I am kind of in agreement with it maybe being a hardware issue.  I am thinking the RAM.  I would try pulling out 1 stick or even both and resetting them.  Or just going on 1.

A bad CMOS will do the same thing as well.  I've seen it most in laptops though.

Just for the heck of it, try loading 2000 or another OS.

I am guessing the drive has some bad sectors, or bad stick of memory.
try taking out everything that is not needed for the install, like network cards etc. If possible, install with only mobo+cpu+ram, kbd+mouse, vga card, diisk drive and CD rom. If they are onboard, disable them.
After the reinstall, install them
What do you mean with 'clean'? Do you mean just a format or removing the partition and create a new partition?

If you only had format the HDD ,you can try to delete the partition. Reboot the system and create a new partition.
After creating a new partition you must format the drive again.

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graymlAuthor Commented:
The PC is barebones, I had repartitioned and reformatted the drive, and in fact I have reformatted the drive twice to wipe out the aborted installation.
then i suggest testing RAM, CD-ROM, and Disk. Here some links :

Disk :            Maxtor/Quantu      Fujitsu       Samsung            Seagate                        Western Digital             IBM and Hitachi

Memory :

The cd drive you can test in another system

Some system info could be handy here also, amount of memory, mobo model etc
graymlAuthor Commented:
If I remember correctly the motherboard is an Asus with a 2.6G Athlon. RAM is 1.2 GB, the CD is proven good.
I have a copy of the Ultimate Boot CD and ran every test I could and no problems.
I've been doing computer work for over 20 years now and this one really has me baffled, I hate to admit it but it's learn something new every day, I guess.
did you zero fill the drive? and yes, it can be the motherboard
graymlAuthor Commented:
It's not the motherboard or anything with the PC for that matter, when I'm not using the PC to set up new drives it runs a drive with XP Pro and has no problems.
Does Win98 write an Autorun file during a new installation so it can return to Setup?
>>>>   It's not the motherboard or anything with the PC for that matter, when I'm not using the PC to set up new drives it runs a drive with XP Pro and has no problems.   <<<
I would not be so sure about that; but anyway did you try changing the bios settings, eg to default, or PNP to yes or no? and the booting order? and is the CMOS battery still good?
win98 has a issue with moor than 512mb of ram try removing some of the ram so you only have 512 or less all so are you removing the boot disk on reboot and setting the bios to boot from hard drive ?
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