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Can't install Win98

Posted on 2004-10-25
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2013-12-29
Here's the skinny:

Friend of mine gave me her pc, said it would keep rebooting on her.  Well finally was able to get to fdisk and partition the drives, 2 drives, one is 2 Gig, and the other 10 Gig.  But when i try to format the drive, using the format.com tool for mthe boot disk, no go.  I can't even extract the format.com utility from the boot disk, gives me a drive failure error.  I know my drives are al working, did  a diag on all drives and they are there, can see dir of each.  Here's the problem, everytime I try to format it tells me unable to format, this is using the win98 or win xp cd-rom disk, there is  problem with the drive, anyone know a workaround for this problem, obviously i need some sort of utility to fix the drive, any ideas of what I can use and where i can get the software.  Right now as it stands, both drives re-partitioned, but not formatted, it won't let me format.  I have both Win98, and WInXP cd's, original copies.  The pc had XP on it before, formatted with a NTFS file system, but has since been erased.  How can i get these 2 drives formatted????  LEt me know if you require more info.
Question by:woddyaj
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LVL 59

Expert Comment

ID: 12400719
What is the exact error message you are getting?  If the drive was first formatted with NTFS and had XP on it, then in order to put Win98 on it, it needs to be formatted with FAT16 or FAT32 system.  And since Win98's Fdisk -- as well as Win98 itself -- doesn't recognize the NTFS file system, you would need to use Fdisk to delete the "Non-DOS partition", then recreate it.  You should also do the command FDISK /MBR in order to recreate the Master Boot Record, because the MBR used by XP on an NTFS partition is quite different from the MBR used on a FAT partition.  What boot disk are you using?  Have you tried creating one by running the executable file you can download from www.bootdisk.com ?

Author Comment

ID: 12400796
I'm pretty sure I've erased all DOS partitions and non-DOS partitions on both drives and recreated them using FDISK.  I'm using a Win 98 boot disk i created.  My next step is to download one off of www.bootdisk.com and see if that helps.  And I've tried to format using both the Win98 and the WinXP cd, both trying to formatt the partitions to FAT32, both failed, giving me the error.  "Unable to format drive, possible error on the drive", something to that extent, I can't remeber the exact error, but I'm sure I can recreate the error as it is never ending, just keep getting back to the same point.  Is there anything else i should let you know???
LVL 59

Expert Comment

ID: 12401129
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Author Comment

ID: 12402160
I ran fdisk /mbr on the 2 Gig HD, and tried to format afterwards, got the message:  "Set up was unable to format partition.  THe disk may be damaged. Check drive...."  This was using the WinXP cd, then it prompted if I wanted to try another disk, formatted the 10 gig drive to FAT32, and proceeded with the install, so far so good, hopefully i can get Windows loaded on one drive and try to figure out what is wrong with the first Hard Drive afterwards.  Once I do get XP on it, is there something special I should know before trying to put Win98 on it, because Win 98 is what I want for the O/S, not XP, but if XP is all I can get i'll have to take it.
LVL 59

Expert Comment

ID: 12402403
If you want to dual boot Win98 and WinXP, with WinXP installed FIRST (the best option, according to Microsoft, is to install dual/multi-booting operating systems in order of earliest OS first), then you'll need to see this page:


Note: as the page says, this tip assumes your XP is installed on drive C: and the file system is FAT32.  What are the letters for your two partitions (2 gigs and 10 gigs)?

HOW TO: Create a Multiple-Boot System in Windows XP

Author Comment

ID: 12402435
Right Now I have 2 Gig drive set as C: and the 10 gig Drive set as D:. the CD-Rom set as E: and the floppy set as A:, I would prefer to have Win98 only.  i really have no need for a dual boot system.  If I can get XP going on the 10 Gig HD, my next step is to run the Maxtor Diagnostic tool on my 2 Gig HD to see what the problem is with it, hopefully the utility finds the error.  I've got tot the point where its asking me for location and regional settings, so far so good for XP, but i'll keep my fingers crossed that XP will install haggle free.
LVL 38

Accepted Solution

BillDL earned 2000 total points
ID: 12407085
My recommendation, seeing as you would prefer to only install Windows 98, would be to first connect the 10 GB drive as the Primary master and remove the 2 GB one.  2GB is pushing things a bit tight for installing Win98 and THEN all the other applications you might need to install.

Change the jumper on the 10 GB drive to reflect the Master status before connecting it, and then connect it to the END connector of the ribbon cable.

Download the following file to a functional computer.  It must be executed with a blank floppy in the drive to create a replica of the Windows 98SE boot floppy:


Boot to that floppy.

During the initial boot stages, check to ensure that the BIOS has identified the drive.  It may be necessary to first boot into the CMOS Setup Screen using the key (or key combination) relevant to the make of the BIOS, and force it to autodetect the hard drive.  The key to enter the CMOS Setup may be indicated on screen.  Common ones are F2 and DEL.

FDISK the 10GB drive.  Remove all DOS partitions AND all NON-DOS partitions.

Now create a Primary DOS partition and make it 100% of the drive's capacity.  Make it "Active".

NOW REBOOT TO THE FLOPPY.  This step is crucial at this stage.

Format the 10 GB Drive.  Remember to enable large disk support at all times when prompted.

Reboot to the floppy with CD-Rom Support, and it will tell you the drive letter of the temporary "RamDrive" into which is has unpacked the "diagnostics tools" and also the letter of your CD-Rom.

Install Windows 98 from the setup.exe file in the "win98" folder of your CD and allow it to complete.  Install the Chipset Driver files, the graphics card drivers, etc, and generally complete the installation of Windows without any applications yet.

Now Shut down and swap the 10 GB drive for the 2GB one.  Change the jumper to master and connect it to the end connector of the ribbon cable.

Boot to the boot floppy and FDISK the drive to remove all dos and non-dos partitions.
Create a new partition but don't make it active.

Reboot to the floppy and format the drive.

Power off, and connect the 10GB as Primary Master on the end connector, and the 2 GB as Primary Slave on the middle connector.

Boot to Windows off the 10 GB Drive, stopping off in the CMOS Setup to ensure that both drives are autodetected, and then ensure that Windows can see the 2GB Drive.

At this stage I would run Scandisk and force it to do a FULL scan of the D:\ Drive ie. a "Surface Scan" included.

If it comes up with significant errors, then I wouldn't trust it to hold important data.  If the errors are numerous, or Scandisk sits clicking at you while "trying to recover...", then I would be tempted to remove the 10GB drive and set the 2GB one as the Primary Master, and then boot to a floppy disk that performs a "low level format" on it.

A "low level format" is one that removes the structure that allows a partition to exist on it.  Such utilities are available as downloads from the hard drive vendors' websites and are normally an executable that you run to create a bootable floppy with the necessary tools on it.  Instructions usually tell you what commands to enter to perform the format.

After a low level format, you must boot to a Win98 boot floppy, create a new partition with FDISK, reboot to the floppy again, and then format the drive.

If the 2GB drive comes out OK, then after booting to windows off the 10GB drive, insert your Windows 98 CD and copy the "win98" folder to the 2GB drive.

Use the Start menu's "Run" Option, and type REGEDIT.  Click "OK".
Find the key:


Right-Click and "Modify" the following StringValues to reflect the install source as "D:\win98" rather than the drive letter of your CD-Rom:

CommandLine - Change the section "SrcDir=" to "d:\win98"
SourcePath - change to "d:\win98"

While in there, make sure that the value set against the "lastdrive" entry is "Z".

All going well, you should no longer be asked for the CD if adding or removing windows components, and reinstalling windows can be achieved by booting to a boot floppy and execution the command  d:\win98\setup.

The remainder of the 2 GB drive can then be used to backup data or hold the contents of your MS Office 2000 CD(s) from where you can install the application.  Again, this saves time, especially where you do a custom install using options to "Install on First Use" for some of the lesser-used components.

That's what I would do, given your scenario, but it is really a matter of choice.


Author Comment

ID: 12411722
Thanks BILLDL, your suggestions were taken and all is well, was able to install XP, then was able to fdisk and format both drives, and reinstall win98 using your tips, all the help was greatly appreciated by all, hope i don't have to seek your help anytime soon,lol, but if needed i will return, thanks again..

LVL 38

Expert Comment

ID: 12572515
Thank you, LeeTutor.

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