We help IT Professionals succeed at work.

We've partnered with Certified Experts, Carl Webster and Richard Faulkner, to bring you a podcast all about Citrix Workspace, moving to the cloud, and analytics & intelligence. Episode 2 coming soon!Listen Now


Clear Drive but Keep OS

benhar asked
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2013-12-28
Coworker has a computer that has Win98, but he doesn't have the OS disk anymore.  He wants to clear the drive of all programs, but keep the operating system.  Add/Remove doesn't work because he moved the programs from one drive to the other when he had two in the system, and it can't find them on the old drive.

He thought there were some switches for the format command that would keep the OS but delete everything else.  Is there anything like that?

He does have a spare drive that is blank.  Is there a way to copy just the OS from the one to the blank one?
Watch Question

Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process Advisor
Most Valuable Expert 2013

Nope, sorry, format is an all or nothing thing.  

The only thing I can suggest is to rebuild the registry - that MIGHT work (it works for me roughly 67% of the time).  Look for a SYSTEM.1ST file on the C:\ drive.  Then boot up with a floppy and rename C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM.DAT to SYSTEM.BAD.  Then copy SYSTEM.1ST to C:\WINDOWS and rename it SYSTEM.DAT.  That will essentially reset the hardware information on the system to the way it was as Windows 98 was first being installed.  (RENAME things and COPY things as I've outlined - MOVING them and DELETING them makes it far more difficult to go back to the current state if something DOESN'T work with this.

You might look in the WINDOWS\OPTIONS\CABS folder and see if the SETUP and CAB files are there.
If yes, just copy the OPTIONS folder and subdirs to the blank HD, before you wipe the first one.


It might be that it's early and I'm not thinking full-capacity.  I'm trying to figure out what these comments are telling me to do.  The compuer works but he wants to give it to a daycare, but clean it first.

leew - Would rebuilding the reg correct the file paths in the Add/remove so he could remove the programs?

coral47 - then what?  are those the cabs needed to reinstall 98?
Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process Advisor
Most Valuable Expert 2013

Sort of.  It would reset the computer (if things went well - I've seen this work about 75% of the time).  Nothing would be listed in add/remove programs.  Drivers would need to be reinstalled, atnivius software would need to be reinstalled.  User settings would remain the same though, such as wall paper and sound scheme.
>> are those the cabs needed to reinstall 98 <<
Yes. If they are there, those are the basic files needed to reinstall W98. Just ren the SETUP like you would with the CD (except they are on the HD)

Boot with the floppy bootdisk,
change to the HD (o where the files are),
go to the OPTIONS folder you copied there,
run SETUP.

Make sure you get the Product Key from the Registery before you wipe the drive (if you go this way). Go to the key below, and copy down the code. Usually it's a twenty-five digit number.

find install key:

Not the solution you were looking for? Getting a personalized solution is easy.

Ask the Experts

You might want to check in to this all-n-one update/patch, some one was kind enough to put together. It for SE only, though.

W98se Service Pack 2.0.1

you might have got lucky and whoever installed the operating system originally might have copied the cabinet files to the harddrive

search the hard drive for a files called win98*.cab
where * will be _ and a the cabinet number

if you find them copy the entire folder they are in to a cd
the folder should contain a setup.exe
run that from the cd once you have the folder copied and it should start the windows installation

good luck


The co-worker said the accepted answer worked, except he still needed the win98 disk (which he got a copy of) for some of the drivers.  Thanks for the help!

Thank you much.    : )

Glad to hear they are running again.
Access more of Experts Exchange with a free account
Thanks for using Experts Exchange.

Create a free account to continue.

Limited access with a free account allows you to:

  • View three pieces of content (articles, solutions, posts, and videos)
  • Ask the experts questions (counted toward content limit)
  • Customize your dashboard and profile

*This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.


Please enter a first name

Please enter a last name

8+ characters (letters, numbers, and a symbol)

By clicking, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.