We help IT Professionals succeed at work.

Windows 98 SE, screen savers, and hard drive crashes

Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2013-12-28
Greetings experts,

I had a harddrive in my IBM Aptiva with Windows 98 SE and 256Megs of RAM, and one day I happened to change the screensaver to that 3D Maze that turns upside down.  I left that screen saver running for about two days and my harddrive crashed - a total hardware failure.

I bought a new harddrive to replace it and chose Inside My Computer as the screensaver.  After about 4 days, the new harddrive hadn't crashed, but the computer was CRAWLING!!!!  I mean, you move the mouse and it took about 5 minutes to restore the desktop!

Are these just bizarre coincidences, or do I really need to be more careful what screen savers I choose, or better yet, turn the computer off if I'm not going to use it?

Watch Question


Hi Joe
I'm subscribing to this at the moment not because I can offer anything constructive right now, but because I am intrigued and want to see what the likes of blue_zee, LeeTutor, coral47, callrs, etc. might suggest.

Personally speaking, I never install "Themes" or have a screensaver running.... because I've got 6 spare monitors sitting in a cupboard (eBay irresistable job lot), and my monitor is set to power down and save the planet while I go off and try and find out about things like the "3D Maze Screensaver" ;-)

Screensavers are now more just aesthetic fun than functional as they were with older monitors that left screen burn, unless of course you have them set with a password for unattended workstation security reasons.  I move desktop folders and icons around so much that the only constant hat could leave a shadow is the Task Bar, but it's never been evident on any CRT monitor I have ever used.

The screensaver files you are referring to are:

INSIDE~1.SCR - Inside My Computer (from WIN98_69.CAB of a Win98se CD along with inside~1.pal)
SSMAZE.SCR - 3D Maze (from WIN98_52.CAB of a Win98se CD)

The first difference between these files (apart from the apparently associated "inside~1.pal" file that would appear to be a colour palette for the bitmap images used in the screensaver) are the other DLL files required by it:

Inside My Computer:
MSVCRT20.DLL - Very old Microsoft Visual C Runtime library

3D Maze:
OpenGL32.dll - DirectX File??
Comdlg32.dll - Windows common dialogs

I don't suppose that you perhaps replaced the bitmap images in the 3D Maze Screensaver with particularly large image files ?  That MIGHT account for the slowdown, but I would have thought that once the images were loaded once it would cache them for future use rather than reloading them each time the Maze got to the same wall again.

The same is true of the DLL's.  Win98 is bad for not realeasing loaded DLL files from memory once the requirement for them no longer exists.  There is a registry setting to prevent this, but the same files are being reused .... unless of course that is the problem.  Perhaps they are being repeatedly reloaded and released when the Maze gets to a specific action.

There is a difference between these screensavers.  The 3D Maze is an Open GL Screesaver, whereas the "Inside My Computer" is one of the "theme" screensavers that requires the installation of Desktop Themes.  Themes installs other resource files, which is why if you just extract the file "INSIDE~1.SCR" from the CD to any old folder and right-click to "Test" it, the screensaver doesn't show.

I'm going to install those two screensavers and test them to see what happens.


>> Win98 is bad for not realeasing loaded DLL files from memory once the requirement for them no longer exists

That was my first thought.
Try adding this mod to the Registery.


Create a new sub-key under "Explorer" and rename it "AlwaysUnloadDLL".  (Observe the Title Case and don't leave spaces in the name.

Click on this new sub-key, and you will see a "StringValue" (white icon with red ab) in the right-hand pane named (Default).  Right-Click on it > select "Modify" > and type a 1 (that's One) into the text field provided.

Close RegEdit and reboot.   (stoled from another BillDL post)

I don't mean to be a wise guy, but my first thought after reading "I left that screen saver running for about two days and my harddrive crashed - a total hardware failure." was WHY?  If you haven't used the computer in 2 days, why have the monitor turned on?  And a win98 machine?  How old is the related hardware?  How long before other parts start dying if you're just letting it sit there for days on end, slowly churning through the maze?

I'm not judging, just curious.

OK, that's enough out of me.  I'm going to sleep now.
Distinguished Expert 2019

i suggest to turn the PC off if you do not use it. Myself, i turn it on 2x a day.
normally, the screensaver will not affect the way a pc behaves, it can be a coincidence, but you may have other problems.
How long ago did you install the win98 ?
did you run chkdisk and defrag regularly?
i suggest a bit of testing, just to be sure about your hard. Download the ubcd, boot from it, and run the memtst86+ and disk test at least.

coral, you might have corrected my spelling mistake when quoting that:
"realeasing loaded DLL files" should be "releasing loaded DLL files" :-/

Yes, I too was curious about why you would have left your computer on for two full days without using it.  OK, so you ran it with the other screensaver for 4 days to test it, but it sounds like you went home from work on a Friday, or away for a fishing weekend, and left your work or home computer running by mistake.  Nevertheless, it has raised a good question that we would probably never see from others who tend to turn their computers off to do their bit for saving the planet from global warming ;-)

Joe, by asking whether you should turn your computer off when not using it will raise a massive debate in discussion boards less civilised and professional than Experts-Exchange.  There's mixed thoughts (all with plausible reasons) for each argument, but I don't think any of them are really proven.  Some say that turning the computer on and off too frequently causes repeated expansion and contraction of hardware that warms up in use and can cause damage like fractures, loosening solder joints, reduced life of monitor because of the power-up surges, etc.  Others suggest that the effects are insignificant when you consider that we live in an age where components aren't kept or expected to last as long as they were a number of years ago, and that they are cheaper to replace anyway.

There are different ways of specifying a hard drive's expected lifetime:
Some manufacturers estimate how many hours or start/stop cycles a drive will survive. They refer to this as MTBF (mean time between failures)
MTBF = Total Operational Hours / Number of Breakdowns
The higher the number, the better.  40,000 to 50,000 MTBF (hours) is about average. If quoted as start/stop cycles, you'll probably find that the figure could be much the same, which makes you wonder whether they actually tested the drive or just made a wild guess.

One thing is for sure though, starting up and shutting down a hard drive spins it up and down more than having it constantly in use, but then again so does spinning it up or down as it goes into power saving mode.  A fragmented drive probably wears the mechanical components out more than any other factor, but that's what S.M.A.R.T. Monitoring, Scandisk, and Defrag are for.

The "power saving scheme" of Off Twice A Day as suggested by nobus sounds like a good balance.

Anyway, I'm still looking at those screensavers to see if it is possible for the 3D Maze to choke up your system if left running.

I'm also having a giggle with a "modified" version of "3D Maze.scr" that I saved a number of years ago for posterity.  There's one image that you get to which is like a colourful childrens play area in a corner, with an inflatable globe, "Stickle Bricks/Lego" making up the word "Open GL" on the floor, and a window with pleasant greenery outside it.  I once happened upon a photo of a friend's wife naked while working on their PC and backing up data before formatting it.  I "hacked" and replaced this pleasant embedded image in the Maze Screensaver with the less pleasant one of his wife in all her glory, and then set that as their screensaver before I left.  To this day he has never mentioned anything, which makes it even more funny ;-)

I've just run the "Inside Your Computer" screensaver for 6 hours with no slowdown of the system when it restores after a mouse movement.  I am fairly certain in saying that there is no possible way that running the 3D Maze screensaver for 2 days could wreck your hard drive.  My feeling is that it was probably on the verge of failing anyway.

Perhaps it overheated your graphics card chip (not to the point of failure though) if the case runs reasonably warm normally.  The 3D Maze fairly skips about like a lost man on amphetamine trying to get out of the bad area of town on rollerblades, and that probably places almost as many demands on the graphics as the running an older version of the game "Quake".

In the meantime, run the DirectX Diagnostics tests and see what they reveal:
Start Menu > Run > and type DXDIAG > click OK.

Are you aware that the "Inside Your Computer" screensaver installs as a "Theme", and as such replaces your icons, default sounds, cursors, etc with the High Color themed ones.  These can slow your system down, especially animated icons.

>> coral, you might have corrected my spelling...

Didn't even notice it. My eyes must be getting old.  : (

>> having a giggle with a "modified" version of "3D Maze.scr" ...

Good one.   : D

coral. 3D Maze.scr compresses to a 245KB *.zip file.  I'll email you a modified version if you wish, but I'll reset the image to my mugshot so it frightens people away from your unattended PC ;-)

Just another thought here.  Installing the "Inside Your Computer" screensaver also installs a *.DLL of that name to C:\Windows\System.  This file contains 8 embedded *.WAV files like computery blips and such, which sound while the screensaver is running or being displayed in preview mode.

These sounds are fairly far apart, so maybe the "AlwaysUnloadDLL" setting is actually unlaoding that DLL after it has been called to make a bleep, and then has to be loaded again for the next techno sound.  Not sure if this might have the effect of slowing the system down to a crawl, but it might be worth disabling that registry setting and testing the screensaver for a full day to see what happens.

If you by any chance have some kind of sound card/modem combination, then is there a possibility that this device goes down into some kind of suspend mode and has to be woken up again every time the screensaver tries to issue a blip or buzz through the *.dll file?

>> I'll email you a modified version if you wish

Can I take a raincheck?  I only have one system running right now, and I keep this one "clean".


The file that is called to emit the beeps issued by the "Inside Your Computer" screensaver is WINMM.DLL, and GDI32.DLL is the one that seems to create the positions of the screensaver's image content on your screen.  My installed versions are the original ones installed by Win98SE:
WINMM.DLL 4.03.1998 (Multimedia API Library) (from WIN98_44.CAB of Win98se CD)
GDI32.DLL   4.10.1998 (Graphics Device Interface API Library) (from WIN98_30.CAB on Win98se CD).

Check if your versions are the same is these.  If you're brave enough, you could use SFC to separately extract fresh copies from the Win98se CD and run the "Inside My (or your) Computer" Screensaver for a day or two again to see what happens.

The 3D Maze is a slightly more complex piece of work because it uses "OpenGL".  This IS NOT part of DirectX and doesn't use any of its resources, so there should be no conflicts between installed OpenGL components and DirectX ones.  OpenGL is a language that existed before Microsoft Windows for rendering 2D and 3D image content, and is implemented in this case by Microsoft OpenGL through OpenGL32.dll, and thereafter interpreted by the graphics drivers.

This is pretty old-hat technology in the 3D Maze (as is evidenced by its "blocky" rendering even on an up-to-date system), but should in theory work with any graphics driver.  The problem with OpenGL is that it used a lot of code known to be buggy for "game-type" applications, and often older games crashed because of these inconsistencies.  One of the problems, as far as I understand it, is that it has to track a lot of software and hardware status information.  It doesn't support hardware acceleration on its own in that older version, and seems to manage the hardware resources on its own rather than like DirectX which relies on the application managing the hardware resources.

In other words, it gives itself a lot more to do tracking things in the background.  The file DCIMAN32.DLL seems to have been thrown into the "Maze" to help OpenGL to exploit graphics card hardware acceleration that wouldn't otherwise have been accessible.  I think its in there for backward compatibilty and has been brought forward from the 16-bit DOS Windows 3.11 and reincarnated as a 32-bit version.

I'm not sure if my understanding of this is totally accurate, but my interpretation is that the more advanced your graphics card and drivers are, the less likely something like the old technology 3D Maze is able to run without the potential for the bugs creeping in.  Things like the 3D Maze were really just a showcase for newer technology in Windows 9x.  OpenGL was developed first in 1992 and was plagiarised badly (as usual) by Microsoft really just in time for Windows 95. This was before Microsoft developed the first really slow and buggy DirectX, so the Maze is really just something written during development.

Anyway, perhaps you might want to check the following file versions which are used for the 3D Maze's OpenGL 3D rendering:

OPENGL32.DLL (4.00) (WIN98_39.CAB)
GLU32.DLL (4.00) (WIN98_30.CAB) (OpenGL Utility Library - makes shapes)
DCIMAN32.DLL (4.03.1998) (WIN98_28.CAB) (Device Control Interface Manager version 1.0)
CRTDLL.DLL (old Microsoft C Runtime - modern C or C++ Runtimes are written in "Visual C" eg. MSVCRT32.DLL
(in various versions - version 3.50 in  WIN98_27.CAB of Win98se CD installed by default)

If you're brave enough, you could use SFC to separately extract fresh copies from the Win98se CD and run the 3D maze Screensaver for a day or two to see what happens.

I'm going to conclude my inspection of these screensavers with a final observation.
Windows 98/98se brought forward some older and very buggy "showcase" technology from Windows 95 to try and impress us all.  My view is that you really run them at your own risk.  I can't conclusively say why the Maze seemed to overwork what was most probably an already failing hard drive, nor why the "Inside My Computer" seems to soak up all processor/memory resources when left to run for long periods, but they are old technology and Microsoft no doubt didn't allow two or 4 days to test them fully.  Most ("normal" ;-) people will never have tested for such prolonged periods either.

One more thought for the road, but first what seems to be a great unofficial support site for IBM Aptiva's:

I was wondering what processor was in yours, and whether it was old enough to have one of the Intel ones that was known to be flawed in the way it made some complicated calculations.  I can't recall specifics, but the "Inside Your Computer" screensaver does seem to have to do a lot of co-ordinate calculations judging from what I can see of the internal resources from a non-programmer's point of view.  Maybe it eventually freaks out after it is saturated with bad calculations, for want of better technical description.

In addition, it would also seem that some of the older Aptiva's DID ship with a soundcard/modem combo known as "MWAVE":

You may recall that I wondered about this previously and put forward a tentative theory that perhaps the Modem was trying to go to sleep in between beeps.

Problems with the "MWave" combo card resulted in a long-running Class Action Suit Settlement for affected users:

I haven't read completely through that unofficial knowledgebase, but perhaps you will find clues there that could suggest BIOS/APM issue, Graphics, Audio/Modem, or driver issues:

I would also do as nobus suggested a while back ie. Run a full system Memory Test as a matter of priority.


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

Ask the Experts


Thanks everyone.

I used to leave my computers on because I just didn't have a reason to turn them off.  I have a "game room" in my house that has 2 PCs and a bunch of console stuff.  Leaving them on means I can just walk into the room, move the mouse and I'm ready to go as opposed to having to wait for it to boot up.

I guess I'll leave the 98 machine off when it's not in use.

What about XP?  I have a brand-new P43.2GHz 2GigRAM 256MegGeForce6800 300GHD machine in there that I never turn off either.  I use the pipes screensaver.  Am I asking for trouble if I leave that one on all the time?


Thanks for that, Joe.

I suppose it all depends on how often you get up during the night to play games on that PC ;-)

Personally speaking, I would tun it off at least before going to bed.  There is one sound reason for this above all others.  There are a great many areas that are checked as the PC is powered up or rebooted, including the registry and hardware configurations.  If left on constantly, the computer is never getting the chance to re-enumerate any devices, check the registry, etc.  Any settings that may have changed would be either reset to default or reconfigured (depending on what changed) at the next restart, and you would be warned of any impending or potential situations that may otherwise be getting compounded by denying it a reboot.

If left on continuously, and several things had changed without a reboot to properly configure them, you could end up with conflicting changes that led to a failed boot.  You don't really want it to get to that stage, so I recommend a power off and reboot at least once a day.

As far as the Pipes screensaver is concerned, I would hazard a guess that if it has run up until now problem free, then you most likely won't experience problems.  Windows XP and your high-spec PC, however, will be able to handle hibernation a whole lot better than Windows 98/98se ever did, so I would instead be tempted to just allow the PC to slip into hibernation when left unattended, and it should then wake up fairly quickly with a mouse movement while you get a beer or coffee in readiness for your next session.


Very impressive.
I just started wondering if it might be more hardware related, this afternoon.


Somehow I don't think that the Pentium "floating point flaw" (which I couldn't remember specifics about earlier) is an issue.  It only affected Pentium 60 to 100 MHz processors, so you're probably looking at 486 processors on systems that ran late Windows 3.x or very early Win95.  nevertheless, for completeness, here's the details of the flaw:


Q3: What speeds of Pentium processor are affected by the floating point flaw?
A3: 60, 66, 75, 90 or 100MHz Pentium processor. Those at 120 MHz and above do not have this flaw.

Q1: What is the floating point flaw?
A1: The Pentium processor had a flaw in its floating point divide unit that, for rare combinations of specific operand pairs, could have given a reduced precision result. The floating point unit is enacted only during division and will possibly affect the accuracy of results from the fourth to the nineteenth place past the decimal point.  (Editor note: This can include graphics rendering and possibly other basic behind-the scenes computational processes).

Q: How many Pentium designers does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: 0.99995827903, but that's close enough for non-technical people ;-)

Q: How can I tell if I have a processor with the floating point flaw?
A: The Intel Processor Frequency ID Utility (http://www.intel.com/support/processors/tools/frequencyid/) is designed to identify which Intel processor your PC contains. If your PC contains a Pentium processor, this utility will test and identify the floating-point divide flaw.  (Editor note: how do we know that the utility is not flawed, or rigged so Intel didn't have to issue millions of replacements?)

Related famous quotations:
"We are Pentium of Borg. Resistance is futile. You will be approximated".
The Intel version of Casablanca: "Round off the usual suspects".


While looking for ATi graphics drivers for another question, I discovered the following ATi knowledgebase article:


Virtual memory error running 3D pipes screensaver

The information in this article applies to the following system configurations:
- ATI RADEON based graphics card
- CATALYST 3.4 driver suite
- Windows 3D Pipes Screensaver

Some users have reported that when running the 3D Pipes screensaver for a duration of 24 hours, or more, the following error message may appear:
   "The virtual memory is not enough"
After the error message appears, the screensaver will exit back to the desktop

To resolve this issue, download and install CATALYST 3.5 or higher display drivers

Yes, I know, this refers to the 3D Pipes screensaver, and specifically to the specific graphics driver for an ATi Radeon-based card, but it was the "...running the 3D Pipes screensaver for a duration of 24 hours or more..." and "virtual memory" parts that caught my attention.

The inference of this is that there may be some related issues which COULD apply to your system when comparing this to the effects that the "Inside My Computer" screensaver had when run on your system for several days.

Prolonged use of specific screensavers with specific hardware and certain driver versions seems to continue to use more memory the longer it runs, until it runs out of memory.

It's not totally clear from the resolution whether they are indicating that the affected driver version was flawed in the way it handled memory, OR whether some screensavers use memory badly themselves, and that this unfortunate characteristic is fixed by a more recent driver version.

I suspect that your computer isn't nearly modern enough to have any of the ATi "Catalyst" graphics drivers installed, and I don't even know if you have a graphics card with an ATi chipset, but it would seem that the issue of graphics driver may be something worth considering.  Perhaps there is a similar problem mentioned in the knowledgebase at the support site for the manufacturer of the graphics card in your computer that echoes this one.


On a K7S5A (socketA) mobo, AMD 2100+ cpu, with 128meg DDR
I have loaded the Catalyst 5.1 drivers on a 4x AGP Radeon LE (7200) 32meg card. Both W98SE and W2K.
I think the latest release is 6.8, but I don't think they like W98 much after the 5.x versions.
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.