Best way to use a Win98 software in a Win7 machine

Posted on 2013-05-13
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2013-08-27
Hello, one of my clients wants to keep using a database software which doesn't work under anything beyond Win98SE.

If I try to use it in a newer OS, I always get an out of memory error, no matter which compatibility options I choose. Editing system.ini doesn't work either.

There is no convincing my client to upgrade the software, so my question is: which is the best way to have this software run under a Win98SE Virtual Machine?

The software handles two com port printers and a parallel port barcode reader, so I need the virtual machine to communicate with all these ports. Also, the software has a security usb key, and I need that to work with the virtual machine too.

Any suggestions? Thanks guys.
Question by:Daniele Brunengo
Welcome to Experts Exchange

Add your voice to the tech community where 5M+ people just like you are talking about what matters.

  • Help others & share knowledge
  • Earn cash & points
  • Learn & ask questions
  • 4
  • 3
  • 2
  • +2
LVL 96

Expert Comment

by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 39162735
I would say try it in Virtual PC (which is free on Win7 Pro and Ultimate).  It should pass through COM ports, Parallel ports, and most USB port devices.  BUT, I will say USB under virtualization, even VMWare, can be flaky at best.  At the end of the day the only option MAY be to tell the client you can do it.  It will cost tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in development costs, but you can do it - because with enough money, anything can be done.

Or maintain an OLD PC that Win98 runs on.
LVL 84

Expert Comment

by:Dave Baldwin
ID: 39163002
"Or maintain an OLD PC that Win98 runs on. "

That's what I do.  I have several old machines for specialized software including a Windows 3.11 machine that still makes me a lot of money.  And yes, I have a backup machine too, just in case.
LVL 123
ID: 39163046
Use an Imaging Product, like Ghost or Clonezilla, and Clone to VMware Workstation or VMware Player.
Concerto Cloud for Software Providers & ISVs

Can Concerto Cloud Services help you focus on evolving your application offerings, while delivering the best cloud experience to your customers? From DevOps to revenue models and customer support, the answer is yes!

Learn how Concerto can help you.

LVL 70

Accepted Solution

garycase earned 2000 total points
ID: 39163297
VMware generally does a better job with passing through hardware ports, so I'd install Windows 98SE in a VMware virtual machine, and assign it the necessary COM, LPT, and USB ports.    Note that even then you can sometimes have problems with security dongles -- but the only way to know for sure is to try it.

IF that works okay, then you're home free -- as you can then trivially move the "machine" to future hardware as needed (as long as it has the necessary ports ... which with modern systems will likely require a PCI card or two).

An easier approach is to simply install it on native hardware -- i.e. just "...  maintain an OLD PC that Win98 runs on ...", as mentioned above.    If you're going to do this, buy a spare (or two), while you can still get them on e-bay.    These computers are available for VERY little $$ these days.

Author Comment

by:Daniele Brunengo
ID: 39163806
Thanks, and sorry for the late response, I'm from Italy.

Before going the old pc route, I'd rather give it a try with virtual machines.

I think I'll test the security dongle with both Virtual PC and Vmware on one of my pcs. If it works fine, then I guess the other ports should be no problem on any pc.

I usually go with Virtualbox, but I've read it works quite badly with pre-XP Microsoft OSes.
LVL 70

Expert Comment

ID: 39163847
Installing Win98 on Virtual PC requires a bit of a trick => you need to download the VPC-2004 version and extract the VM Additions from that.   Then you can install VPC 2007 and install Windows 98, but use the old version of VM Additions.

No such trick is required with VMware.   [And Microsoft MAY have fixed the final version of VPC 2007 so it doesn't require that trick -- but several years ago it was definitely necessary.]

Note also that VMware has a better chance of working with your hardware dongle, as it does a better job of passing through the physical ports.
LVL 70

Expert Comment

ID: 39163850
Note that if none of those Type 2 hypervisors work well for passing through the hardware ports, there's another alternative:   Install ESXi (a Type 1 hypervisor) on a system and build a '98 VM there.   ESXi does a superb job of pass-through for virtually all hardware -- I/O ports;  video cards;  disk controllers;  etc.    However, you'd have to be sure you were using an ESXi capable system and CPU, which must support not only vt-x, but also vt-d hardware virtualization support.    This would almost certainly be more costly than the alternatives you're currently looking at;  but it's another choice if you need it.    [And the base ESXi is free]

Author Comment

by:Daniele Brunengo
ID: 39163873
Ok, I can test ESXi too if necessary on this machine I'm currently at, which if I'm not mistaken has vt-d.
LVL 123
ID: 39163889
Check if the computer/server/workstation is on the HCL.

Check the VMware HCL (Hardware Compatibility Lists here


Author Comment

by:Daniele Brunengo
ID: 39164254
Judging by the price of required hardware, I'd say ESXi is out of the question...

Author Closing Comment

by:Daniele Brunengo
ID: 39441866
Been a long time, but for various reasons the job was put on hold until last week.
And, it works wonderfully with VMWare.

Featured Post

Important Lessons on Recovering from Petya

In their most recent webinar, Skyport Systems explores ways to isolate and protect critical databases to keep the core of your company safe from harm.

Question has a verified solution.

If you are experiencing a similar issue, please ask a related question

It Is not possible to enable LLDP in vSwitch(at least is not supported by VMware), so in this article we will enable this, and also go trough how to enabled CDP and how to get this information in vSwitches and also in vDS.
Will try to explain how to use the VMware feature TAGs in the VMs and create Veeam Backup Jobs using TAGs. Since this article is too long, I will create second article for the Veeam tasks.
In this video, we discuss why the need for additional vertical screen space has become more important in recent years, namely, due to the transition in the marketplace of 4x3 computer screens to 16x9 and 16x10 screens (so-called widescreen format). …
This course is ideal for IT System Administrators working with VMware vSphere and its associated products in their company infrastructure. This course teaches you how to install and maintain this virtualization technology to store data, prevent vuln…

719 members asked questions and received personalized solutions in the past 7 days.

Join the community of 500,000 technology professionals and ask your questions.

Join & Ask a Question