Can the latest model personal computers run Windows 98?

So there’s moaning and hand-wringing about the coming demise of Windows XP. And we read about all the people who have tried out Windows 8 and pine for the good old days of Windows 7. (Don’t hear much pining for Vista, though.)

What about good old Windows 98SE? I still have a machine running that, although it’s getting old and a little flakey.

If I bought a brand-spanking-new PC with the latest umpty-gigahertz CPU and umpty-gazillion-gigabyte disk drive and whatever else is new, could I still load and run Windows 98SE on it? (I’m pretty sure I still have the installation CD’s around somewhere.)

I’m guessing there might be problems with drivers. The existing Win98 drivers would probably not run the latest printers, network cards, and other modern stuff, and the newer hardware probably doesn’t have drivers written for them that will run in Win98. I’m almost willing to work around various devices that don’t work, as long as I can get the basic things running.

Windows 98 was the nicest of the whole Windoes series of operating systems, as far as I’m concerned. And furthermore, I’m still working with some old legacy applications (one in particular) that I think worked best in Windows 98, and has never worked as well with any of the newer systems. I want to continue running that app on a Windows 98SE machine.

One detail I really would need to deal with: I will need a good old fashioned Centronics parallel printer port with a Windows 98SE driver, as this app requires a dongle connected to it to run. So it has to be able to work with that.

It’s that dongle. Linux or Windows (Any) could work for you, but…

They have USB to parallel port adapters, don’t know if this helps your situation.

Did you try Windows 7 using XP mode which allows some very direct hardware control as XP was made to be compatible with 98? XP mode on Win 7 may have a better shot then just XP.

Win 98, if it works, will be limited to the amount of memory it can access and the amount of hard drive space. I don’t know how it would handle multicore cpu’s. Drivers would be a nightmare also as you stated.

Perhaps keep a eye out for a old laptop for sale, people are more willing to hold on to them over old desktops, as long as the laptop has the ports you need. You can also usually hook up the laptop to a standard monitor and use a real mouse and/or keyboard, the limited factors are the ports and no expansion slots.

It helps to think of Vista as the experimental gamma release of Windows 7.0, and to think of Windows 7 as the properly tested and debugged Windows 7.1.

Similarly, Windows 8 is more accurately described as Windows 8.0. Bringing back the Start button helped a bit, but they’re still struggling to get a viable and user-friendly Win 8.1.

Install W98 in a virtual machine, then use your legacy app there, on a W7 host. No worry about drivers, and you still get the latest updates and security for your current programs.

I’ve heard this before, but I’m interested in how these “virtual machines” work. Specifically:

Suppose I have a Win7 pc and an HP-1234 printer. The HP-1234 has no Win98SE drivers, but it does have drivers for Win7, and they’re installed on the pc. Next, I install a “virtual machine” program on the pc, and install Win98SE there. Generic monitor drivers and mouse drivers are fine, so I have no problem running Minesweeper and Solitaire. And I can use Notepad to write, edit, and save some text files. But now I want to PRINT one of those files from Notepad. So I go into File/Print, and now what? The HP-1234 can’t possibly show up in the list of printers, does it?

I suspect the answer will be that the printer list shows something like “Externally Connected Virtual Printer”. It conveys the idea, but Win98 doesn’t actually know the name of the printer, does it? what would happen if the Win7 pc had two printers set up?

One thing that might be a problem is whether Windows 98 will be able to install on a modern hard drive. No cite, but about ten years ago, I had an old system that was running on a ten-gigabyte hard drive. When the drive crashed, I wasn’t able to replace it with a more modern larger one. Fortunately the vendor had a small enough hard drive of the type that the system would handle.

I’m pretty sure you can attach peripherals directly to the virtual machine, and use them just as if you were using a standalone Win98 machine. There might still be a driver issue though. If that’s the case, just “print to a file” from the VM, and then open it and print it from your host OS.

Have you tried running your old programs in 98SE Compatibility Mode?

Okay, thank you all for your thought so far. < "Your thoughts, Dopers. Give themmmm to meeee. :stuck_out_tongue: > It looks like you are mostly agreeing with my main concerns: That Win98 won’t be very compatible with any modern hardware.

Yeah, there’s that. That will be essential for my needs, as my main idea is to keep running that old app. Recall that in those days, Centronics ports were essentially one-way output only, being able to get input only from a few status feedback pins. Programs in those days talked to their dongles by doing very unorthodox things at the pin-manipulation level, which would be unlikely to work any more, I would think. It would be anybody’s guess if a USB-to-Centronics adapter (as kanicbird suggested) could deal with that.

I gather, you’re assuming I actually have an XP (or newer?) mochine on which to try this. I have an XP machine that seems to work even worse than my 98 machine, and a few other old hand-me-down XP machines, ALL of which have way too little memory. If anything, I’d be looking to buy a new machine and work with that from the get-go – but I haven’t made a decision about that yet.

Here we go. This sounds like the most likely possibly winningest idea. Get a NEW mochine with WinWhatever or (my preference) Linux and go virtual. For the reasons I mentioned above, there might still be dongle trouble. (Well, for starters, just try geting a NEW mochine with a Centronic port to begin with. Maybe I could pull one out of an older machine, if it’s not hard-wired to the mamaboard.) Hard to picture if a virtual machine could deal with a dongle at the level that I think the apps of those days did. Last I heard (a few years ago), either VMWare or (then-)Sun VirtualBox wouldn’t support Centronics at all, much to the consternation of users whose whole need for VM was to run old apps on old systems!

I could live without a printer in my VM. All I would ever print from there would be plain-old plain-text files (remember those?), which I could easily do in other ways.

I think the VM idea sounds like it’s worth a shot. If/when I actually go ahead with this, I can see where that might be the best thing to try. And if I can’t run ye aulde appe, then the fuck with it. I still like the idea of continuing to play with Win98.

Thanks, everybody, for the thoughts.

ETA: By the way, I know that I can run sophisticated Windows stuff in a VM even on an older box with an older Linux. I took two classes in Windows Server usage/administration, for which I ran an entire Windows Server on my ancient Linux box, using both Sun VirtualBox and VMWare. It ran rather slowly (which I could live with), but it ran! And that even included SQL Server too!

Your XP machines have less memory than your Win98 machine? :confused:

I bought Win7 Home Premium, or whatever the hell the mid-range option was, and it comes with Windows Virtual PC, with Windows XP loaded on it, so I have a little perfect WinXP box to run the … well, two things at this point, that won’t run on 7.

ALL my machines are old (and some of them are hand-me-downs from pre-Columbian days), and have about as much memory as that little chip inside my credit card. And a computer-repair type of guy I took them to, was of the opinion that they can’t easily be upgraded – not sure if he can even get his hands on any more memory that would work with them. He managed to scrounge up a few stray bits out of some old computer carcasses he had laying around, so now one of my machines can at least rival my microwave oven in the memory department.

What’s this world coming to when even computer memory chips need drivers to operate them? :confused:

IIRC, they don’t need drivers, per se - they just need a compatible motherboard, whose BIOS will know how to access the chips. Windows does ‘manage’ memory, but that’s about keeping track of addresses to memory locations.

Memory doesn’t need drivers—far more likely, your XP machines are using some ancient variety of RAM like the original DDR, which you can’t find in stores anymore. You can find such hardware on eBay, but your motherboard might only be able to address DIMMs up to size x and have n slots, and there’s no guarantee that nx is a decent value for a semi-modern system.

Opinions may differ, but seriously…Windows XP was a far, far better OS than Win98se on practically every level.

How do you run Win 7 in XP mode? I would do it if I could. But I have seen nothing on this. Of course, the computer came with no documentation aside from a helpless help program. But I would really want to know.

First to answer the OP’s question directly: some newere computers can run Windows 98, some can’t. I’ve had better luck with Intel chips than AMD, as Intel chips are more likely to keep perfect 386 compatibility.

Second, to respond to his other question:

Windows XP Mode isn’t really another mode, but just a way of running Windows XP on a virtual machine. If you have a version of Windows 7 other than Basic, Home Basic, or Home Premium, it’s really easy. you just download XP Mode, install it like any other application, run it to finish the setup, and then use it like you would if it were really Windows XP. Just make sure to start it before trying to install any XP-only applications.

If, on the other hand, you have one of those versions I mentioned (and most home PCs do), then the only way to use Windows XP mode is to install it like any other Virtual machine. You can go ahead and use the XP image from the Windows XP Mode download, but you’ll have to use a key from a retail version of Windows XP. The professional versions of Windows come with a free license for Windows XP mode, but the Home and Basic versions don’t.

The instructions are available here. then you’ll need to change your product key by using the instructions here. You may find it easier just to install a Windows XP disk into a regular virtual machine.