Win98--system.ini file missing

My 4 year old PIII IBM computer won’t boot. It is running Windows 98 SE. I have my original windows 95 CD, plus my 98SE update CD, plus a copy of ME. It tells me it cannot find the system.ini file. It won’t boot from my startup diskette, will not boot from the CD rom. Entering setup/config. and I can’t find anything that lets me change boot options, so I don’t know how to even get anywhere. Any suggestions on what I can do next?

Boot to dos - go to the C:\Windows directorectory, do a DIR SYSTEM.*

Since most old Windows 95 programs modify the SYSTEM.INI and the WIN.INI files they almost always create backups in case you have to uninstall - install a program and it will backup SYSTEM.INI as SYSTEM.BAK or SYSTEM.001, SYSTEM.002, etc.

You should have serveral SYSTEM.INI files in there, just not named as such. Do a
DIR SYSTEM.* /OD which will sort all files named SYSTEM.whatever in date order in the current directory (or you can do a DIR SYSTEM.* /O-d for reverse date order (viva la differance!)))

Just rename one of those files, preferably the most recent, to SYSTEM.INI and reboot. Either that, or find someone who has a Windows 95 machine and copy theirs - may get you some error messages but at least it will boot…

Sorry to be so ignorant, but how do I boot to dos?

Not all 4 year old PCs BIOS enable booting from the CD, and even if the BIOS can do it, it has to be a with a compatible CD drive, and some older CD drives are not compatible with this feature.

In some BIOS setups some features are hidden in the lower half of the display page and you have to use the “page down” key to see them, buit almost all BIOSes have somewhere you can set boot priority options so keep looking.

Can you boot in DOS with access to the CD off a boot diskette?

Here are some boot diskette images

I do have a startup diskette, but the computer will not boot from it, only from the hard drive.

Press F5 or F8 when Starting Windows 95 appears after starting up (you usually have a 5 second window to press the button.) If you press F5, it will bypass your startup files (config.sys and autoexec.bat) and land you at the DOS prompt. Pressing F8 will prompt you at each step in the aforementioned files - the last step being Launch WIN.COM (answer No to land at the DOS prompt.)

You’d need a Win98 Boot disk - they boot to DOS with CD Rom Drivers installed.

Make sure your floppy drive is before the hard drive in the BIOS boot order.