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How stable is your Windows 98?

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First post, by BoozerDawg

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So I started up an old Windows 98 PC I had, fresh install of Windows 98 SE, no further updates than that, just chipset, audio, USB, GPU drivers (44.03) and latest possible DirectX isntallation.

I do find after installing some games, sometimes they might crash on first start up, sometimes I get a Kernel32 error or rarely Explorer has crashed. Now and then I may get a game that just freezes mid game (rare) and moving the mouse or touching the keyboard, the PC speaker makes a noise. A restart of the machine and we are back in business.

I wondered how normal was this? My first PC was Windows 98 years and years and years ago, and I was a complete tech dunce at the time, so things crashing back then I assumed I did something wrong. Nowadays .... well tech support is my job so I'd like to thing I've come a long way since then, and my main concern is, is it Windows 98 just being the way it was, or is it my hardware causing this? I installed XP on the machine to test, and that was rock solid. No crashing or errors at all, so I'm leaning towards it just being Windows 98, but wanted to see if others, who know their hardware is good, have similar things happen to them.

My specs -

Sempron 3000+ Socket A
ASRock K7NF2-RAID
256MB Memory (Was 512MB, took out 1 stick to play it safe)
GeForce 4200Ti 64MB
80GB WD IDE HDD

Reply 1 of 57, by jheronimus

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I find Win98 to be really stable — I don't think I've ever gotten a BSoD or system freeze. The only major thing is for some reason unofficial Windows 98 service pack causes My Computer to not display any icons — some issue with Active Desktop. Not a huge thing, because I use Total Commander for file management, but reaching Control Panel is a bit tricky.

That being said, I think that if I used the system daily for everything (not just games), things wouldn't be as stable. Windows tends to get buggy when you introduce Internet, frequent hardware changes, software additions and various system tools. Typically, I don't add a single part to the working system — I rebuild it from ground up and get a clean installation of Windows.

Reply 2 of 57, by canthearu

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Frankly, windows 98 is pretty poor in respect to stability.

More than a few times, I have rendered a Windows 98 install completely borked through software/hardware installation.

Although, the OP should run some hardware tests to see if his hardware is operating correctly (memory and graphics stress tests), as often people with dodgy hardware simply blamed their problems on windows 98.

Reply 3 of 57, by collector

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Reply 4 of 57, by jesolo

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canthearu wrote:

Frankly, windows 98 is pretty poor in respect to stability.

More than a few times, I have rendered a Windows 98 install completely borked through software/hardware installation.

Although, the OP should run some hardware tests to see if his hardware is operating correctly (memory and graphics stress tests), as often people with dodgy hardware simply blamed their problems on windows 98.

Second that. When I used Windows 98SE as my main OS in the late 90's & early 2000's, it served me well.

In most cases an unstable Windows 98SE installation can be attributed to faulty hardware (memory, motherboard, etc.) or some dodgy drivers for one or more devices that is attached to your PC.

Reply 6 of 57, by BinaryDemon

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I always felt that gaming really stressed Win9x more than anything else. Always had to reboot at least once a day.

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Reply 7 of 57, by Baoran

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Back in late 90s I had to reboot my win98 pc about once every 2-3 weeks because it became unstable. That is unstable compared to winxp and win7 because I have never been forced to reboot because of unstability with those.

Reply 8 of 57, by Jo22

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Back in the early 2000s, I had got most bluescreens with 98SE (which was released mid-'99).
Most which were either related to broken drivers, the dependency on MMX/SSE that my CPU had no support for or missing features in kernel32.
Funnily, my father's 386DX40 w/ Win95 RTM never crashed (as far as I kan remember).
Before 98SE, I encountered the harmless kind of blue screens in Windows 3.x a few times.
- The kind of which you can close the application and continue. I was running the 286 kernel by then.

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Reply 9 of 57, by dionb

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jesolo wrote:

[...]

Second that. When I used Windows 98SE as my main OS in the late 90's & early 2000's, it served me well.

In most cases an unstable Windows 98SE installation can be attributed to faulty hardware (memory, motherboard, etc.) or some dodgy drivers for one or more devices that is attached to your PC.

Yep. That also explains why people's experiences differ so much. If you had a nice clean install on well-supported hardware with well-behaved drivers, it was rock solid. If however you had a nasty mix of .vxd and .wdm drivers, some in a state they never should have been released in, and you also were running software mucking around in the internals of the OS (Norton Antivirus...), you would have a nightmare.

Windows 98SE itself was stable enough, but for an OS of its complexity, the lack of failsafes to stop misbehaving code or hardware screwing things up (let alone clueless users making things worse) was definitely a very weak point of the OS.

Reply 11 of 57, by canthearu

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dionb wrote:

Windows 98SE itself was stable enough, but for an OS of its complexity, the lack of failsafes to stop misbehaving code or hardware screwing things up (let alone clueless users making things worse) was definitely a very weak point of the OS.

It is easy to criticize the direction microsoft went with Windows 95/98, but the reality was that performance, the ability to run on poorly equipped computers, and compatibility with old software was far more important for mainstream computer users than pure stability and robustness.

Reply 12 of 57, by PTherapist

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I always remember buying a brand new Pentium III PC in the late 1990s. We had to take it back to the store as it had a faulty floppy drive haha.

But anyway it meant I had 1 night to play around with it and during that time Windows 98 SE managed to completely obliterate itself, as if it's registry had gotten corrupted. I'm guessing that PC had deeper hardware issues than just a failed floppy drive.

For the most part with 98 over the years, BSODs did happen and it needed rebooting often but was generally adaquate for most needs. It was never as stable as the NT line obviously, but nor was it as unstable as ME on certain systems.

Reply 14 of 57, by brostenen

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With stable drivers, I only see a stable Win98. Though I must say that you need 98se and not 98.

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Reply 15 of 57, by elod

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I could not get it stable on my last attempt. Granted, it was with the rather finicky MVP3 and I did not spend a week with uninstalling and reinstalling the recommended versions of drivers.
The same board/config works just fine on Win2k with less effort.

Reply 16 of 57, by dr_st

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My Win98 SE system is about 18 years old. I now turn it on about 5 times a year. It crashes about 7 times a year.

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Reply 17 of 57, by torindkflt

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It's been a very long time since I last seriously used Win98, not since I I switched to Win2K in 2001. Admittedly time has fogged my memory, but I recall Win98 being somewhat unstable on my Compaq Presario 2200...but I just wrote that out as the computer itself being crappy, because not even Win2K ran well on that system (Early MediaGX systems never really had rock-solid driver support for any version of Windows it seems). Conversely, on my laptop upgraded from Win95C to Win98, stability seemed perfectly fine. Likewise when I upgraded our old 486 from Win95RTM to Win98, it seemed to do ok, as did the newer HP shipped with Win98 pre-installed that replaced it.

I've currently got an IBM Aptiva from ~1998 that has Win98 on it. I have not used it enough yet to really be able to judge it, but from what little I have done with it, it seems fine. AFAIK it's the original factory install too, never been reformatted.

I've never owned a computer with Win98SE on it though, I've always had only FE, so I don't know how much better or worse SE is from a stability standpoint.

Reply 19 of 57, by appiah4

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My K6-2 Win9x system is rock solid but my P3-700 Win Me system can behave strangely (on occasion locks up on desktop right after boot etc) that I think is more motherboard related than OS related (parrially recapped BX2000 bosrs that never ran stably with a Voodoo 3 despite having headers to accomodate for ita power draw..) which promoted me to replace it with a Socket 370 insted - that runs Win Me perfectly.

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