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How to do a Windows 98 clean install
Author: Craig "hachiroku" Mercer
Date Created:2001-03-08
Operating System(s):Windows Logo imageWindows 9X

Before You Begin (You Will Need):

  • Windows 98 CD
  • Product Key code
  • Boot floppy w/ CD-ROM support!
    (If you are installing the FULL version, and not the UPGRADE, and if your computer supports it, you can boot directly from the CD itself).
  • Customer's Partitioning Preferences (C:, D:, E:, etc. and partition sizes)
  • Customer's Name and Organization
  • Customer's Default Printer (Manufacturer and Model)
  • If you are going to use an UPGRADE CD, you will need a Windows 3.1 setup disk or Windows 9x installation CD for the compliance check.
  • Any device driver CD's or floppies for hardware not recognized by Windows.

Check the Hard Drive setting in CMOS

For IDE hard drives you want the C: drive to be the 'Primary' device on the 'Master' channel. All modern IDE hard drives will work correctly (if they are correctly jumpered) if you set the CMOS setting for the Master Primary device to 'AUTO'.

Boot options...

If your computer supports booting from the CD-ROM drive (check CMOS boot options) and you have the FULL Windows 98 CD, go ahead and boot from the CD. The UPDATE CD's are not-bootable.

If you must boot from floppy, then your best option is to use the 'Microsoft Windows 98 Emergency Boot Disk' that comes with the CD.

If you don't have the Emergency boot floppy, you can make one. Go to a Windows 98 PC, 'Start | Settings | Control Panel | Add/Remove Programs | Startup Disk', and create one. Windows 98 will create a generic boot floppy that will work with most ATAPI CD-ROM drives and add a cabinet file to the floppy with all the DOS utilities you need, such as FDISK.EXE and FORMAT.COM. A batch file is also added that will create a RAM disk and extract all the utilities to it when you boot.

If you don't have a working Windows 98 PC at your disposal, you can use one running Windows 95 OSR2.x (B or C). (The original version of Windows 95 and the 'a' version, did not have FAT32 support, so the FDISK program will be of no use). Make the Startup Disk as above, but you will have to manually add the real mode device driver for your CD-ROM drive, add MSCDEX.EXE, and edit CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT to load the CD-ROM support. Also be sure to add FORMAT.COM and FDISK.EXE.

'Start the computer with CD-ROM support'

If you boot from the Windows 98 floppy or CD, select the option to boot with CD-ROM support. You will see a message stating that a RAM drive was created. If you are installing to a new hard drive, the RAM drive will be drive C: and you will see a message that 'Windows 98 has detected that drive C: does not contain a valid FAT or FAT32 partition...'

Partition the Hard Drive(s) with FDISK


Answer 'Y' for large disk support (this tells FDISK to create FAT32 partitions).
Select option 1: 'Create DOS partition or logical DOS drive
Select option 1: 'Create Primary DOS partition'
(Unless requested by the customer, we setup hard drives < 8.1GB as one partition).

If you have other hard drives in the system with data you want to retain, don't run FDISK on them!


Press ESCape to exit FDISK and re-boot the PC (again w/ CD-ROM support!).

Format the Hard Drive(s)

This time the RAM drive should move to the next available drive letter (D: if you created one partition). If you are not sure if FDISK was able to partition the whole hard drive, run FDISK again and use option 4 to view partition information.


FORMAT will show the size of the formatted drive, which will always be smaller than the size FDISK reported. The '/S' option will make the hard drive bootable.

Assign a Volume Label when prompted. We generally use either the machine name or customers last name. The Volume Label must be 11 characters or less; letters, numbers, underscores and spaces are OK.

Other partitions on the primary hard drive can be formatted now also. Don't format any other drives in the system that contain data you want to retain!

Make these Windows disk directories:


Copy Install Files to the Hard Drive

Insert the Windows 98 CD (in our examples following, we will assume it is drive E:)
Copy all the required setup files:


Now copy the contents of the CD's WIN9x directory for the Windows 98 setup files:


Start the Setup Program


The DOS version of SCANDISK will now run and check drive C:. When it is done, select 'Exit' and the graphical SETUP will load.

Enter the Product Key

For Windows 98, this is found on the Certificate of Authenticity, on the cover of the 'Getting Started' manual or a separate card. It is a 25-character string of alpha numerics arranged in groups of 5: XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX
(Tip: make a copy of this certificate for your records!)

(Optional) Upgrade Compliance Check

You will see this dialog box if you are installing from an UPDATE type CD. Insert the CD or floppy from your prior version of Windows and 'Browse' to the root directory.

Select Directory (Important Step!!!)

By default the SETUP program will offer to install in:

Don't do it! Select 'Other Directory' instead!
Next you will get a 'Change Directory' dialog. Change the install directory to:

Next you will get a warning you are going to overwrite files (even though there no files in the Windows directory to overwrite). Select 'YES' to continue.

Setup Options

Select the 'Custom' install!

User Information

Enter the customer name and company (organization).

Select Components

This is where you finally get the chance to install just what you want. Here are the most common selections we use which require about 313MB of hard drive:

Accessibility: ALL
Accessories: (Usually all but Briefcase)
Address Book: ALL
Communications: (Dial-Up Networking, Direct Cable Connect, HyperTerminal)
Desktop Themes: ALL (if hard drive is > 1GB)
Internet Tools: NONE (unless you are going to share Internet access via the LAN)
Multilanguage Support: NONE
hard drive is > 1GB)
Online Services: (usually ALL or NONE)
Outlook Express: ALL (if hard drive is > 1GB)
System Tools: (All but Disk Compression Tools, Drive Converter (FAT32), Backup, and Group Policies)
Web TV for Windows: NONE


If network support is loaded:

Computer Name: (8 characters - usually customer first or last name or workstation location)
Workgroup: 'WORKGROUP'
Computer Description: (make & model, CPU, or location on network)

Startup Disk

Don't make it yet, after the dialog box appears to insert a blank disk, select 'Cancel'.
Take out the boot floppy now! (We will make the boot floppy later on).

Coffee Break!

When the Setup program says it will 'Start Copying Files', this is your break time. This will take 20-40 minutes, depending on the speed of the PC. No intervention should be required until the Date/Time Properties dialog is displayed. Windows will automatically re-boot as needed during this phase.

Date/Time Properties

Be sure to set the Time Zone correctly and local time & date. Also check the Daylight Savings time box (at least if you are in Michigan).

Optional Dialogs

Other dialog boxes may now appear, depending on your options.
Network logon and Password: use first name of customer for logon , leave password blank.

If you are installing Windows 95, somewhere about here you will have to specify the printer manufacturer, model and port. You will need the driver disk(s) if Windows doesn't recognize it.

New Hardware Found...

This dialog will come and go as Windows loads drivers for hardware and plug and play devices it recognizes. You may be prompted to supply device driver files on floppies or CD's here.

Cleanup the Desktop

After the Setup is completed and Windows re-boots, you will get your first look at what a mess it made of the desktop. Remove any unwanted desktop shortcuts now (such as MSN...)

Check for Missing Device Drivers

Go into the Device Manager Control Panel and look for 'Other Devices'. These are hardware components that Windows could not identify and you will have to manually load drivers for.

Also look for any warning signs indicating resource conflicts, etc.

Setup Drive Letters for Removable Media

Bump up the drive letters for any removable media devices other than floppy drives (CD-ROMs, ZIP drives, LS-120 drives). Go into Device Manager, find the device and double-click it to bring up Properties dialog. Change the 'Settings'. Make 'Start' and 'End' drive letter the same.

We use 'R:' for CD-ROMs, 'Z:' for Zip Drives, 'L:' for LS-120 drives.

(Multiple CD changers will need a different 'End' letter, depending on how many drives you have).

After setting the drive letters and exiting the Control Panel you will have to re-boot.

Set the Folder Options

Open up 'My Computer' and check that the reassigned drive letters are correct.

Next, open up the C: drive, select 'View' and then 'Folder Options'. Check the box for 'Display the full path in Title Bar', then 'Show All Files' (temporarily for now), 'Show windows contents when dragging' and 'Smooth edges of screen fonts'.

Also be sure to Deselect 'Hide file extensions for known file types'.
Click 'Apply' and 'Close'.

Tweak the 'Send To' Menu...

Wouldn't it be nice to easily open files that you know contain just text, but don't have a .TXT extension?

Right-click the 'Start' button and select 'Explore'
Go to 'Start Menu | Programs | Accessories'
Copy the shortcut for 'Notepad'
Paste the shortcut into the 'Send To' folder (just above the 'Start Menu' folder).

Get Rid of the startup Splash Screen

If you have any errors during the DOS phase of your boot, you will never know it unless you disable the Windows splash screen (be sure you enabled viewing HIDDEN and SYSTEM files):

Open the C: drive (root folder)
Find the file: MSDOS.SYS and right-click it and select 'Properties'.
Turn off the Read-Only attribute, then 'Apply' and 'Close'
Right-click the MSDOS.SYS file again and select 'Send To' and then 'Notepad'
In the [Options] section add the following line:

(The last character is a zero).

If you want a handy boot menu, do the next step also before saving the file (recommended!).

Save the file.
Repeat the steps to get at the file properties and set it back to 'Read Only'

Go back to the Folder View Options and select 'Do not show hidden or system files'.

The splash screen will be gone the next time you re-boot.

(Optional)Give yourself a Boot Menu

If you have ever had trouble finding the right key stroke for booting to 'SAFE MODE', or you just want to boot to the DOS command prompt, add the follow lines in the [Options] section of the MSDOS.SYS file:

; HexFF Boot Menu

This menu will automatically default to a normal Windows boot in 10 seconds. If you press the ENTER key, it will continue booting imediately. Change the Boot Menu Delay if you want a different time limit. Before the timer expires you can select from Booting to the DOS prompt, Safe Mode, and other options.

(Optional) Kill the Scheduler

If you are not going to leave your computer on all night and use the Scheduler (it's usually the first icon on the left in the System Tray of the Task Bar), you can disable it and free up some resources: 'Start | Run | MSCONFIG | Startup' and deselecting the line that says 'Scheduling Agent C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM\mstask.exe'.

Make the Startup Disk!

Go to 'Start | Settings | Control Panel | Add/Remove Programs | Startup Disk' and make a boot floppy. Label it.

(Optional) Move the Swap file and make it permanent

If you have more than one hard drive, you can generally improve performance by moving the swap file.

Assigning a fixed size makes it a PERMANENT file which is more efficient when your disk starts to get fragmented. We use a general rule of thumb of 2.5 times your real RAM amount. For example, on a 64MB system we would size the swap file to 160MB.

Right-click 'My Computer', then 'Properties | Performance | Virtual Memory...' and 'Let me specify my own virtual settings'. Make the Min and Max the same, and if desired, move it to another hard drive. Windows will complain and give you warnings, but if you re-boot with no errors, it worked. If not, boot into 'Safe' mode and undo your settings. (You may also find it interesting to note that on most systems with at least 32MB of RAM, you can actually boot Windows with NO swap file. This is sometimes useful for defragging the hard drive before assigning a permanent swap file.)

You will also most likely want to change the properties of the Swap file (Win386.swp) and make it 'Hidden'.

Install any Missing Pieces

Windows 98 SE is missing the FrontPage Express application on the CD-ROM. It may be download from Microsoft's update web site:

Make Dates Y2K Friendly

Go to 'Start | Settings | Control Panel | Regional Settings' and change 'Short Date Style' to MM/dd/yyyy.

(Optional) Power User Enhancements

If you want all of the older MS-DOS commands to be available in a DOS window (such as HELP), copy the contents of the 'oldmsdos' directory on the install CD to C:\WINDOWS\COMMANDS.

(Optional) More Power User Enhancements

Install the TweakUI Control Panel from the install CD: \tools\reskit\powertoy. Note that Windows 98SE no longer includes TweakUI. There is a later version of TweakUI that works with Microsoft Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows 98 Second Edition, Windows Me, and Microsoft Windows 2000. To download the TweakUI 1.33 update, see the following Microsoft Web site:

Additional Resources

See the setuptip.txt file on the install CD. See C:\WINDOWS\Setup.txt.