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Win98 PC's need new hard drives

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February 13, 2011 9:27:51 PM

I work in a field that uses equipment based on older PC's with Win98. I need to come up with a plan to replace the hard drives in these pc's, typically 2-3GB. Any size drive over 2GB is fine but I am naturally having trouble overcoming the 8gb limit since all new drives are much larger. I should mention now that this is necessary because the equipment uses propriatary ISA bus interface cards that use hardware interupts of IRQ3, 5 or 12 only. I have tried at leasat 10 newer PC's and couldn't find even one that had any of these IRQ's available, hence the restriction to using an old pc. Flashing the BIOS with a newer one has proven fruitless because I have found none that support drives of 40gb or larger. Any ideas? I am trying to find someone who has actually done this and succeeded. Thanks.

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a c 415 G Storage
February 13, 2011 9:52:25 PM

I'm sorry I'm not able to offer you any concrete advice to solve your problem - but I just wanted to say that IMHO your effort would be better invested in replacing the systems with newer hardware/software. 10-year-old PCs are notoriously hard to source parts for, and the problem is only going to get worse in the future. Sooner or later you're going to have to bite the bullet, and chances are that now is as good a time as any.

The only suggestions I can offer are:

- look for a computer swap meet where you might be able to find older drives. Or the yellow pages may help you find a place that sells used computers who happens to have some old drives lying around.

- The ATA-4 protocol version introduced a feature called the Host Protected Area which effectively lets you set the maximum size of the hard drive as seen by the operating system using a special program. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Host_protected_area It's possible that if you buy a larger IDE drive and use this feature to set it's effective maximum size to 2GB it might work OK.
a b G Storage
February 13, 2011 11:16:01 PM

Windows 98SE supports FAT32 which can support hard drives up to 137Gig and there are ways around this limit. There is a 32Gig barrier that is due to limitations of the BIOS in older computers which is why older computer hard drives had a jumper to limit the size of the drive to 32Gig.
You should try this forum that is still active with lots of Windows98 users if you have further questions.
http://www.msfn.org/board/forum/8-windows-959898seme/
Related resources
a b G Storage
February 13, 2011 11:21:50 PM

There is no 8Gig limit; if you format the drives FAT16 (2Gig) then you can only have four partitions on the drive (8Gig).
February 14, 2011 1:34:13 AM

"... your effort would be better invested in replacing the systems with newer hardware/software".


Doubtful, since I am looking to replace the drives on 10 systems. Each system would cost about $200K to replace with a new one. That's $2 Million dollars. Still think I am wasting my time?

But perhaps a more fruitful path would be to try freeing up one IRQ on a new pc. Maybe I could remove or disable a peripheral chip? Like something I would not need?
a b G Storage
February 14, 2011 2:07:38 AM

You will find that modern computers will not run Windows 98 or Windows ME at all no matter what you do. EBay is a good source of old hardware as well as a computer repair shop as I have a pile of old drives <32Gig in my place.
February 14, 2011 2:13:41 AM

The msfn link you posted has an extensive list of MOBO's that are reported to work with Win98. I have fairly recently purchased a MOBO that indeed can and did run Win98 (until I upgraded). Perhaps you mean that current designs will not run it?
a b G Storage
February 14, 2011 2:22:57 AM

Yes I do mean current designs will not run Windows 98 and by current I mean any new motherboards designed in the past couple of years. I just had a look on eBay for hard drives <=32Gig and found only one 3.5” drives of this size. You may have better luck getting a laptop hard drive and a 2.5 to 3.5 drive converter cable as there was several of these for sale.
a c 415 G Storage
February 14, 2011 4:53:03 PM

GaryDoug said:
Each system would cost about $200K to replace with a new one. That's $2 Million dollars. Still think I am wasting my time?
If the systems are worth $200K each then I have to assume that they're supporting some process that's worth a heckuva lot more than that. And with 10 of them you're talking serious money indeed. What's the cost to the organization if these things stop working? Is it really a sound business practice to rely on something that's so old and difficult to support? $2 Million could be a bargain...

And sooner or later you'll be forced to replace that stuff. Do you expect that to be any cheaper the future?

It's your call, of course, I really have no idea of your situation. But your situation raises red flags for me and I suspect you really need a cost/risk analysis to make sure you're doing the right thing.
February 14, 2011 6:37:31 PM

You have a nice day....
February 14, 2011 7:48:08 PM

And it uses ISA cards? Hmm.... Well the only reasons you would be limited to 8GB is if the drivers are formated in FAT 16, I assume your using a driver image after all rather than trying to install them, or there is some BIOS limitation. I remember older PCs having that limitation, but that's like old Socket 5 Pentium 1 or Pentium Pro class machines. Some socket 7 boards would have like a 30 some odd BIOS limit that might change to 80 or so with a BIOS update.

You could buy some old machines with ISA slots that will run with windows 98. You're looking at older P3 systems or Athlon systems with KT133 and earlier chipsets. Latter chipsets for socket A dropped support for ISA and I don't believe the chipsets for the P4 had ISA either. With BIOS updates they should easily support cheap, larger IDE drives.

Anyway go on eBay and look up wholesale lots

http://computers.shop.ebay.com/Wholesale-Lots-/159260/i...

You can find lots of older hard drives as well as older computers. You can probably buy some P3 computers with ISA slots that will accept some cheap 80GB hard drives, or you can just get a lot of different sized hard drives that you can hopefully use. Also check your local craigs list.
February 14, 2011 7:56:16 PM

Seems like not too long ago I was still messing with old equipment that used Win 98 and Win ME. I don't even use anything that will run with those old OSs anymore :p . Well, my Athlon 3000+ can still use ME, but it would be kinda useless since the AGP 1950GT doesn't have Win 9x drivers :p .
February 21, 2011 1:34:45 AM

I have found a solution. I have evaluated 2 industrial-style motherboards and they both work with Win98, they both have a few hardware interrupts available and they both work with new hard disks. Cost per each is ~$1k-1.5k. What I needed was Win98, one interrupt, ISA slot, and a hard disk of current design (for future support). These deliver all that and will save my company about $1.98 million, including labor costs and new enclosures. They also have hardware-selectable cpu speeds which is required to support compatibility with older peripheral equipment like ours. Sorry, nobody here gets credit for this idea; it came from another forum.
a c 415 G Storage
February 21, 2011 2:05:44 AM

Could you let us know which motherboards you found in case someone else with the same problem stumbles across this thread?
!