Microsoft Windows 98 nostalgia in a VMWare Player

There a many reasons to be grateful for the progress been made since Microsoft Windows 98, but sometimes we just want to peek back in a history of nostalgia. Recently I have found back a number of CD’s that I got once as a bonus with a PC I bought in 1995. One of this CD’s was 500 Nations from the series Microsoft Home. It is a multi-media CD about the native North American Indians, hosted by Kevin Costner.

Microsoft Home, 500 nations

Unfortunately this CD doesn’t play in a Windows 8 system and therefor I decided to install Windows 98 SE in a VMWare Player. Well that wasn’t so hard. Since I had not any copy of a Windows 98 CD anymore I found one with this link. It is still not legal to copy ISO’s from licensed programs, but for this single purpose I took my chances.

Installing the ISO is like installing an old PC

After downloading the ISO you just create a new virtual machine in your VMWare Player called Windows 98 SE. You create 2 CD players. One for the (virtual) Windows 98 ISO and one for playing the 500 nations CD (or any other physical CD’s). It is helpful to have the Windows 98 (virtual) CD available after you have installed the operating system, for the installation of additional drivers you don’t have to swap constantly the CD image in your CD player. The Windows 98 period was a period of Megabytes rather than Gigabytes so you don’t have to reserve too much space for this.

Winzip and Flash

Please be aware that appropriate additional software like Flash Player and Winzip have to be found on the internet. The best way is to find the proper releases with the browser of the host (your PC) and drag and drop the downloaded files to your VMWare Windows 98 and then install them.

VMWare Player Windows 98 Settings

Special attention for the default soundcard

VMWare player, soundcard

To have sound within Windows 98 it is important that you keep the setting to “Use default host sound card”, for this will emulate a Sound Blaster Ensoniq AudioPCI soundcard. Don’t set the sound to your own card, for it is likely that there are no drivers available for it.

It was a bit of a puzzle to have the right drivers for Windows 98 and the VMWare player, but here you have a link to the ZIP file with the drivers that I used. Any other Soundblaster drivers gave me a lot of blue screens in Windows 98.

Installation of Windows 98

Now you can start your virtual machine and the process is the same as installing Windows 98 on a PC. And very surprising, it took almost as long as it did in the old days (about 40 minutes). During the installation you can also download the VMWare Tools for Windows 98.

It is important that you do this, for otherwise you will end up with a standard graphics card, with limited resolution. After the download of the VMWare tools it will tell you that you have to click for installation after you have finished the installation of Windows 98. So have a little patience here.

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You can always install the VMWare tools from the VMWare Player menu. The VMWare Tools make it also possible to drag and drop files from your host system (PC) to your VMWare Player. That is easy for many websites are not very friendly for old browsers.

DNS setting for internet connection

After the installation of Windows 98 is done, you have to activate the software. You can simply use the CD key here. If you have followed the link to download the Windows 98 ISO, it will come with a text file containing this key. It worked for me.

If you have problems with the network regarding internet access, I have modified the DNS IP address to 8.8.8.8, which is Google. I have not plans to extend this experiment beyond entertainment level anyway, so the Google DNS is working just fine. To change the network settings you have to right mouse click on the “Network Neighborhood” and choose properties.

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Click on Properties

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Click on DNS Configuration

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Add a DNS (8.8.8.8). You can only do this when you include a host and domain. I just entered some name with no further connection to any other infrastructure.

Install Firefox a second browser

By default Windows 98 SE is installed with Internet Explorer 4.0. That was a modern browser then, but doesn’t work well with modern websites and comes with a lot of JavaScript error popups. So it is not bad idea to install the latest Firefox that was available for Windows 98. You will find the executable for Firefox version 2 here: link.

Don’t expect that websites work as smoothly as they do in new versions of your favorite browsers. Old browsers have a slow JavaScript engine and there are a number of runtime errors that simply refer to code that was not supported at the time. And HTML 5 was not even born then, neither was jQuery.

Firefox version 2

Now let’s have some nostalgia

After you have installed the operating system and the soundcard, you should be able to have your “old” CD’s play again. This is how the amazing 500 nations from Microsoft looked in 1995.

Before you judge somebody, first walk a mile in his shoes

Links

VMWare Player information about sound in Windows 98
Download ISO images of Microsoft operating systems (not legal)

Johan van de Merwe
Dedicated to professional software development since 1985. Has worked since 1992 as IT manager in several international operating companies. Since 2007 CEO and Sencha Ext JS web application developer at Enovision GmbH.

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