(Preliminary – Continued)
Pentium III 733EB with Intel OR840 Chipset:
This machine is one of our latest custom workstations, and it utilizes the latest of the Intel motherboard chipsets, the OR840 with dual processor support. Without getting into infinite details, this machine is no slouch as it couples an Intel Pentium III 733EB processor to the Intel OR840 chipset and 256MB of Rambus memory. If the latest of the bells and whistles are your fancy, then this machine boasts most of them. It supports the ATA-66 drive specifications and utilizes 4 Maxtor 7200 RPM ATA-66 drives in removable drive trays. In addition, there is the latest Adaptec 29160 Ultra SCSI card an HP 9200i SCSI CD-Rom burner, a Creative Sound Blaster Live sound card (full with all attachments for external input/output) and the latest external U.S. Robotics v.90 Business Modem. The motherboard provides support for dual USB as well as an on-board Intel 10/100 network adapter. Although the keyboard is plain vanilla, we decided to install a trackball with 3 buttons in lieu of a mouse in order to see how Windows ME would react. Last but not least, we added a serial card as this particular motherboard comes with only one serial port.
Since this machines sports one of Intel’s latest chipsets and processors, it would be unlikely to find one running Windows 95, although you may find quite a few running Windows 2000 to take advantage of the dual processor capability. Nevertheless, to run our upgrade testing we decided to install Windows 98SE with all of its updates, fixes and patches. As a footnote, none of the Windows 9x versions have native support or drivers for processor identification above Intel’s 450MHz to 500MHz processor range. In addition, there’s no support for any of the Intel 800 series chipsets, such as the 810, 815, 820 and the 840, nor is there any support for the ATA-66 IDE bus. As a system builder, we deliver these machines ready to run, however we do caution any of you that do your own PC hardware updating and build-ups, that this combination of hardware normally involves a complicated Windows 98 installation.
Upgrade from WindowsÂ® 98 SE:
First, we want to preface the results of the upgrade by first describing the installation of Windows 98 Second Edition. Obviously, the preparation of the hard drives is common to all of the Windows 9x operating systems, in that you create the hard drive partitions, format them and then move on to installing the operating system. In the case of this system however, we determined that there were enough differences with the Intel 840 chipset on this motherboard to warrant the development of a detailed step-by-step method for installing the operating system and all of the necessary drivers. An order of doing things, if you will.
To enable us to load Windows 98 Second Edition correctly, we used the following process, which we describe only briefly here. It took us several formats and fresh installations to figure what worked best given the hardware makeup, and in what order. The importance of a prescribed method will be more obvious during the fresh installation of the Windows Millennium Edition.
- Determine if there are any Bios issues that apply to the motherboard, and update the Bios if necessary.
- Obtain and have ready all of the necessary drivers for all of the motherboard devices.
- Create fresh partitions and format all drives and transfer a minimal set of boot files.
- Boot to the “C” or installation drive to verify that it is bootable.
- Restart the system to a Windows 98 Boot Floppy with CD-Rom support.
- Run setup from the Windows 98 Installation CD.
- Apply the device drivers for the motherboard devices (OR840 chipset).
- Apply IDE Bus Master drivers and test the ATA-66 function.
- Load the drivers for all other devices.
- Test and verify all devices.
- Install third party software (Office 2000, WordPerfect etc.).
Following the above steps left us with a viable system to work with, especially with regard to performing the upgrade. It also gave us a baseline of insuring that everything functioned with respect to the new motherboard chipset and its on-board devices. While this may seem like the long way around, it does save time in the long run. Remember, whether your upgrading to the Windows Millennium Edition or installing Windows ME on a clean formatted hard drive, Windows ME is still a relatively unknown quantity with very little accurate experience information written about it at this time.
There was one more step to be performed before starting the upgrade, that of checking the system hardware (devices) against the Window Millennium Edition Hardware Compatibility List. We know what your thinking, we didn’t do this with the other systems, why do it now? Simple, the other systems and their hardware components have been around for some time now, and unless poor quality no-name components were being used, there was nothing to suggest that any of the hardware items would not be supported. However, in this case, checking the Microsoft Hardware Compatibility List for Windows ME was necessary, as most of the hardware components were recent releases, starting with the motherboard. Many of the hardware devices in this system were being released at about the same time as the release of Windows ME or during the latter stages of its development.
We found that the motherboard was not on the hardware compatibility list, nor were any of the on-board devices with the exception of the Intel 10/100 network card. We also found that neither the SCSI card, sound card, video card or modem appeared either. A quick check at Intel’s support site provided us with current Bios information (which we already had), as well as device drivers for the chipset, bus mastering and new ATA-66 drivers. Adaptec had new drivers for the SCSI card, which were Windows ME compliant. Both Creative and 3COM had current drivers releases for the sound card and modem, respectively. We were ready to go.
As we had done with all of the other test machines, we inserted the Windows ME CD into the drive and started the update. And, as before, Windows ME wanted nothing running in the background and asked that we restart the computer. The installer took a short time checking out the registry along with the devices that we had installed, and then proceeded with the installation. The upgrade completed without a hitch, so we decided to dig a little to see if everything was working as it had before. There were no surprises at all, other than the fact that the upgrade was flawless, right down to the installations of Office 2000 and WordPerfect. We need to stress at this point that it may take several days or longer to determine if there are any real issues with Office 2000 or WordPerfect such as those a daily user might not experience until days or weeks after the upgrade when, out of the blue, something decides it doesn’t want to work.
We attribute the success of this upgrade to the following factors:
- We started with a clean installation of Windows 98 and third party applications.
- We made sure that all of the drivers and files for each of the installed hardware devices were the most current available.
- We made sure that all of the hardware devices functioned as they were supposed to *before* starting the upgrade.
- We had no external hardware devices attached other than an external modem. There were no cameras, scanner, USB, Fire Wire or networking devices attached.
- Probably one of the single biggest factors was that there wasn’t an accumulation of temporary files, cookies or a bloated Windows registry.
The fresh installation of the Microsoft Windows Millennium Edition tends to validate what we learned above as it pertains to a step-by-step method of installation.
Clean installation on the Pentium III 733 with the OR840 Chipset:
As mentioned earlier, other than Intel’s latest motherboard and Rambus memory, this particular machine sports 4 Maxtor 20.4 gigabyte (ATA-66) hard drives, an Adaptec 29160N SCSI Card, a Hewlett Packard 9200i SCSI CD-RW burner, ATI’s latest All-in-Wonder 128 32MB AGP video card and Creative’s latest Sound Blaster Live sound card. Of course there are other devices such as a floppy drive, an external 3COM/U.S. Robotics 56k v.90 Modem, a 3 button trackball and an add-on serial port card.
The procedure we use for building up a new system, or working out a new design, is not unlike that described elsewhere on our site. We install the hard drive partitions on new drives, format them with a format c:/s command to transfer basic boot files and then boot to the hard drive to make sure that it boots. From there we then load a basic operating system image using Drive Image Pro in order to install our hardware testing software. This provides us with a known good operating system for this hardware setup before we begin. Since we always test hardware in our quality control department before we build a unit, our final check requires a hardware test to be done in the assembled system. After the hardware burn-in and testing occurs, we do our final operating system load and then add necessary updates and fixes. With this is mind, let’s get on with how Windows ME handles a build-up such as this.
Normally, as an original equipment manufacturer (OEM), we use a special setup boot floppy that accompanies the OEM versions of the Windows operating system, or we image the OEM install files to the hard drives before assembly. A similar setup disk also accompanies all of the full retail versions of the other Windows operating systems. In this instance, we chose to approach the fresh installation as though were the end user who wanted to upgrade to Windows ME, but wanted to do so with a fresh installation.
Therefore, the criteria we followed was as follows:
- Hardware checked to insure no physical problems.
- Verification of the hardware against the Windows ME Hardware Compatibility List (HCL).
- Current motherboard bios.
- Freshly formatted hard drives.
- Drivers for all devices at hand, either on floppy or CD-Rom disk, including the motherboard chipset and ATA-66 drivers.
- We would approach the installation as if we were the typical home, home office or small office user, *without the benefit of OEM resources and work-arounds*.
Before we started the fresh install, we took note of the following potential problems.
- The 3 button trackball came only with Windows 95 and Windows NT 4 drivers.
- The add-in serial port card came only with Windows 95 drivers.
- All other drivers were alleged to be Windows 95/98 compatible, but no mention of the Windows Millennium Edition and the respective manufacturers sites did not offer any information regarding Windows ME.
- We had a Windows 95 CD (full version), a Windows 98SE upgrade CD and two Windows 98 Startup Boot Disks.
We started the installation process by inserting the Windows 98 Startup Boot Disk into the floppy drive and rebooted the system. When the boot menu came up we chose to boot “with CD-Rom drive support” so that we would be able to access the HP CD-RW drive and use it as a CD-Rom drive for the installation.
Much to our surprise, not only did we not get the normal CD-Rom drive support (obviously since there were no IDE CD-Rom drives installed), we also did not have access to the SCSI CD-RW either. The Windows 98 Startup Boot Disk comes not only with IDE CD-Rom drivers, but it also comes with SCSI devices drivers to enable SCSI (Small Computer System Interface) support. We removed this startup disk and tried the second one, same problem, no SCSI support. This presented us with a problem that caused some head scratching, as not only couldn’t we install Windows ME, we couldn’t install anything. This is essentially the same problem a user would face had they purchased a new system with Windows 98SE pre-installed, they format their hard drives and then expect to install their operating system only to find out they can’t. Okay, what did we miss?
After allot of reading, searching and checking hardware and cables, we sat their thinking that all of this hardware works, we’ve used it before, what’s different. Adaptec always uses their default driver package for their cards, so that can’t be the problem could it? Then it occurred to us that this particular system style uses one of the new Adaptec 29160 Ultra 160 SCSI cards, and we wondered if Adaptec had changed its drivers from those they had shipped with all of their other SCSI cards. Sure enough, the drivers were different. Okay, but we’re supposed to be doing this like a typical user without resources. Our options were limited to finding someone with a computer and using it to access Adaptec’s driver site, or calling Adaptec to order the drivers and await their arrival by mail. We opted for the first choice and downloaded what we needed and added the drivers to the Windows 98 Startup Boot Disk. Keep in mind that, as an inexperienced user, this might be enough for you to pull your hair out, not to mention calling Adaptec or HP and telling them their hardware doesn’t work. And before you start thinking about booting to the CD, forget about it, this is a SCSI based CD drive remember! Okay, on with the installation.
After restarting the system with the revised boot disk, we now had access to the SCSI Bus along with the HP CD-RW drive. Typically, we began setup from the CD as you would with any of the other Windows operating systems. Everything appeared to go along smoothly, and we did nothing to intervene during the process. Windows ME did its final reboot and presented us with its new media technology screen, the only problem we detected immediately was that there was no sound. After waiting for the media screen to finish, we began to snoop around in Control Panel’s Device Manager, and as expected, there were a bunch of those yellow question marks by various devices to contend with.
We went through each device area in Device Manager regardless of whether there was a yellow question mark or not. We found:
- Not all of the sound devices had been found and their respective drivers loaded.
- The video card had been detected as an ATI, but none of the current All In Wonder drivers were loaded.
- The correct motherboard devices had not been loaded.
- ATA-66 support was not present.
- The modem had not been detected.
- The serial card had not been detected.
- The Trackball had been recognized as a PS/2 mouse.
Since we have already seen these issues many times over the years, we already had a game plan in place to enable all of these devices. To make it easier for you, we’ll share here what we did and then review it again in our summary at the end.
When working with a recently released motherboard, especially one that relies on a new chipset design, in this case the Intel OR840, the first device issues that should be resolved are those that apply to the motherboard itself. Remember, the chipset drivers control all of the components on the motherboard, including memory, CPU functions and slots for add-in cards, PCI and ISA. If you don’t resolve motherboard device issues first, in all likelihood these issues will mask issues involving your add-in cards. The windows installer, if it doesn’t fully recognize the motherboard chipset, will install the best set of drivers it can find. A *best guess*, if you will, on the part of the installer. This information is typically found in a basic machine INF file installed during setup. When you use a motherboard with a relatively new chipset, they manufacturer normally provides a disk of some sort with a new machine INF file to describe its configuration and components to Windows.
Clearing Motherboard Devices Issues:
Intel provides a CD or floppy disk with any drivers necessary for the installation of one of its motherboards, providing that the motherboard is a new “boxed” version, usually referred to as a “retail” version. Intel also makes available “white box” versions for OEM’s and other system builders that do not include drivers. In this case, we had a CD with drivers for the chipset as well as ATA-66 support for the IDE bus. We also made a point to download the most recent versions of these files before starting our installation. We started the installation of the chipset drivers, and everything was nearly automated. Intel does a great job with their installer, as Windows ME detected the new machine.inf right away. Installing the ATA-66 drivers involved a 2-step process, first that of installing the bus-mastering drivers and then the support for the ATA-66 protocols. After a restart, all of the motherboard devices were load as per Intel’s manual, and Windows ME handled it perfectly.
ATI All In Wonder 128 Pro AGP 32MB:
When Windows ME located this video card, it loaded the standard ATI All In Wonder Pro drivers, which was an apparent fix over those that had been loading with the earliest version of Windows 98. When installing Windows 98, the installer would incorrectly identify the All In Wonder card as an ATI Rage II+. In any event, we inserted the ATI CD and then went into the Display Properties and updated the driver and then loaded the open GL drivers that were designed for this particular video card. This resolved the video adapter issue without much difficulty.
Add-in Cards – Serial Port:
Why Intel only included one serial port on this high-end motherboard still amazes us, nevertheless, many customers require that their systems have two serial ports for functionality purposes. Another factor in this hardware mix is the fact that Microsoft’s Hardware Compatibility List does not address these types of add-in cards specifically, therefore we would recommend that if you have such a device, make sure that it is the best you can afford, as you will need driver support if Windows 98 or Windows ME specific drivers are not supplied with the card.
In this particular instance, Windows ME refused to recognize this serial port (card) for what it was, just a serial port. After a few hours trying to force Windows ME to correctly recognize the card, we finally determined that the Bios Intel installed on this motherboard would not recognize the device in the PCI slot correctly, thereby not informing Windows ME of the device’s characteristics. After contacting the manufacturer, we were provided with a software workaround to resolve the issue. In fairness to Microsoft and to Windows ME, this is not a Windows ME issue, but rather an issue at the Bios level that should be rectified in the near future. Unfortunately the manufacturers of these inexpensive add-in cards rarely make them plug and play compatible, therefore most of the Windows 9x based operating systems will have some difficulty with them. It comes down to the same issue that we’ve discussed throughout these pages, make certain that you validate your hardware before migrating to the Windows Millennium Edition.
3COM/U.S. Robotics 56k v.90 Business Modem (external):
This was the easiest of the problems to resolve. We let Windows ME know there was a modem and let it search. It found what it believed to be the modem and asked us for the drivers, which we provided by way of the CD disk. After the installation of the modem, we tested its functionality, and it worked perfectly.
Creative Labs Sound Blaster Live (Full Retail Version):
While Windows ME provided us with the default Sound Blaster drivers, they weren’t enough to enable the Sound Blaster Live components on this quality sound card. We decided that we would follow a procedure by which we would remove any sound devices, including those with the yellow question marks, in Device Manager and then install the Creative software as per the manufacturers instructions. After deleting the items in Device Manager, we inserted the Creative CD-Rom disk and anticipated its startup screen. It took a while for the screen to come up, but when it did and we clicked on the installation icon, nothing! It just froze. We attempted a default installation, nothing! We then tried a custom installation, and when we tried to uncheck some of the components to be installed, the installer froze again. After an hour or more, this issue was becoming aggravating, and we can easily see why users would become frustrated with the entire process.
To see if we could possibly get around the problem, we created directories on the hard drive identical to those on the Creative CD and copied the entire contents of the CD to the hard drive and attempted to start the installation from there. Still a no go! We decided to escalate the problem to that of contacting Creative’s Technical Support area. After another hour or so of convincing their technical support person that the hardware was not the issue and that the CD Rom drive was just fine, as was the Creative CD, we finally were able to speak with someone who had seen this problem before.
Apparently the Creative installer has a problem with processor speeds in excess of 700MHz and bus speeds above 100MHz, not withstanding possible issues involving the Rambus memory architecture. The second tier technical support person we were dealing with arranged for a special download of all of the software we needed, including an updated installer. It worked perfectly, and Creative’s Sound Blaster Live components had nestled themselves nicely into the Device Manager. We are told that these updates will be available before these pages hit our web site.
Qtronix Libra 90 Trackball:
Many times our custom workstations are configured with special hardware to accommodate the needs of the user who is purchasing it. Whether it’s a special design pad for graphics and CAD work, or a special Trackball or mouse configuration, we try wherever possible to accommodate the users needs, right down to writing special drivers if need be. In this case, the user needed a Trackball that had all of the features of the Trackball already in use, but in this instance, it had to have a PS/2 connector interface rather than serial. There were many Trackball styles available, but only one suited the purpose, the Qtronix Libra 90, but it only had basic Windows 95 drivers.
We felt we would give the installation a try and see how well Windows ME could handle this issue. At the worst, our technical department would have to write new drivers. At best, everything would work perfectly. Initially, Windows ME would only recognize the Trackball as a common mouse. We tried every possible configuration available on the Windows ME CD, and nothing seemed to work. We then decided to install the Windows 95 drivers and see what happens. Oddly enough, Windows ME not only allowed the drivers to be installed, it then correctly identified the Trackball. Not only did the Trackball work as designed, but the accompanying software worked perfectly as well.
These tests taught us allot about Microsoft’s new Windows Millennium Edition, much of which may never be found in a Knowledge Base Article or on a newsgroup somewhere. If you would like to see part of what we learned as well as some problem avoidance and problem resolution issues, then continue on to our summary.
|To review our summary..||