Troubleshooting Windows 98

Troubleshooting Windows 98®

Basic Windows 98 Troubleshooting Procedures

The following provides you with basic instructions for troubleshooting problems that may occur when running Windows 98.

Important! Create a Startup Disk, and verify that it works before you need it, and we would prefer that you create and test two Startup Disks for even better protection!

Important! Use Registry Checker (ScanRegW) often to backup system configuration files. A good time for backing up files and updating the Startup Disk is before you install new devices and applications, when you have a well running installation of Windows 98.

Checking for Free Disk Space

Running out of space on the disk drive used for temp and swap files can cause a variety of installation errors and problems. If you need more disk space, see the troubleshooting aid for disk space problems in Windows 98 Help.

To check for free space, try the following:

  • Click Start, point to Programs, Accessories, System Tools, and then click System Information to view the total and available disk space.

  • Use the chkdsk drive command at the command prompt to display the available disk space in the Bytes Available on Disk line.

  • Use the dir drive command at the command prompt to view the bytes free at the end of the DIR display.

You may want to check the swap file settings:

  • Click Start, point to Programs, Accessories, System Tools, and then click System Information to view the location of the swap file and the available disk space on that drive.

    – Or –

    In Control Panel, double-click System, click the Performance tab, and then click Virtual Memory.


    By default, Windows 98 manages the virtual memory settings automatically. Changing these settings manually can adversely affect system performance. The recommended setting in this dialog box is to let Windows manage virtual memory settings.

You may want to check for lost allocation units on the hard drive from a command line:

  1. Press and hold down the left CTRL key during system startup to access the Windows Startup menu, and when it appears, select Command Prompt Only.

    Note: Selecting Safe Mode Command Prompt Only will not load the extended memory driver Himem.sys. The MS-DOS version of ScanDisk requires Himem.sys be loaded to check FAT32 drives.

  2. Run ScanDisk from the \Windows\Command directory, and specify the drive to inspect. For example, you would type SCANDISK C:\ to inspect the C:\ drive. ScanDisk detects lost allocation units and prompts you to recover them as files. The files will have a .chk extension.

You may want to check the TEMP variable:

  1. At the command prompt, type set to display the TEMP variable.

  2. Verify that the TEMP variable points to a valid drive and directory. Check for free disk space on the drive that contains the TEMP directory. If you are printing multiple copies of a large document, or printing large PostScript documents, increase the minimum available free disk space.

Checking for Disk Corruption

If any of the key operating system data structures are damaged, they will prevent the system from starting up. These structures include the master boot record, the boot sector, the file allocation table, and the core operating system files.


Back up key data files before performing any disk repair operations. Do not run any disk utilities that are not specifically designed for Windows 98. Earlier versions of disk repair utilities may not work properly in Windows 98, therefore to prevent possible data loss, use a disk utility, such as ScanDisk, that is specifically designed for Windows 98.

Always check for disk corruption with Safe Mode Command Prompt Only!

  1. Restart the computer, pressing and holding down the left CTRL key when the Starting Windows 98 message appears, and then select the Safe Mode Command Prompt Only option.

    Note: Selecting Safe Mode Command Prompt Only will not load the extended memory driver Himem.sys. The MS-DOS version of ScanDisk requires Himem.sys be loaded to check FAT32 drives.

  2. Change to the \Windows\Command directory, and then type scandisk. This method also checks and repairs the file allocation table.

  3. If corruption is detected, you may need to replace system files. Do do this, use the “System File Checker”.

Always Check for Correct File Versions!

With Windows 98, you can use System File Checker (SFC) to look for system files that have been changed by applications. You can configure System File Checker to notify you when a change is discovered. System File Checker will prompt you to restore the original file from the installation source of your Windows 98 files.

The System File Checker also scans for specific system files for corruption, changes, and to determine if they have been deleted. When configured to do so, it prompts you to restore the original Windows 98 system files.

In order to scan system files:

  1. Click Start, point to Programs, Accessories, and System Tools, and then click System Information.

  2. Select the Tools menu.

  3. Click System File Checker.

  4. Click Scan for altered files and then click Start.

You can also view a file’s properties to determine its version number and other information such as its date. You can use this information to determine whether a DLL or other system file is mismatched to your system.

To view information about a system file:

  1. In Windows Explorer, right-click the file name, and then click Properties in the context menu.

  2. For a supporting or executable file, click the Version tab. Use the Other Version Information list to see details about the file.

Replacing Corrupted Files

If you have isolated a corrupted file, use System File Checker to restore a working file.

To replace a corrupted file:

  1. Click Start, point to Programs, Accessories, and System Tools, and then click System Information.

  2. Select the Tools menu and then click System File Checker.

  3. Select Extract one file from installation disk to restore the original system file, select the file to extract, and then click Start.

  4. Ensure the path to Restore from: is correct and click OK.

  5. In the Backup File dialog box, either accept the default or change the path.

  6. If a dialog box appears explaining the folder does not exist, click Yes. System File Checker finishes extracting the file and notifies you when it completes the action. Click OK to return to System File Checker.

Updating System Files and Drivers

Windows Update is the Web extension of Windows 98, and is designed to help you keep your computer’s files updated and your computer operating better. Windows Update contains a central catalog of new product enhancements, service packs and new Windows features. In addition, Windows Update lets you update system files and device drivers specific to your computer as they become available.

Check the Entries in Startup Files

The Config.sys and Autoexec.bat files contain system startup drivers, settings, and paths, and you may need to verify the accuracy of these entries. Use the System Configuration Utility to check entries in files.

Using Windows 98 Command-Line Switches

Starting Windows 98 with command-line switches is an effective method for isolating issues with your configuration. The switches should be used for troubleshooting only. Use the information to modify your existing configuration and eliminate the conflict. The following switches are available to start Windows 98 from the command prompt:

win [/d:[f] [m] [s] [v] [x]]

To use the command-line switches:

  1. Start Safe Mode by starting the computer and pressing and holding down the left CTRL key as Windows 98 starts.

  2. Choose Command Prompt Only at the Windows 98 Startup menu.

  3. Start Windows 98 using the troubleshooting command-line switches by typing win /d: at the command prompt, and adding the appropriate switches

The /d: switch is used for troubleshooting when Windows 98 does not start correctly. The switches in Table 27.11 can be used with the /d: switch.

Typical Windows 98 command-line switches

Switch Description
f Turns off 32-bit disk access. This is equivalent to disabling the hard disk controller(s) in Device Manager. Try this if the computer appears to have disk problems, or if Windows 98 stalls. This is equivalent to 32BitAccess=FALSE in System.ini.
m Starts Windows 98 in Safe Mode.
s Specifies that Windows 98 should not use ROM address space between F000:0000 and 1 MB for a break point. Try this if Windows 98 stalls during system startup. This is equivalent to SystemROMBreakPoint=FALSE in System.ini.
v Specifies that the ROM routine will handle interrupts from the hard disk controller. This is equivalent to VirtualHDIRQ=FALSE in System.ini.
x Excludes all of the adapter area from the range of memory that Windows 98 scans to find unused space. This is equivalent to EMMExclude=A000-FFFF in System.ini. If this switch resolves the issue, you may have a conflict in the upper memory area (UMA) that requires an Exclude statement.

Note: Each of the System.ini file entries referenced above belongs the [386Enh] section of the System.ini file.

Troubleshooting Problems with System Startup

If your computer fails to start Windows 98, start the computer in Safe Mode to try to resolve the problem. Starting in Safe Mode can help you resolve issues that occur when you cannot start Windows 98 normally. Some of these issues include, as an example:

  • Setup hangs during the first reboot.
  • Error messages.
  • Hanging.
  • Loss of functionality.

Starting in Safe Mode bypasses the current real-mode configuration and loads a minimal protected-mode configuration, disabling Windows 98 device drivers and using the standard VGA display adapter.

If the issue does not occur in Safe Mode, there may be a conflict with some of your hardware settings, real-mode configurations, incompatibilities with legacy Windows programs or drivers, or the registry may be damaged.

From within Safe Mode, use the following tasks to find a problem in startup. Many of these steps require changes to system configuration files. The changes are not intended to be permanent; they are techniques for isolating the conflict that resulted in an issue with the normal configuration.

Note: Before making any changes, make sure that you have created a Windows 98 Startup Disk if you do not already have one. Use Add/Remove Programs in Control Panel to create a Startup Disk. Make certain that it works!

To troubleshoot system startup in Safe Mode

  1. Start Safe Mode by starting the computer and pressing and holding down the left CTRL key as Windows 98 starts. Determine if the symptom is alleviated.

  2. Start Microsoft System Configuration Diagnostic Startup. If the Microsoft System Configuration Diagnostic Startup begins, then check “Using the System Configuration Utility” in Windows Help or check at our Technical Help section. If Microsoft System Configuration Diagnostic Startup does not start, continue to step 3 of this procedure.

  3. Enable these Windows Diagnostic switches in Microsoft System Configuration Advanced options:

    • Disable System ROM Breakpoint
    • Disable Virtual HD IRQ
    • EMM Exclude A000-FFFF
    • Force Compatibility mode disk access

  4. Check protected-mode device configuration:

    • Check Microsoft System Information Problem Devices category to find problems.

    • Check Device Manager to disable device drivers to test and/or correct the configuration.

  5. If you suspect a corrupt registry, use scanreg /restore to get a known good backup of the registry.

  6. Check for device conflicts in Microsoft System Configuration’s Conflicts/Sharing category below Hardware Resources.

  7. Check for an outdated or damaged VxD by examining Bootlog.txt, and then do the following:

    • If it is in the Windows System\Iosubsys directory, rename it.

    • If it has a .386 filename extension, examine the [386Enh] section of System.ini and remark out its lines. When renaming VxDs, be sure to change the .vxd extension. Windows 98 loads all files in the Iosubsys subdirectory that have a .vxd extension.

    • If it is in Vmm32.vxd, check the \Windows System\Vmm32 directory for a Vmm32 file, and rename or move it.

If you have to restore the Registry:

With the introduction of Windows 98 comes all of the new tools developed to make maintaining Windows 98 easier than ever. On such tool is the Registry Checker, which scans the registry for corruption and backs up configuration files once a day. This utility maintains multiple backup sets of the registry that can be restored as required. As an example, you might restore a previous day’s backup if you have installed something on your computer with undesirable results but it did not corrupt the registry. In that event, you could run ScanReg /Restore to return the system to what it was the previous day. ScanReg is the MS-DOS-based Registry Checker.

ScanReg provides and maintains a list of available backups and indicates whether the system configuration files stored in the “CAB” have been used to start Windows 98 successfully. Generally, you should choose the CAB file that was most recently used to start Windows 98. However, returning the system to an older configuration may be necessary when the origin of the undesirable behavior is unknown.

To restore a Registry Checker backup

Note: If the computer failed to start because the registry is corrupt, ScanReg will automatically attempt to fix the problem. If the computer failed to start because of a change to the registry’s content, and the registry is not corrupt, then running ScanReg /Restore and choosing the most recent backup is an appropriate way to fix a problem.

  1. Restart Windows 98. While the system is restarting, press and hold the left CTRL key until you see the Windows 98 Startup menu.

  2. In the Windows 98 Startup menu, select Command Prompt Only.

  3. From the MS-DOS command prompt, type ScanReg /Restore. A screen appears listing the available backup sets. Select the appropriate backup and determine if the symptom is alleviated on the subsequent start.

Checking Specific Driver Problems

Loading a specific driver in Config.sys, Autoexec.bat, or from the Windows 98 registry may cause a computer to stop responding. This could be due to a hardware or software (device driver or TSR) conflict.

Automatic Skip Driver (ASD) tracks device load failures by identifying the specific device(s) that failed to enumerate and stopped the system from starting. If Windows 98 stops responding when enumerating the same device on subsequent startups, ASD will automatically disable the device.

To check a device driver using Automatic Skip Driver

  1. If a device driver fails to load, launch Automatic Skip Driver Agent from the Tools menu in System Information.

  2. In the Hardware Troubleshooting Agent dialog box, click the operation that failed, and then click Details. The Enumerating a Device Details dialog box appears and provides a recommendation for solving the problem. This includes updating the driver. It is possible that you will need to upgrade the driver disabled by Automatic Skip Driver.

To manually determine whether hardware or software is stalling the computer, try the following, stopping when the determination has been made.

To manually check a device driver:

  1. Press and hold down the left CTRL key when starting Windows 98 (or tap the F8 key just before the “Starting Windows…” dialogue begins), and select Safe Mode Command Prompt Only from the Startup menu. If this option prevents the computer from stalling on startup, a device driver or terminate-and-stay-resident (TSR) program is a likely cause of the problem.

  2. Restart the computer, pressing and holding down the left CTRL again, and then select the Step-By-Step Confirmation option to check for TSRs that are loading and may be causing the problem.

  3. If you use disk compression and the computer still stalls after using Safe Mode Command Prompt Only to start the computer, restart the computer in Safe Mode Without Compression by pressing CTRL+F5 when the Starting Windows 98 message appears.

  4. Check the CMOS settings in the computer’s BIOS configuration menus, making sure the settings match your installed hardware.

  5. Check the hardware installation and the manufacturer’s documentation to verify that all devices are correctly installed.

  6. Check resource settings in Device Manager for specific installed hardware to make sure no conflicts exist in the IRQ, I/O address, DMA channels, and memory addresses used. Compare your actual installation with your hardware documentation for inconsistencies in the settings used.

To check whether a specific driver is stalling the computer:

  1. Restart the computer.

  2. Press and hold down the left CTRL key when the Starting Windows 98 message appears, and then select Logged (Bootlog.txt).

  3. Search Bootlog.txt for errors.

Checking Whether a Required File Is Missing

Some computers contain devices that require a specific driver in Config.sys to correctly complete the startup process, such as drivers used for partitioning, compression, video, and hard disks.

To check for missing files:

  1. Press and hold down the CTRL key when starting Windows 98, and select Step-By-Step Confirmation from the Startup menu.

  2. Respond Yes to all prompts. For any error messages that appear, make note of the driver involved, its location, and the specific wording of the error message. Verify that the specified driver exists in the specified location.

Do not remove any hard disk drivers, disk partitioning drivers, or disk compression drivers when starting Windows 98 using the Step-By-Step Confirmation option or while editing startup files. The following is a partial list of drivers that should not be removed.

Hard disk drivers:
ah1544.sys aspi4dos.sys


ilm386.sys nonstd.sys


scsiha.sys skydrvi.sys


Partitioning drivers:
Compression drivers:

To find out about other system drivers, see the documentation for the specific hardware device or software item installed on the system.

Errors are sometimes caused by conflicts between devices trying to use the same system resources. There are two ways to view your device configuration:

  • Microsoft System Information

  • Device Manager

Microsoft System Information (MSInfo) collects system information, such as devices installed or device drivers loaded, and provides a menu for displaying the associated system topics.

To launch Microsoft System Information:

  • Click Start, point to Programs, Accessories, and System Tools, and then click System Information.

Device Manager provides a central place where you can verify that devices are configured correctly.

To check for resource conflicts among devices:

  1. Click Start, point to Programs, Accessories, and System Tools, and then click System Information.

  2. Expand the Components category and select Problem Devices. Devices with hardware conflicts will be identified.

  3. To determine the resource in conflict, expand the Hardware Resources category and select Conflicts/Sharing. Keep in mind that PCI devices can share resources. If neither of the devices are listed under Problem Devices, they are probably sharing the resource.

  4. If necessary, change the devices’ resource settings using Device Manager. To open Device Manager, click System in the Control Panel, and then click the Device Manager tab.

Note: If you use multiple hardware profiles, you should first select the appropriate configuration using the list in the device’s Resource properties.

Checking Upgrade Issues

Microsoft MS-DOS Utilities

The MS-DOS utilities that are installed into the \Windows\Command directory have been enhanced to work with Windows 98. The disk repair utilities that shipped with older versions of MS-DOS and Windows 95 should not be used with Windows 98. Most of the other MS-DOS utilities that worked with Windows 3.1 should continue to work with Windows 98, but if they were bound to an older version of MS-DOS, you may need to use the SETVER command to enable them.

Note: The following MS-DOS utility files will be deleted after you upgrade from an earlier version of Windows:

  • Defrag.hlp
  • Mwundel.exe
  • Mwundel.hlp
  • Networks.txt
  • OS2.txt

The following MS-DOS utility files will be upgraded after you upgrade from an earlier version of Windows:

Ansi.sys Keyboard.sys Scandisk.exe
Attrib.exe Drvspace.exe Label.exe Scandisk.ini
Chkdsk.exe Mem.exe Setver.exe Ega.cpi Share.exe
Country.sys Emm386.exe Smartdrv.exe
Debug.exe Fc.exe Move.exe Sort.exe
Defrag.exe Fdisk.exe Mscdex.exe Subst.exe
Deltree.exe Find.exe Nlsfunc.exe Ramdrive.sys Xcopy.exe
Display.sys Readme.txt

The disk utilities included with Windows 98 have been modified and fully support FAT32. DriveSpace 3 is included with Windows 98. It has been modified to detect FAT32 drives, but it will not compress them. In order to support FAT32, SHARE support has been disabled in the real-mode MS-DOS kernel (sharing support is still provided under protected-mode Windows 98).

Reinstalling Programs

If you are upgrading your existing Windows 3.x or Windows 95 directory to Windows 98, then you do not need to reinstall your programs. If you install to a new directory, then you must reinstall all of your Windows-based programs. Copying files from your Windows 3.1 directory to Windows 98 is not supported.

MS-DOS-based Programs

Your existing MS-DOS-based programs should run from Windows 98. If you experience problems with an MS-DOS-based program, you can set it up to run in MS-DOS mode, in a single application environment.

To run an MS-DOS-based program in an MS-DOS environment (MS-DOS mode)

  1. Create a shortcut to the MS-DOS-based program.

  2. Right-click the shortcut icon, and then select Properties.

  3. Click the Program tab, and then click Advanced.

  4. Make sure that the MS-DOS Mode box is checked.

When you run a program in MS-DOS mode, it forces Windows 98 to shut down and loads the program in an MS-DOS environment. You will not have access to devices that require protected-mode (Windows) drivers!

If you find an MS-DOS-based program slowing down or stopping when it is in the background, use the following procedure analyze the problem.

To speed up MS-DOS-based programs:

  1. Right-click the MS-DOS Prompt icon on the taskbar, and then click Properties.

  2. Click the Misc tab.

  3. Drag the Idle Sensitivity slider toward Low.

  4. In the Background area, make sure that the Suspend Always box is not checked.

Note: Applications that run in MS-DOS mode may require additional conventional memory, also referred to as the Transient Program Area (TPA). Optimize the TPA by loading MS-DOS support for devices in the upper memory area (UMA). Refer to the following examples provided with Windows 98:

  • MS-DOS Mode for Games

  • MS-DOS Mode for Games with EMS and XMS Support

Anti-Virus Software

Present day anti-virus software should be able to detect, but may not always clean, viruses while running on Windows 98. This will depend largely on where the virus is found and how the program chooses to clean it. Virus shields may not be able to see all virus activity, and therefore could miss some virus activity. We recommend that you install or update your anti-virus software to a version that is designed to run with Windows 98.

Disk Repair and Optimization Utilities

Most legacy disk repair and optimization programs use direct disk reads and writes (INT25/INT26) for disk access. Because of this, Windows will block these disk repair and optimization programs from executing, in order to protect the data on your disk. This is necessary in a multitasking environment to prevent disk corruption caused by multiple utilities running simultaneously. We strongly recommend that you only use disk repair software that is designed for Windows 98.

Note: If you bypass the disk-locking features of Windows 98 using the Lock : command at a real-mode prompt, and run one of these utilities on a FAT16 drive, you will destroy all long file names. This may not happen on a FAT32 drive as most of these utilities will see the physical FAT32 drives as “device-driven” and will not function.

Windows Shell Enhancements

Most Windows 3.1 and all Windows 95 shell replacements will run on Windows 98, but with many limitations because of the taskbar, 32-bit components, and the new Windows 98 shell. If you want to continue running one of these programs, you will need to upgrade to a version that is designed to run with Windows 98.

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