Win98SE with ACPI - Success At Last!

Win98SE with ACPI - Success At Last!

Postby Richard_S » 19. Jul 2010, 05:55

For years now it has been the common wisdom that a Win98se guest install could never work well in VirtualBox due to a number of issues.

1. A Win98se guest does not support CPU idle properly and so it will run very slowly and eat 100% of the host systems CPU resources.

2. There are no Video drivers available in Win98 that support VirtualBox so you are limited to 640x480 VGA resolution with 16 colors.

3. Win98 also does not have sound drivers for VirtualBox.

Although workarounds for some of these issues have been discussed, the conclusion seems to have been that Win98 is forever doomed to poor performance in VirtualBox.

From my experience, I am happy to report that if you are willing to take a little time to properly install Win98, then it can work quite nicely in VirtualBox.

What will NOT work is to just grab the install CD, mount it up in a Vbox Virtual Machine, and expect everything to install perfectly by default.

Let's look at that first issue . . .

1. A Win98se guest does not support CPU idle properly and so it will run very slowly and eat 100% of the host systems CPU resources.

Contrary to what you may have read here in some of the other VirtualBox Win98 threads, this is NOT because Win98se is a poorly written piece of antiquated crap that doesn't even know how to properly handle CPU IDLE.

Back when a lot of todays young Linux geeks were still pooping their dipiys, Win98 was already supporting ACPI functions to create greener PCs and help keep laptops from running down their batteries in 10 minutes (which is exactly what DID happen to me the first time I installed Linux on a laptop that was working FINE in Win98).

So, long story short, there is NOTHING really wrong with Win98, the problem is that VirtualBox's emulated BIOS doesn't fully match up with what Win98 expects a real ACPI BIOS to look like, so by default Win98 will not install ACPI support (and unfortunately, the older APM support doesn't handle CPU IDLE, so we get problems).

The solution is to FORCE ACPI support to be installed, by using the

/p j

command line switch when running the setup program that installs Win98.

This means that you can't just jam the virtual CD into the virtual CD drive and let 'autorun' take care of everything.

The best way to handle this is to simply move the Win98 install folder from the Windows 98 SE CD onto your virtual C: drive in VirtualBox, then change directory to that folder in a DOS prompt and run the setup program manually:

setup /p j

This will force ACPI power management (and the associated CPU IDLE functions) to be installed, and your Win98 virtual machine will consume no more system resources when running than a similar XP or Linux virtual machine.

This will still leave us with a low-res 640x480 16 color desktop, so lets move on to the next issue . . .

2. There are no Video drivers available in Win98 that support VirtualBox so you are limited to 640x480 VGA resolution with 16 colors.

Win98 ships with literally hundreds of video drivers and works out of the box with other virtualization software like QEMU and BOCHS, unfortunately none of the native Win98 drivers work with VirtualBox, so a separate video driver is required.

There are at least TWO fairly good Win98 video driver options for use with VirtualBox -

The first option is the free vbemp9x driver from:

Choose the "universal" uni version driver (paradoxically the older VirtualBox custom driver is reported not to work at all with the current version of Vbox)

The only downsides with this driver is that it is reported to have issues with screen corruption when switching into a DOS PROMPT text screen, and the driver doesn't seem to include an exe installer so some knowledge of how to change and update video drivers in Win98 is needed.

The second option is to get the SciTech Display Doctor version 7 beta driver -

The driver is a high quality commercial grade video driver (even includes some software emulated Open GL 3D support), and it does include an exe installer program.

Despite having an installer, the SciTech Display Doctor is a little tricky to get going. After the program launches, you have to find the little round radio button link to click to 'enable' the new driver (otherwise you still have VGA). Even then, you can't select any higher resolution modes until you ditch the 'default monitor' and select one of the 'Super VGA' types.

After fiddling around with the above changes and rebooting several times you should be able to select 800x600 or 1024x768 (or higher) resolutions with 32 bit color depth. (setting 32 bit color mode optimizes the interface with Virtualbox and really speeds things up)

Another issue with the Scitech Driver is that it was released years ago as 'trialware' with a 21 day trial limitation, and the company has since gone out of business. It has been reported here on this forum that before going defunct, Scitech released the software for 'free use' and published registration codes on their FTP server. Sadly that server is long gone and all the links are dead.

Since the software was made available before this happened, I don't think I am stepping out of line by saying that you can Google around and find the registration information. There are a lot of codes that DON'T work so it can be a bit discouraging, but the proper registration information IS out there so keep trying and you will find it. (Hint: Try Googling something like SciTech Display Doctor 7 CSCKnight )

Moving on the the third issue . . .

3. Win98 also does not have sound drivers for VirtualBox.

Actually this is just flat out wrong, Win98 will install a perfectly good sound driver IF you select the 'Sound Blaster' option from the VirtualBox VM setup.

The MIDI and Mic don't seem to work, but I don't find that to be a major issue, because at least I have good solid wav sound playback.

If you want to use the AC97 sound card emulation (for example to try to get MIDI working), then you will have to try to find the RealTek AC97 Driver for Win95 (Yes, WIN95, the 98 driver has problems with VirtualBox). The Win95 VXD sound driver is said to work fine in 98.

My current configuration is using the Win98 forced ACPI install with the SciTech Display Doctor and built in Win98 Sound Blaster drivers.

VirtualBox performance on my modest 2GHz AMD Sempron Host is good enough to allow nearly full screen DivX video playback in the Win98 guest with no or almost no dropped frames or sound problems.

Other less demanding tasks, like word processing or web browsing, are working so well that they are indistinguishable from a real 800MHz PC running Win98.

I was keeping that old PC going for the sake of one or two apps that would not run XP or Linux Wine, so it's really nice to have VirtualBox Win98 as an alternative.
Last edited by mpack on 29. Jan 2020, 13:07, edited 2 times in total.
Reason: Fix broken BearWindows link.
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Re: Win98se on VirtualBox - Success At Last!

Postby Technologov » 19. Jul 2010, 10:04

Richard_S: Thanks for your info.

1. This must be moved from "Windows Hosts" to "Windows Guests HOWTOs". Moved.
2. I did not know about the ACPI trick with "/p j".
3. I think you can put the Scitech code here, because if company has gone out of business no one can sue you anyway.
If you want, send it to me privately, and I will put it here using my name. So I take the legal responsibility in this case.
Actually I was never able to install SciTech properly, and I do have some font problems with "bearwindows" driver.
This is key is in "abandonware" category, not "warez".
Or, if Oracle does not want, we can find a different location for such abandonware.
4. Few years ago I wrote "Tutorial: Windows 95/98 guest OSes" link
Let's consider merging our knowledge base into one tutorial.
5. Thanks you very much for your hard work !

update: I have integrated parts of your text into my tutorial, including your name.

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Location: Israel

Re: Win98se on VirtualBox - Success At Last!

Postby mpack » 19. Jul 2010, 11:42

This is excellent. IMHO this needs to be tagged on the end of the existing Win98 guest howto so it doesn't get lost.

Now if someone can just find a way to get an integrated mouse for Win98 then I'd consider this whole area: problem solved... :-)

[Edit - many months later]. Actually, I never got the SciTech display driver to work how I wanted. It is very complicated to set up, and very intrusive in operation. Eventually I switched back to the Bearwindows universal driver recommended by the other howto. That works perfectly for me. The gem tip in this thread is how to do a proper ACPI compatible installation with Win98, and that still stands.
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