|Windows 98SE and previous Microsoft operating systems have NO built in support for recognizing flash drives; Windows ME was the first Microsoft operating system that did.|
It used to be flash drives came with Windows 98, and/or, more often, 98SE drivers that you could install, but that's no longer the case. You can still download 98SE drivers from a few flash drive manufacturer's web sites, but I've found these drivers to be a better solution.....
If you're not sure whether you have Windows 98 or 98SE, RIGHT click on My Computer - Properties.
Whether it is 98 or 98 Second Edition is shown on the right on the first page you see.
Generic USB Mass Storage drivers.
These allow many USB devices that have no drivers for 98 and 98SE to work in those operating systems.
Win98 original, modified from the 98SE version.
(You probably DO NOT need to load the Win 98 Service Pack as they suggest if you have used Windows Update to load all updates found by doing Express searches until there are no more available.)
"Remove ALL drivers for USB flash drives in Device Manager"
NOTE that I have not had to Un-install previously installed drivers.
If you want to do that, those are listed in Control Panel - Add/Remove Programs.
The 2.x versions support the recognition of many USB devices.
The 3.x versions also support the recognition of USB 2.0 controllers.
NOTE that the 2.x versions have NO Un-install; the 3.x versions DO - in Add/Remove Programs- Remove USB 2.0 stack.
After you have installed these drivers, after you have plugged in or installed a USB device that hasn't been plugged in or installed before, you are prompted to have Windows search for drivers - do that, it will find the drivers, and that same USB device is detected automatically when it's plugged in or installed after that.
These drivers work for many devices, but there are some they can't detect.
E.g. Apple never made drivers for their devices for previous to Windows 2000, so an iPod , iPod Shuffle, iPod Nano, etc., cannot be recognized.
If a camera or other device that uses memory cards isn't recognized, these drivers will recognize most memory card reader devices if you plug the memory card from the device into a reader.
Flash drives and memory cards show up in My Computer or Windows Explorer simply as a drive letter with a Removable Disk label, rather than them possibly having a specific label as they do in 2000 and above, e.g. Kingston Data Traveler.
The 3.x versions of these drivers make the Safely Remove Hardware icon appear in your taskbar quite reliably when certain USB devices data can be stored on have been plugged in. That's not as reliable in the 2.x versions.
The same as in ME and up, you or she must click on that icon when you want to unplug a USB device that it is for when Windows is running, otherwise you or she can damage the data on the device.
The most frequent reason people can no longer access the data on a USB flash drive, USB External drive, or a memory card, is they unplugged it while Windows was running WITHOUT clicking on the Safely Remove Hardware icon in their taskbar lower right, and choosing to STOP accessing the drive.
(If you get a message you can't do that, then stop accessing it elsewhere - e.g. in My Computer or Windows Explorer, or in whatever you were accessing it with, e.g. change the drive letter, then you will be able to STOP it in Safely Remove Hardware.)
The Safely Remove Hardware icon may be hidden - if so, you have to click on < at the left end of the icons in the taskbar to reveal it.
It's a gray rectangle with a green arrow on it in XP, 2000, and ME, (and in 98 and 98SE, only if you have third party flash drive etc. drivers installed, or you have connected an external drive.)
In Vista, and probably Windows 7, it's a medium green small circle with a white checkmark on it.
If there is no Safely Remove Hardware icon, then there's something not right with the software that is supposed to make the icon appear (e.g.that sometimes happens in 98 and 98SE) - you could try rebooting, but if the icon still does not appear, then DO NOT unplug the device while Windows / the computer is running.
If there is no Safely Remove Hardware icon when a device data can be stored on is plugged in, you can still RIGHT click on the Removable Drive and choose Eject to STOP accessing it.
You can unplug the device at any time when Windows / the computer is NOT running. You can plug it in at any time.
If you can't get a device that should be detected recognized, or if you can't access a USB device's data that you know had data on it previously that could be seen in 98SE, then usually the problem can be fixed.
Troubleshooting USB device problems including for flash drives, external drives, memory cards.
See Response 1: