Solved Issues Formatting 128 GB Compact Flash for Windows 98 SE

Sandisk Extreme 128gb compactflash memor...
April 1, 2019 at 07:49:15
Specs: Windows 98/DOS, Pentium 4 2.0 Ghz, 512 MB DDR
I've been in the process of restoring and upgrading my old Gateway XP box from 2001 to run Windows 98/MS-DOS games. I've been trying to max out the hardware capabilities wherever possible for Win98 (512 mb DDR RAM, 2.0 Ghz processor, etc).

All the hardware seems to be running perfectly fine at the moment, but I'm facing a roadblock when trying to install the OS. I decided to use a Compact Flash versus an old HDD to improve the stability and performance. Because of FAT32, it seems that the maximum size supported by Windows 98 is 128 GB. Based on that knowledge, I went ahead and ordered a (used) 128 GB SanDisk Compact Flash with a StarTech CF to IDE adapter.

The BIOS seems to be working with the card just fine, and I can even get the 98 boot cd to load up a virtual DOS floppy and partition the full disk space with a single primary partition with fdisk. The problems start occurring when I attempt to format the drive using "format c: /s". It takes a while to complete the format and then finally gives me the error: "Unable to write to boot". When I try to run the Win98 installer, it gives me an error along the lines of "Unable to write to disk" and won't go any further as soon as I begin the installation process.

I've tried using Rufus from another computer to write FreeDOS onto the card, and that boots perfectly. Because of that, I don't think the card is damaged, necessarily. I've got my hands on a 2gb CF card which I'm going to try installing to tonight. If that works, it'd be great to somehow copy the OS on that card to the 128 gb card and extend the primary partition.

Any thoughts on what might be the problem here?


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✔ Best Answer
April 5, 2019 at 07:18:26
I got it!

What I did was zero out the drive completely using diskpart / clean all on Windows. Then I copied the 2gb compact flash using HDD Raw Copy Tool and wrote the cloned file back out the 128gb card. Pop that sucker into the win98 machine, and it booted! (Btw, I tried using DD under linux earlier, but the drive wouldn't boot.)

The only problem now was that I was left with a 2gb partition and 126gb of free space. I first tried extending the primary partition to the full drive size using GParted on Linux and even just to 32gb (after recloning), but it wouldn't boot either time.

What I ended up doing is leaving the primary partition as 2gb for Windows 98, and creating an extended logical partition to fill up the rest of the 126gb using fdisk on DOS. Win98 still booted up fine and recognized the new partition, so I was good to go at this point.

I'm not sure why this process was so finicky, but I've got my fingers crossed that I don't have to deal with this mess again! Thanks for all of the help, troubleshooting, and advice. <3



#1
April 1, 2019 at 08:37:54
I suspect that you are encountering these issues because Windows 98 doesn't come with drivers for USB mass storage devices. So as soon as Windows 98 takes over from the BIOS it loses sight of the drive.

Windows 98 was never intended to be installed on a removable drive. Although I believe it may be possible, you need to jump through a nuimber of hoops to get there. These would involve installing on an IDE drive, then installing the USB mass storage drivers, then moving this image over to the USB drive.

Solution - use a conventional hard disk.


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#2
April 1, 2019 at 09:06:20
Hi ijack!

Thanks for the reply, but that shouldn't be the problem here. As I stated, I'm using a Compact Flash to IDE adapter (this one). This should allow windows to treat the card same as a normal HDD.


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#3
April 1, 2019 at 09:43:28
Never done this before, so only two thoughts come to mind.
1) While it's a little late for a 2001 box, in the DOS era, some BIOSes prevented writing to sector 0 on the first HDD. Look for and disable any sort of anti-virus or boot protection.

2) The card could just be bad. If the card is using the same tech as USB sticks, the boot loader area of the card might have hit end-of-life.

Bonus 3) Something in the chain doesn't support the same version of LBA the rest of the system is using.

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message edited by Razor2.3


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#4
April 1, 2019 at 10:19:44
OK, I missed that. But it's possible that the cause is still - essentially - the same. Windows 98 may not have drivers, by default, for the particular IDE chipset in your computer. Do you know that this computer actually supports Windows 98 - e.g. drivers from the manufacturer's web site? Or was it ever supplied with Windows 98?

You may still need to slipstream drivers before the hard disks are recognized other than by the BIOS.

message edited by ijack


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#5
April 1, 2019 at 10:57:18
Razor2.3:

The motherboard I'm using is an Intel D845PT. The only BIOS update I see was released in 2003, and I'm not sure if that update has been applied (I'm at work and can't check atm). I don't see any options regarding boot protection in the BIOS settings according to the manual. There are some options for the IDE configuration (page 109) which I just have set to auto for now. From my memory, I think the settings were as follows: Multi-Sector Transfers = 1 Sector, PIO Mode = Mode 4, and Ultra DMA = Mode 5.

I wouldn't think that the card would be bad if Rufus was able to configure it for FreeDOS. I might try configuring/installing the OS within a virtual machine on my Win10 computer (assuming that's possible).

How exactly would I verify the version of LBA? I assume you're referencing a switch from 28-bit (ATA-1) to 48-bit (ATA-6)? The exact model number of my CF card is SDCFXSB-128G-G46.

ijack

The computer was designed to support Windows XP, and I still have the original 80gb hdd with a (barely) working Windows XP install on it.

The mobo is based on the Intel 845 chipset with a Intel 82801BA I/O Controller Hub (ICH2). The IDE support is detailed on page 29 of the manual. On Intel's download page, it seems like this and maybe this would be needed. Would I just need to run both of these executables within the virtual dos floppy from a usb drive before executing D:/win98/setup.exe?


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#6
April 2, 2019 at 02:19:51
It's a long time since I did this and, TBH, I can't remember. With Windows 2000 you just press F6 during the install to be able to install additional drivers, but I think it's more complicated with 98.

I did find this link that gives some advice: https://msfn.org/board/topic/162717...

If you Google "windows 98 slipstream drivers" you'll find more articles on the subject.

message edited by ijack


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#7
April 2, 2019 at 10:53:59
With #3, I'm questioning the adapter/reader more than anything else. Since you brought it up, try switching your BIOS to PIO mode. Some CF adapters just don't do DMA.

If you're looking for documentation, look for anything about running WinCE on CF. There's more documentation on that than Win98, and you might find a clue or two.

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#8
April 2, 2019 at 13:44:48
So, I switched over to that 2gb compact flash (it's a SanDisk Ultra II 2.0gb), and guess what? The installation went perfectly and was pretty darn fast at that. I'm working on getting all of the drivers installed now which has incurred a few unrelated issues that I'm pushing through.

After I get the 2gb card where I'm comfortable with it, I'm going to try copying that full image over to the 128gb card and extend the partition. Idk if that will actually work, but I've got my fingers crossed.

At this point, I'm thinking it's 1 of 3 things:
1) The Windows 98 installer doesn't play well with full size 128gb FAT32 - or -
2) Though the card seems to work well with formatting and storage, it's mbr sector is bad for whatever reason - or -
3) The automatic settings for the IDE card set by the BIOS are incorrect.

I'll do some more testing tonight and report back.


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#9
April 5, 2019 at 07:18:26
✔ Best Answer
I got it!

What I did was zero out the drive completely using diskpart / clean all on Windows. Then I copied the 2gb compact flash using HDD Raw Copy Tool and wrote the cloned file back out the 128gb card. Pop that sucker into the win98 machine, and it booted! (Btw, I tried using DD under linux earlier, but the drive wouldn't boot.)

The only problem now was that I was left with a 2gb partition and 126gb of free space. I first tried extending the primary partition to the full drive size using GParted on Linux and even just to 32gb (after recloning), but it wouldn't boot either time.

What I ended up doing is leaving the primary partition as 2gb for Windows 98, and creating an extended logical partition to fill up the rest of the 126gb using fdisk on DOS. Win98 still booted up fine and recognized the new partition, so I was good to go at this point.

I'm not sure why this process was so finicky, but I've got my fingers crossed that I don't have to deal with this mess again! Thanks for all of the help, troubleshooting, and advice. <3


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#10
April 5, 2019 at 22:12:01
My late thought would be reduce the partition to 120 gig or something slightly less than 128 gig. Possibly pushing it to the limit is having odd consequences. I guess you used the updated 98 fdisk or the ME fdisk to properly see the full size?

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