Installing Windows 98 using PXE boot

Here's how I installed Windows 98 on an old machine by without using any physical boot floppies/CDs. The idea is to first PXE boot a network bootdisk from another machine, which allows copying the Windows install cd files to the target machine's hard drive. Next, it's just a matter of booting a Windows 98 boot disk and starting the installer. Unfortunately all of this is a huge crapshoot that requires lots of old janky components to work together.

Requirements - my zipped archive of these is here

Here's how I saved/unzipped all that stuff on my host machine (running Windows 8.1):

|   tftpd32.chm
|   tftpd32.exe 
|   tftpd32.ini
    |   ldlinux.c32
    |   libutil.c32
    |   memdisk
    |   menu.c32
    |   netboot.IMA
    |   pxelinux.0
    |   winb98.IMA

pxelinux.0, memdisk and the .c32 files are part of the SysLinux distribution and can be found in (deep) within its zip file.

First steps

My Tftpd32 configuration

tftp config 1
tftp config 2
tftp config 3

Installing Windows

Once you've got everything going far enough that the target machine gets a DHCP address and manages to start PXELinux, you'll be presented with a blue menu. Pick 'Network boot disk' and hit Enter. At this point my machine kept crashing; the cause was using a too-high-density SDRAM stick; you've been warned. The network boot disk will ask you for a domain to join; just enter whatever if you're using a workgroup-based network. When prompted for a user name, make sure to use quotes if your user name includes a space. The shared folder you entered during the setup phase will be bound to the I:\ drive letter.

Unfortunately I couldn't get my main Windows user's credentials to work; an alternative is to give 'Everyone' read/write access in the shared folder's settings. Also, make sure to turn off 'Password protected sharing' in your Windows networking settings. Then, just log in using a random user name and password. If you don't want to reboot and use the boot disk's menu each time, try commands such as net logoff and net use [drive] [share].

disabling password protected sharing
If your host computer is Windows 10, things are even more complicated. Under 'Turn Windows Features On Or Off' you must enable the server option. Even then, once my Win98 PC was up and running I found it easier to share a folder on there and only use Windows 10 as a client (with the client option installed).
windows 10 settings

Once you've successfully booted, use fdisk and format to partition the target machine's hard drive, if needed. Next, just copy over the Win98 files to some directory.

The network boot disk does not leave enough free memory available to run Windows Setup. So just reboot, this time run the Windows 98 boot disk, cd to wherever you put the installer files and run setup.

Created: Apr 19 2014
Modified: Dec 14 2019