Windows 98 virtual machine excursion anomalies

Perhaps not an “excursion“, since this side trip would have been grueling if it were my primary activity at the time.

Background in brief:

  • I thought I wanted a VMware virtual machine that could multi-boot DOS 6, Windows for Workgroups 3.11, Windows 98 or Windows NT4 Server.
  • The hosting environment is VMware-server-1.0.3-44356.i386.rpm installed on Fedora 7 on a 3.0 GHz Pentium 4 with 2GB of DDR400 memory.
  • I knew that I could get Telecom Analyzer and all of its prerequisites to function OK in only 128M of physical memory, so I gave the virtual machine 256M.
  • In order to make all of the candidate versions of Windows have a chance to work, I made the virtual disk 2G and formatted it as FAT16.

DOS 6 worked fine, as expected.

WFW 3.11 was a challenge to get VGA driver for 8 bit color and get the Ethernet working, but after that, WFW file sharing seemed fine, Netscape 3 works, etc.

Windows 98 was the stumbling block. I’d been a Microsoft beta tester for Windows 95 before it was released, and also for some of the security releases for Windows 98, so I’m pretty comfortable troubleshooting Windows 9x problems.

However, I wasn’t prepared for the abysmal performance of Windows 98 in this particular virtual machine. Mouse tracking was horrible. Applying Microsoft updates that would normally complete in minutes could take literally days to complete. I patiently upgraded the Windows 98 to have all of the Microsoft updates applied, but had no expectation that Windows 98 would be usable.

To reduce complexity and get on with the real goal of NT4 Server, I created a new virtual machine with 128MB of memory and a 512MB FAT16 partition. I copied the DOS/WFW/Win98 file system to this new partition. Windows 98 runs quite well in this new virtual machine! I have no reasonable explanation. The only theory is that for some reason the Windows 98 virtual machine had had a problem with too much memory. That’s not very plausible, but fits the data.

Anyway, I can now run DOS 6 & WFW 3.11 or Windows 98 in this new virtual machine.

NT4 Server got a new separate virtual machine with 512MB and a 2G NTFS partition. That was sufficient for my purposes, including SQL Server, IIS and Telecom Analyzer.

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