Ancient PC with Windows 98


Storage? I am Storage!
Jan 18, 2002
Brisbane, Oz
I was waiting at a workshop the other day and noticed an old monitor with "Please insert a disk into drive A:".

I explained to the owner what the message meant. He told me that he thought the PC was running Windows 98 - as originally supplied. Further investigation revealed an ancient motherboard with parallel IDE cables and two HDDs to match - no SATA obviously. Apparently, the main software only runs on Windows 98 ...

The owner had been faithfully backing up 20 years of data to what he thought was the second drive. I had my doubts - the BIOS couldn't find the second drive either. I turned it off for a minute, then back on, but still no HDDs, although it could see the CD drive.

I told him that he would have to hand the PC over to his regular computer guy, so they could see if the drive would power up one last time in a different PC and extract the data, but that more likely he was looking at losing everything.

I returned a few days later, and the PC was working. In a triumph of hope, the owner had turned it on, the main drive lurched to life and the PC booted into Windows. I was able to confirm that the main drive had three partitions and the second drive was dead, so he had been backing up to the same physical drive for years. There has never been a network connection.

I inserted a 32GB USB stick (FAT32) into the PC, but good ol' Windows 98SE wanted a driver. My memory stirred and the unpleasant realization dawned that Microsoft didn't really support USB before Windows 2000 (or Windows ME). I checked for a copy of Nero or similar, but no dice.

I found a generic storage driver that sometimes works with Windows 98SE - just need to burn it onto a CD. Small problem: the driver install restarts the PC, possibly twice. Does anyone here know what the odds are on the remaining HDD continuing to work after that?

Does anyone have any ideas on how to get data off this PC without a restart? I'm pretty sure I threw out my null modem cables some time ago, and 115200 baud can only transfer about 37MB / hour. No idea what software to use, that doesn't require a restart of f****** Windows.

Alternatively, is there a reasonable chance that the second drive is affecting detection of the first? Being IDE, the two are in a Master-Slave setup. I have no idea which physical drive is which because the ribbon cables are covering everything.

In any case, I thought people here might be at least a little impressed by a PC that's been working 5 days a week for 20 years. The owner thinks the hard drives were replaced some time back as a precaution (must have been 10+ years for IDE?). Apparently, the guy who changed them was stressed out about losing everything during the swap.


I can't believe I'm a
Feb 1, 2003
It needs storage drivers. I used to have a whole folder of them back in the day. Sometimes one would work with one or more products or not. In any case they were a PITa.
Feb 4, 2002
Monterey, CA
I had to do something similar, ended up crossing my fingers and turning it off. Connected to an IDE-SATA adapter and imaged the drive to a file. Now runs as a virtual machine on newer hardware. In my case I felt it was worth it as they not only needed the data, but the software install (no disks and no vendor to contact), so I really needed to save the OS as well.


Hairy Aussie
Jan 27, 2002
Just because the ide standard says master and slave, it doesn't mean the chipset supports it.
My 2000 Dell had a chipset that only supported one drive per ide channel, and no one at Dell knew it, at least it took them 8 months to admit it.
So don't assume that the drive that doesn't work is dead, unless it's tested somewhere else.