I have a Windows 98 Second Edition laptop that is slowly degrading. It has not been used for a few years, and I would like to take a backup of the (2GB) drive before it fails. The CD-ROM drive is read-only, and I don't have a spare floppy. I was using a faulty 128MB USB 1.0 stick to move files until it failed, and have no other compatible USB flash drives.

Is there a way that I could use more modern USB devices with my Windows 98? If so, how does it work? If not, how would I go about making one?

  • If it comes to it, I'll remove the drive and wire it directly to another computer. But I want to open it up only as a last resort. – wizzwizz4 Jul 24 '16 at 15:06
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    Can you boot from the CD-ROM drive? – Mark Jul 25 '16 at 1:21
  • Yes, I remember seeing Optical Drive in the BIOS boot selection priority menu. – wizzwizz4 Jul 25 '16 at 7:18
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    There are custom drivers for USB flash drives under Windows 98 which work with any flash drive (Google it, i have tested it myself, they work). But given your situation it is hard to get the drivers on that laptop hard drive. Also, a live CD may not work at all sine most laptops of the late 90s came with 64-128 MB of RAM or in that range and it is not enough for a live CD. I would suggest to try upgrading the laptop to Windows 2000 since it supports USB out-of-the-box. – snaks20 Aug 12 '16 at 21:00
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    @hobbs You mean Windows doesn't do that anymore? I can plug my devices into any port without installing duplicate drivers?! This... this changes everything! – wizzwizz4 Aug 14 '16 at 8:01

Your best option is probably to skip Windows entirely. A Linux livecd will be able to read your filesystem, and has the drivers to use your USB ports built-in. My personal preference would be for System Rescue CD - it requires a Pentium or newer, but other than that, should support almost any hardware.

  • Can it image disks? All my memory sticks are significantly larger than my 2 GB hard disk, so a disk image would be ideal. (It's fine if it can't; but if we're talking about skipping Windows and its file locks...) – wizzwizz4 Jul 25 '16 at 11:37
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    This is a case of the XY problem. You're answering X, which is useful, but Y is more interesting. – wizzwizz4 Jul 25 '16 at 11:38
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    System Rescue CD has both dd and ddrescue for generating images which are fully compatible with Linux; I don't know if there's an easy way of reading them on Windows or Mac. – Mark Jul 25 '16 at 18:19
  • I have Debian on another computer. It doesn't matter what format, so long as I have the data. – wizzwizz4 Jul 25 '16 at 20:09

Have you considered a self contained Boot program called "Active@"? I use this. It will install as it's own OS on a flashdrive so long as the motherboard can see the USB flashdrive. A cut down version of Windows comes up and you can make images of any internal drives from there. It's a great comfort when things go awry.. You simply rewrite the drive and you're back with everything still intact.

You might need a friend's computer to write the flashdrive for you to begin with.

  • Thanks for answering my question, and welcome to the site. This is the Windows equivalent of a "Live USB", and I didn't know those existed. Do you know which processors are supported by this? – wizzwizz4 Aug 13 '16 at 14:51
  • Are you the same user as Edgel3d? I can merge your accounts if so. – wizzwizz4 Aug 13 '16 at 14:54
  • Not sure what you mean Wizz but I have an identical username in the Blender SE. As for processors, I've only used it on various Windows machines, and all without problems. If you search for "Active@" you'll find the company's trade name. That's how I found it. – Edgel3D Aug 14 '16 at 11:24
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    There are also some other bootable Windows variants. Try a search for "Windows PE" or WinPE – jamesfmackenzie Oct 20 '16 at 19:40
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    On another note, what IO options do you have on the machine? Do you have Ethernet or even parallel/serial ports? You could push files off the machine via FTP, PARCP, ZMODEM etc – jamesfmackenzie Oct 20 '16 at 19:43

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