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In the setup.txt file on the Windows 95 and 98 CDs (located in the \WIN95 [Windows 95] / \win98 [Windows 98] folder), which contains important information on setting up Windows and solving or working around problems that can occur thereduring, there is, as the first item under the “GENERAL SETUP NOTES” (Windows 95) / “HARDWARE NOTES” (Windows 98) heading, an alarming message about the consequences of installing Windows 95/98 on two specific models of laptops:

Sager NP8200 or Wedge Technologies 466/DX2

[...]

[WARNING (95) / IMPORTANT (98)]: If you install Windows [95/98] on a Sager NP8200 or Wedge Technologies 466/DX2 laptop computer, you will not be able to use your computer, even if you reinstall a previous version of Windows.

\WIN95\SETUP.TXT, Windows 95 installation CD; \win98\setup.txt, Windows 98 installation CD.

Generally, the worst that can happen during an (attempted) operating-system installation/upgrade is that the installation fails and you have to reinstall your previous OS, which is a far cry from rendering the computer completely and permanently unusable – a bricked computer is what one would expect from a major hardware failure or an interrupted/corrupted BIOS update, not an attempt (even if failed) at installing a new OS. What was so different about the Sager NP8200 and Wedge 466/DX2?

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    I don't see actual evidence that it will be "bricked", merely that WIndows won't run. The damage is done when you install Win98, right?. But if we believe the text, the computer is still alive enough to at least start to install an older Windows - which supposedly won't work. Still an interesting question though. Also, I note that calling a computer "Wedge" seems like asking for trouble.
    – dave
    Commented Apr 9, 2020 at 22:31
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    Guess: They meant that it changes files on the harddrive in such a way that even installing a previous version doesn't undo all the changes (for whatever reason, but it's Microsoft...), which means you are left with a harddisk that you cannot boot Windows from. That doesn't mean the system is "bricked", because you still can boot from floppy etc. But yes, it would be interesting to find out where this warning comes from.
    – dirkt
    Commented Apr 10, 2020 at 10:38
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    I don't know the answer so I'll just speculate in a comment: those systems probably had a custom BIOS bootloader that depended on the disk being set up in a particular way to be bootable. Installing Win95 changed the boot process enough for the BIOS to no longer recognize the disk, or to fail to initialize properly, and there was presumably no way to recover on these systems (i.e. no floppy drive).
    – Ken Gober
    Commented Apr 10, 2020 at 13:10
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    @dirkt No, the warning says even reinstalling Windows 3.x won't work. So it's possible that the manufacturer did something special during installation that made it work, such as loading a custom driver that was not available on the Windows 3.x disks. Commented Apr 10, 2020 at 18:02
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    @dirkt Computers came with Windows 3.1 preinstalled. I'm having trouble finding any specific information about these two models...maybe they failed quickly in the marketplace because the OS couldn't be upgraded! Commented Apr 11, 2020 at 16:53

2 Answers 2

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My theory for the Sager NP8200 case after some Internet search is that those laptops were having their video cards or some other critical components killed by setup during PnP hardware detection.

A quick search reveals a forum thread from 1996 suggesting that there were some equivalent machine models to Sager NP8200, with Prostar 8200 listed as an example.

Another forum thread from 2002 again revealed the close relationship between Sager and Prostar. The two companies even merged recently under the Sager brand, and still sells rebranded Clevo laptops to this day. I suspect that Sager NP8200 and Prostar 8200 were actually the same laptop sold under two different brands.

Searching for Prostar 8200 instead brings up another Experts Exchange thread from 1998 where a Prostar 8200 laptop was rendered inoperable after attempted installation of Windows 95. I would say the wording of the question is quite confusing, but I believe the problem was that while installing Windows 95 with AC power unplugged, the screen would turn off during PnP hardware detection. The author was able to reboot and recover for several times, until one time video output was permanently gone, making the machine inoperable.

The author was able to confirm that compute capabilities were fine - the machine posts and beeps, and they were even able to clear the CMOS storage with DEBUG.COM. But the lack of video output through both built-in display and external CRT definitely suggested problems with the video card.

The thread did not reach a satisfying conclusion. I created an account and used up my trial in order to access the paywalled "accepted answer". It was telling the author to try a boot disk, clear the NVRAM, and get the hardware replaced. Not very helpful for our investigation.

Have you tried booting from a good boot disk?

If a boot disk doesn't work then you have 2 possibilities left:

  1. Bad hardware, get it replaced.
  2. Win 95 set a setting for your laptop which your laptop doesn't like. Reset the NVRAM on your laptop. Check your documentation on this.

This is the only report I was able to find that is similar to the issue, and I am not sure if this is common or is just an isolated case. Finding a definite answer seems improbable now given the astonishingly little information available online about those laptop models. But if this report is to be believed, I think the problem with Sager NP8200 might be some electrical design issues in those laptops that manifest during PnP hardware detection probes which can damage some critical system components like the video card.

Some more information I found about those machines that might be helpful for someone wishing to dig deeper:

  • Product listing for 64MB RAM modules for Sager 8200 from a reseller in 2001. Asked for $105 and availability confirmation by phone was required.
  • Y2K compatibility matrix published by the same reseller from 2000. Sager 8200 was listed as discontinued and not Y2K compliant.
  • Prostar official website from 1997. Unfortunately Prostar 8200 was not mentioned in any of their pages. Those machines were probably discontinued soon after their incompatibility with Windows 95 was announced.
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I can only guess that it might be something like parts of the firmware being stored on the HDD that could get nuked by the Windows installer.

At least I have a Compaq DeskPro 486 that had a nice clicky graphical BIOS Setup utility (resembling current UEFI interfaces, completely out of place in the 90's) and that one was stored in a special hidden partition on the HDD. When the original HDD gave up the ghost, I ended up with a bricked machine because I can't get into BIOS to configure a replacement drive.

(Said Compaq ran Win95 OSR2 without any issues although installing it took a lot of attempts for some weird reason, so all of this is just my wild theory.)

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    I hope you kept it in case you could get a disk image from another owner? :)
    – knol
    Commented Jul 4, 2021 at 10:13
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    Compaq published SoftPaqs to replace the BIOS setup on those models of computer; my ProLinea 4/50 needed the same… they should be available on the Archive.org Compaq FTP collection.
    – A. Wilcox
    Commented Nov 21, 2021 at 2:33

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