The eMachines eTower 466ix was a budget desktop computer released in 1999 by eMachines. The system was made available with an Intel Celeron clocked at 466MHz, 64MB of RAM, 4.3GB of storage (which varies based on the model) and integrate Intel graphics. Windows 98 Second Edition is the operating system used here.
Recovery Install Process
Recovery is started by booting from the CD. As with other eMachines recovery software we need to have a pre partition disk (does not need to be formatted but must be initalized using the FDISK utility) before we can begin the install.
Had to switch motherboards after the recovery was complete as I got hammered with IOS errors upon bootup, changing to the ABIT LX6 worked much better. Plus it had the advantage of having a similar if not the same chipset as the original motherboard, albeit with no onboard ATI video. The eTower also had a Crystal sound chip onboard along with the software but we can sort of substitute it with the Crystal 4236B ISA soundcard that is supported in 86box. Windows 98 does not seem to come with a driver, so a third party driver must be installed.
Desktop First Boot
Windows 98 boot screen, with the Microsoft logo on the top right.
Looks very similar to the eMachines eMonster that was also a Windows 98SE based install, but we see a lot less software bundled and installed.
The eMachines website, or whats left of it
We get a few emachines desktop backgrounds for us to use: E – Windows 98 dark blue background with the emachines logo centred Emachine – the emachine logo in 800×600 Ewall – same as Emachine but zoomed out slightly, also 800×600 Ewalls – low resolution of Ewall, at 640×480
The Musica sound scheme is set as the default with no customer schemes included or set.
The eWare bar come bundled and appears at the bottom, but on top of the Windows taskbar. This will show shortcuts to popular internet website in addition to a few adverts right on your desktop. There are dedicated buttons for shopping and search engine sites.
Most of these are custom affiliate links which haven’t been archived by the OldNet, so we just get an error page.
There is also an option to take a survey. There is also some sort of search function that similar to Sherlock that’s included on MacOS 9 that can pull search results from Yahoo, Lycos and AltaVista.
An audio/MIDI playback application which functions only on Crystal soundcards, at least for the one bundled here. This means it wont function on say a Creative Soundblaster but if we use the Crystal 4236B ISA soundcard in 86Box and install the appropriate drivers (they’re not bundled in Windows 98) we are able to use the application. Again it gives the appearance of a mid 90s home HiFi.
ATI Video Player
A simple video player that makes use of the video acceleration that some of ATI’s RAGE chipsets had supported. 86Box does not exactly emulate a RAGE based chipset but we do have the ATI Mach graphics cards to use instead. It does work somewhat, I can playback AVI files with the exampling being one pulled from Microsoft Garden Home software. The video can be scaled in size and mentions support for MPEG video.
Microsoft Works: A basic office Suite, Works 2000 Version 5.0 is installed here. Netscape Communicator: A shortcut exists on the desktop but it not completely installed opening it will launch the 4.6 installer. This will also install RealPlayer G2. AOL 5.0: Also has to be installed from the desktop Adobe Reader 3.01: It’s a bit old as its copyright is dated from 1997 and Reader 4.0 was released in April 1999 Microsoft Money: Finance management software
A basic internet orientated desktop PC install that features Windows ME. Very similar to the HP Pavilion and the eMachines system that were looked at previously. Compaq was a major OEM of Wintel machines, with the Presario line being orientated for the home consumer market. Systems like these typically come quipped with a Celeron, Intel or S3 onboard graphics an ‘Internet’ keyboard that features dedicated web browser nd email keys and Windows ME or 98. The will commonly have bundled software or ISP offers to entice you to join.
You can kind of see Compaq trying to stylise their computers, as a response to the funky looking iMac and the eMachines eOne, rather than having them appear as a typical beige box.
This appears to not be the actual recovery program, as the original would have been restricted to function on that actual machine. However using this bootable utility we can restore the hard disk image back to the system. This fruitions even if the hard disk isn’t initialised or formatted, as the utility can do this for us. This recovery image is password protected,
Starting Windows ME for the first time. After the splash screen it lingered on this screen for a while with the mouse cursor flickering between the pointer and the hourglass, indicating it was working in background. What’s actually happening is Windows ME is detecting and installing the new hardware and unlike Windows 98, it does not spam you with a dialog box indicating as to what’s going on. At least for system devices, since it did pop up for the video card, along with the PS/2 keyboard and mouse. Normally this wouldn’t be an issue, since the hardware detection stage is done during the OS install, but since the recovery program transferred an existing install to the disk which was designed to be used on different hardware, it has to go through the detection process again. After around 10 minutes we are presented with out desktop.
A utility pops up soon after logging in. This appears to be an. The Compaq engineer would install any additional software or hardware drivers if the customer had requested it, and would then click on the ShutDown button in this utility. Then when the end customer would boot up their system, they would be greeted with the registration wizard, along with the tutorial. This would mean the end user would already have their additional software installed and ready to use, In my case, this was an excellent opportunity to get the video and sound drivers up and running, as Windows ME did not have a driver for the video card I had chosen (S3 Trio3D)
Windows ME had a infamous reputation for stability which was undeserved im my opinion, as I’ve found 98SE to be more unreliable. Part of the issue was ME dropped some DOS support which upset the luddite’s that wanted to use their own ancient hardware when the rest of the world was trying to move on, and OEMs slapping together botched installs with tons of adware as they race to the bottom of their profit margins. The truth is, Windows ME is a perfectly fine OS, so long as you get the drivers right which can be said for any OS really. The 9x series of operating systems were not known for the reliability and were more of a botch that just about managed to work. Frankly I can understand why Microsoft wanted to jump straight into NT with Windows XP.
The introduction and setup wizard, complete with a speaking wizard, Merlin who sounds like a chronic smoker. Once you have accepted the licence agreement you are presented with your new desktop.
Compaq included a few wallpapers that are selectable and are pretty much the same pattern but with a different colours (Ruby, Sapphire, Amethyst, Amber, Emerald, Jade and Grey. This kind of reminds me of the iMac G3 colours.
There is also a custom colour scheme set by Compaq but it has no pre-set name. So if you choose another colour scheme then its lost.
Theres even a custom Internet Explorer throbber that appears
A screensaver that is included called BackWeb. This appears too be some sort of bulletin board what pulls information online and displays it in a news ticker format (like in SimCity 3000) With no server connectivity it just appears to refresh itself repeatedly. This isn’t a bad idea of a screensaver, being very similar to the Active Desktop Channel screensaver or the Wii News Channel.
The utility that manages content going into the Backweb screensaver
Compaq Remote Support: A utility where a customer representative can remotely control you PC, useful for support purposes if the end user requires support or is experiencing technical issues. Typically this would be sold as part of a support package and is aimed for novice issues who are not experience in diagnosing issues or perhaps installing software. Still im not sure how well this would have functioned over a dial up connection. Windows would later included a utility into the operating system itself with Windows XP.
Netscape Communicator – A popular alternative web browser, for those that do not wish to use Internet Explorer, Netscape also included an email client. Version 4.7 is included here ad features the Compaq throbber.
Microsoft Money – Finance and accounting software, version 2000 is used here
Compaq Help – A customised version of the Windows Help & Support with additional links to Compaq programs and utilities
Compaq.Net – Opens the Compaq branded internet connection wizard
There are also some premade web shortcuts located on the desktop like Compaq Treasures and another for online backup.
A weird omission is Microsoft Works, or any office applications which allows for basic word processing or spreadsheet use. Possibly this would be bundled with a specific SKU of the system that would have been installed by the engineer before shipment.
Control Panel Items
Compaq Connection Helper: Lets you change the default internet browser and the internet connection to use.
Digital Helper: Lets you customise the digital dashboard, which is the LED light that are present on the keyboard. In addition to the standard Caps/Num/Scroll lock indicators there’s a message/alerts and a power/sleep indicator. There is also a internet time sync feature that allows the system to be synchronised the time & date with a server, as Windows ME lacked this feature. Microsoft would introduce this with Windows XP. The email notification light can also be configured here, which requires you to manually setup the email server connection settings and would light up if there’s an unread email in your inbox. It does not appear to detect email from applications like Outlook or Eudora.
Easy Access Buttons: The keyboard that was shipped with these machines featured a dedicated easy access buttons that could be assigned a function for customized look.
Intel Graphics Technology: As this computer would have featured integrated Intel graphics, this utility would let you adjust advenced graphics settings.
An early 2000s desktop PC running Windows 98SE, designed as a basic desktop PC for simple web browsing as evidenced with its included software which is geared to the casual home user.
The Pavilion is HP’s brand of conventional desktop PCs tailored to the home market, similar to IBM’s Aptiva and the Dell Dimension line.
According to an archive CNET page, it has a Celeron 500MHz processor with 64MB of memory and a 10.2GB hard drive. For 86Box I used a smaller 4GB hard drive and a slower processor to ease on the emulation. Variations of this model exist with different optical drives, hard drives and processor combinations with some coming with AMD K6 processors and CD-R drives.
Starting the recovery process, which just inflates the OS files from a previous install. There is no instillation wizard, HP just took an install and made a restore image out of it. This does mean a lot of New Hardware dialog boxes will appear due to this, and I had originally intended to use it on a HP Brio motherboard in 86Box, but had great difficulty with resource conflicts and BSoD’s. The Virtual PC profile/motherboard worked much better instead.
With the old VM it even thought the floppy drive controller was a tape drive.
We are booted into a wizard that asks us to confirm the licence agreement, set the keyboard layout, confirm our region and our OEM product key. After a reboot, another wizard starts:
Before we get to the desktop, we are invited to complete the registration wizard where we enter our name, address and our product key which would have been provided in a separate booklet.
And then after that we are given a tour of the operating system, as some users may have been upgrading from a Windows 95 system, or might even be their first PC. This goes around the basic elements of Windows 98 and gives an animated demonstration of navigating Windows Explorer. This also complement’s the built in Windows tutorials for Microsoft.
The Windows desktop with some of HP’s customisations. You will notice the HP Internet Manager, which provides easy access to various internet sites and are sorted by categories affirming that this computer was designed for the consumer that wants to browse the internet.
Clicking on any of the links (Such as Shopping) will open Internet Explorer with a customised link to that page. It sort of works in a similar manor to the internet channels included with Windows 98 and is HP’s replacement for the channel bar. Also, when you click on a link, large green text appears to the bottom left of the screen showing which button you clicked. I think this is supposed to replicate the OSD of many TV’s of the 90s where volume would be displayed in that style of display.
Sadly most of these links are long since dead, and the wayback machine does not hold any archived copies, possibly because they were not designed to be indexed. All of them lead to a paviliondownload.com domain.
Whilst we have Internet Explorer open, we can see the Yahoo! Toolbar that was preinstalled. Yahoo was popular at the time and was the common homepage for many users, similar services were AOL, Lycos and AOL. As for Internet Explorer, version 5.00.2614.3500 is installed.
HP have also bundled a few favourites (Bookmarks) of their own with links to their corporate and dedicated Pavilion homepage.
Also another look at the green OSD, it appears when you adjust the volume too. You can actually customise this in the HP keyboard utility. Changes that can be made include the duration of the message, colour and font size.
Themes and Customisation
We can see HP have included a customised desktop wallpaper, in fact there are four of them provided in different colours (Purple, Green & Blue) and HPStndrd which is a lighter version of blue.
HP also added three custom colour schemes that can be selected in the appearance tab, again the choices being Blue/Green and Purple
Also a shot of the system properties box, with the OEM logo and support information.
Bundled Applications & Utilities
Microsoft Encarta 2000 – Preinstalled but requires the Encarta 2000 disc in order to do anything.
Microsoft Money – Finance management software, the 2000 edition is used here.
Microsoft Works – basic productivity suite that includes a word processor, organiser and a spreadsheet application.
Trellix – Some sort of website builder that included a few templates that allowed for users to create and build their own website. I wonder if they will work with WordPress?
Quicken – Basic 2000 comes preinstalled and is a personal finance management utility, similar to Microsoft Money which was also included. I guess here you’re supposed to populate this with you bank statements and recent purchase’s, so you can get a rough idea of your balance history.
There’s a few online services included within the Online Services folder – AOL, AT&T WorldNET, Disney’s Club Blast, EarthLink, GTE Easy Sign Up, MindSpring, Prodigy internet and Compuserve.
Also, a Games and Entertainment category in the Start menu. Here you can find links to RealPlayer G2 and MusicMatch JukeBox which was a popular MP3 music player, along with a link to Emusic.com. There are also shortcuts to Windows games like Solitaire.
There is a My Yahoo program in the Start Menu, clicking on that takes you to an internet connection wizard that is HP branded. Since we are connecting via LAN, we can breeze past this. Dialup internet was a very common way of accessing the internet and would have been the de facto way of getting online, but was also around the era where cable and DSL broadband internet was starting to become mainstream.
HP Help: Help and support centre for novice users. This can give information about your HP system and comes with a link to the user manual. This does require a separate CD that has this contained, it is not saved on the hard disk.
FAX (QuickLink III) Fax application, if you cannot use the built in Windows fax utility.
Lastly we also have McAfee security suite which can be found in the system tools folder. This includes the anti-virus and the V-Shield that acts as a firewall. A necessity as Windows did not come with any virus protection at all, that was left up to the end user or the system builder and may would bundle either McAfee or Norton Security.
The typical Windows 98 experience
Recovery Image – Archive.org – This version is cracked which allows for it to be installed on any PC or virtual environment and is an alternative to a regular install. There are two versions with the November 1999 being linked, an August 1999 version exists but has not been tested, perhaps that’s regular Windows 98FE?
The Acer Extensa 700 was a high end business class laptop released in 1998, and came with a Pentium II processor running between 233 – 300Mhz, offered 32 or 64MB RAM and came with an integrated 56K dial up modem. Optional docking accessories were made available supporting DMI 2.0
Although 86Box has a few Acer branded motherboards, there are a few issues in getting them to run due to the erratic keyboard controller they implement. For these its recommended to use the VirtualPC BIOS which can be found in the miscellaneous section of the motherboard list.
The Restore utility
Originally these restore images were designed to be used on the system they had shipped with, as often they will contain software that is either licenced to that particular machine / model, or uses specific drivers that the hardware requires.
That said, I used a modified recovery image that can be found on the Internet Archive. From the looks if it, it appears a few files on the boot floppy image have been modified to allow instillation on non Acer machines.
A Windows 95 version also exists, I guess this system was released between the two OS’s.
Boot up was pretty straightforward since this is a bootable CD, we are booted directly into the recovery utility where the system immediately begins its restore. This does require us to have initialized the disk in FDISK prior.
Initially the recovery seemed to be going well, and it immediately quit and dumped us to an A:\ prompt. This was a little odd, as normally recovery software informs the user the recovery process has completed and that they can restart their system. Still I rebooted, only to find it was stuck on an missing operating system error. I decided to run the recovery again, thinking maybe it has crashed the first time but to no avail. IT would exit to the a:\ prompt after reaching 100% completion and upon reboot there would be no bootable OS. I fired it up with the Windows 95 boot disk and check to see the status. Running a dir command on C:\ shows no results, and running FDISK showed no partitions, despite me creating and formatting to FAT32 prior to running the software.
It was defiantly writing files to the disk, as I could see the status icons in 86box light up for the hard drive, and the VHD file has grown to around 550MB meaning that files had defiantly been written to the hard disk (VHD image files can be set to dynamically expand as they are used).
This was bizarre and I wasn’t sure what was going on, was the recovery program nuking the partition table? Or maybe the virtual HDD wasn’t big enough and it was overwriting data. Unlikely since I had created 4GB image, and FDISK defiantly detected the full amount, along with the BIOS.
I decided to try an alternative method, there is a way to manually invoke the recovery program which might let us see whats going on.
To manually start the recovery process, point your command line to the TOOLS folder, then run GHOSTRO.EXE
To do this you must be in a command prompt that has been booted into the recovery image, this is located in the [BOOT] folder and is the Boot-1.44M.img file
You will need to manually locate the image file, this can be located in the IMAGES\PRELOAD.HDD location on the CD. Its worth noting the CD drive gets mounted to a different drive letter for the recovery only, it follows the standard Windows conventions after restore has completed.
The image field is password protected, the password being ACERMSU in block capitals. This was found in the AUTOEXEC.BAT file, located in the floppy image file on the CD 9 located in the [BOOT] folder and is the Boot-1.44M.img file)
You are then given the option to select which drive or partition you wish to recover to
Recovery started again, looking similar to the original process, but this time we are told to press Ctrl+Alt+Del to reboot the system
Look! An OEM customized boot screen for Windows 98. It wasn’t uncommon to see these on Dell, Compaq or TIME PCs of the era.
Since we are running this on completely different hardware, we need to go through the hardware detection process which will take a while and will require a few reboots. Window s98 should have the drivers on the hard disk in CAB form so it should not prompt for the install CD-ROM. It’s a good idea at this point to keep the 86box hardware as simple as possible, don’t install any sound/network cards or SCSI controller just yet.
Never seen this before, appears Windows 98 has to reconfigure itself. I guess this cleans up the old hardware that is no longer used.
Once we have the graphics card drivers installed, we can explore the install fully, An S3 ViRGE or Trio32 is recommended as 98 has built in drivers and support for hardware acceleration, plus you get basic 3D capability though for some serious gaming you will want to give it a Voodoo.
The included background wallpaper, which is an active desktop wallpaper.
The system properties box, showing the OEM logo and support information.
Despite the VM not having IrDA support, we still see the icons for it in the system tray and the My Computer.
A utility to change the modem region, but the system cannot find the included modem.
A full guide to the notebook computer, presented in HTML form. This acts as an user manual of sorts. It seems Acer neglected to update this for Windows 98 as much of the documentation refers to Windows 95 or NT.
A look at the notebook manager which is the program that interacts with the laptop BIOS, Which does not function on this VM sadly, we only have the screenshots from the manual to go by.
Seems to be a PIM (personal Information Manager) management tool which makes sense as this would have been marketed as a business computer. Developed by Pumatech
After loading we have this small window that lingers on the desktop
We first need to create a sync relationship, possibly with an external PDA or drive
The file transfer utility
The support screen, which just gives you the opportunity to register the software and view the readme
Lastly the synchronize tool to connect with another drive. I’m not sure if this is for a specific device that Acer might have bundled with this laptop or if its using a standard protocol to exchange data. This could be intended to sync files with a remote server, like a workplace domain for when the user needs to take their system home for the day. They can then later upload their files back to the server when they come in the next day This was way before the days of cloud sync service like Dropbox or OneDrive You could also use this to backup files to another hard drive, or an external Zip or Magneto optical disk (which 86Box supports)
Trying to backup the entire PC to a 100MB ZIP disk, I assumed it would only backup the documents folder.
Some soft of MIDI/CD player and mixer that makes use of the soundcard built into the machine. Probably not much use with the SoundBlaster we have instead. The DAT section has me curious, can this play digital audio tapes if one is connected?
MIDI files can be played, but you need to add them as part of a playlist first.
SafeOFF – some sort of utility that refuses to run, possibly an ACPI power standby utility.
And that’s it, very little bundled software with notable exceptions like Microsoft Works or Quicken which seems weird for a business laptop, perhaps they expected the user might already have access to Microsoft Office from their business or workplace?
There isn’t much included in the way of these or colour scheme, overall it’s a nice install of Windows 98 and not bloated like the Sony VAIO was.
A 1995 OEM install that was deployed on their Aptiva line of systems which are IBM’s consumer line of home computers. Not sure of the specific model, but it could be a generic restore image used for the Aptiva systems of the era.
86Box has a limited amount of supported Pentium IBM machines, with the closets models being PS/ValuePoint P60 – an early Pentium PC. Since a system of this era would have shipped with Windows 95, this appear s to be the closest match
Once rebooting we are presented with a lot of hardware installation dialogue messages as this was intended to be used on a different machine. Windows 95 does support a lot of this hardware out of the box but we need to run the New Hardware Wizard for it to be detected and installed. For this I recommend only having the base hardware setup in 86box, don’t add any network, sound or SCSI controllers just yet.
Machine: IBM PS/ValuePoint P60 Processor: Pentium 60MHz Memory: 32MB – 128MB Max Graphics: Tseng Labs ET4000/w32 – 2MB Sound: SoundBlaster AWE32 PnP (Has an additional IDE channel) Network: Realtek RTL8019AS
After install we are treated to a tutorial application that goes through the basics of using a mouse. Next we are given the opportunity to register our PC, either via mail or modem.
Windows 95 B, released a few months later and adds few improvements compared to the original release.
A few bits of bundled software
Netscape 3: The internet browser that comes with the system, this must have been before Microsoft mandated that OEM bundle Internet Explorer into their systems. Speaking of which, Internet Explorer 3 also comes with the OS. I always liked this version of IE due to the background italics on the explorer bar.
IBM Lotus SmartSuite Instead of Microsoft Office IBM opted to include their Lotus SmartSuite software which was a competitor suite of applications that bundled a word processor, spreadsheet and organiser software into one package
One of the premade templates, memo.
And Lotus 1-2-3 that was once the industry standard spreadsheet software. Possibly still being used
And lastly the organiser, this incorporates an early form of skemorphism with it representing a real diary book.
And the actual devil itself which looks like a Windows 3.x program. The big Push here button kinda makes it look like a pop up window scam. Updates are delivered through floppy disk although you could probably download them from the IBM website. The program simply asks you for the file path of where the updates are located.
In the Accessories, Games folder there are a few options that relate to MS-DOS such as EMS boot and XMS. These would relates to certain types of memory that DOS had used and was needed to use certain games. Selecting these options will reboot the computer into that specific DOS mode. Honestly I’m not sure which games require a specific mode, but I remember my old TIME PC having a similar set of options in its bootup menu.
In the Accessories, Games folder there are a few options that relate to MS-DOS such as EMS boot and XMS. These would relate to certain types of memory that DOS had used and was needed to use certain games. Selecting these options will reboot the computer into that specific DOS mode. Honestly I’m not sure which games require a specific mode, but I remember my old TIME PC having a similar set of options in its bootup menu.
Tutorials for Windows are also featured here, which follows basic Windows concepts such as the taskbar, expanding and minimizing windows to the taskbar and using the Start menu.
Thee are also links to the bundled software applications, meaning this acts as a software launcher.
Lastly a look at the systems BIOS of an IBM ValuePoint, with a clean looking setup utility. The hard drive is limited to around 520MB and it cannot address any further. Larger hard disks might be possible with a SCSI controller, plus it would let you add up to around 7 different drives.
The BIOS is straightforward to navigate, with the arrow keys being used to select and change settings. The Pg Up and Pg Dn keys can be used to cycle through the different screens.