A first look of a typical Acer OEM install
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.