Diskless Windows 98

This reports about several steps I've taken in order to be able to obtain a stable and usable configuration for Windows 98 in a diskless PC. I hope this can be of any use to others.

WARNING: this is not fully tested and should only be usefull to experienced system administrators. Until now we have only used up to 30 Mb ramdrives in a AMD K4 100 MHz with a total of 40 Mb, soon some progress is expected (a PC available).

This is not a final supported product, if you are looking for something like than check www.windrv.com.

Based on:

This is a local setup for Windows 98 with at least 128 Mb RAMDRIVE
For "high-performance" new machines (minimum Pentium 200 MHz with 256 Mb), because we use high compression the CPU must be fast. Depending on how much of the file-system you are able to move to network servers the RAM required may be much less.

This configuration, intended for high performance, doesn't require any special changes to a "standard" installation. The motivation for this type of configuration is that RAM cost tends to decrease much faster than HDD cost. Today you can buy a 256 Mb DIMM for the same price as a current HDD.

How to setup and manage

You must use a local disk for instalation and administration, say at least 250 Mb.

  1. Install Windows 98 on the local disk (standard setup: network drivers, ...).
  2. Compress the local disk using maximum compression.
  3. When Windows/98 is tunned as you require, copy drvspace.000 hidden file from the root of your uncompressed drive to a network file server.
  4. Create a Windows/98 boot floopy disk, copy the shell and other required files to this disk. Edit config.sys/autoexec.bat to:
  5. Copy the floopy disk file-system to a file (use dd or other rawcopy). This is a must, you can't use a directory to create a Windows 98 netboot image.
  6. Use NetBoot mknbi-dos to create a boot image.
  7. Remove the HDD from and try it (cross everything you got).
  8. Change the configuration in order for this to work out (it never does for the first time).

(*) - actualy MS-Ramdrive can't handle this sizes, however this has only been tested with MS one and a very restricted Windows 98 file-system. There are other ramdrives available that can go up to 2 Gb, I'll try it soon.

(**) - yes we´ve tried to mount a compressed volume on a network drive unfortunatly scandisk doesn´t allow this. However this would be very interesting because network trafic would be compressed.

Departamento de Engenharia Informática (DEI)
Instituto Superior de Engenharia do Porto (ISEP)
Instituto Politécnico do Porto (IPP)

Rua de S. Tomé, 4000 - Porto, Portugal