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How to run Windows 98 on Linux in a virtual machine

Windows 98 is 22 years old. Still, it can be useful, even to Linux users. If you’re on Linux and you have an old video game or piece of software that just won’t run in Wine, you may be able to use it by running Windows 98 in a virtual machine.

In this guide, we’ll go over how to create a Windows 98 virtual machine on Linux. To get started, connect a CD ROM drive to your Linux PC via USB (or other means), and insert your Windows 98 CD-ROM into the drive. Alternatively, if you have an ISO image of Windows 98, place it on your Linux PC.

Note: be sure you also have your serial key for Windows 98, as it is required to install the operating system in the virtual machine. The VM likely will not install without the key. If you cannot find your old key, consider contacting Microsoft for help.

Install VirtualBox on Linux

Virtualization on Linux can be done in a bunch of different ways. That said, in this guide, we will focus on Oracle VM VirtualBox. The reason? Out of all of the virtualization tools on the Linux platform, it is the easiest to set up, it is simple to use, and requires minimal configuration.

To start the installation process of VirtualBox on your Linux PC, open up a terminal window by pressing Ctrl + Alt + T or Ctrl + Shift + T on the keyboard. Once the terminal window is open, follow the command-line installation instructions outlined below that corresponds with the Linux OS you currently use.

Please note that running VirtualBox on Linux requires Linux kernel headers. Be sure to install linux-headers, kernel-devel, etc., along with VirtualBox to ensure that the VBox Host drivers compile. For help on Vbox Host drivers, refer to this page here.

Ubuntu

Ubuntu has the VirtualBox app in its software repositories. To install it, run the Apt installation command.

sudo apt install virtualbox

Debian

If you’re a Debian user, you will be able to get VirtualBox working. However, as VirtualBox is non-free, you won’t get it from Debian software sources. Instead, you must install the downloadable DEB package.

wget https://download.virtualbox.org/virtualbox/6.1.12/virtualbox-6.1_6.1.12-139181~Debian~buster_amd64.deb
sudo apt install ./virtualbox-6.1_6.1.12-139181~Debian~buster_amd64.deb

Arch Linux

To get VirtualBox working on Arch Linux, simply execute the following Pacman command in a terminal window.

sudo pacman -S virtualbox

Fedora

Need to get your hands on VirtualBox in Fedora Linux? First, ensure the RPM Fusion repos are set up. Then, enter the commands below.

sudo dnf install VirtualBox

OpenSUSE

Those on OpenSUSE will be able to install VirtualBox using the Zypper command.

sudo zypper install virtualbox

Creating a Windows 98 VM on Linux

To create a Windows 98 VM in VirtualBox, start by launching the app on your Linux PC via the program app menu. Once VirtualBox is open, locate the “New” button, and click on it with the mouse.

Upon clicking on “New,” look for the “Name” text box. Click on it with the mouse, and type in “Windows 98”. By typing out “Windows 98” into the text box, VirtualBox will detect that you want to run Windows 98, and configure settings accordingly. Click “Next” to continue.

On the next page, you will see “Memory” size, followed by 64 MB of RAM configured for the VM. For best results, leave the RAM that VirtualBox has pre-configured. If you are a Windows 98 expert and need more RAM, drag the slider to add more. When your memory size is configured, click “Next” to continue.

After setting up RAM for the VM, you must create a hard disk. Select “Create virtual hard disk now,” and click the “Create” button. Then, select “VDI” and click on “Next.” Be sure to choose “Dynamically allocated” and keep the drive size at 2 GB.

Now that your Windows 98 VM is configured in VirtualBox, select it on the left-hand side in the VBox app window and click on the “Start” button to turn on the VM. When the VM is powered up, you will see a window appear that says, “Select start-up disk.” Click on the yellow folder to bring up the file browser.

Using the file browser, click on “Add.”  Then, browse for your Windows 98 ISO file. Alternatively, insert your Windows 98 CD ROM, and select it in the menu to use it for installation purposes.

Once your Windows 98 ISO file or CD-ROM is added to the VM, look for the “Start” button, and click on it to start up the VM. When the Windows 98 VM is started, your Windows 98 VM is ready to use. From here, just install Windows 98 like you typically would. Be sure to enter your Windows 98 serial number!

When Windows 98 is fully set up on your VM, you’ll be able to run all kinds of retro games and software just like the old days, all while never leaving your Linux desktop!

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