Many IT department budgets have been reduced so that they can’t afford the expensive hardware necessary to run Windows XP, the current hot product from Microsoft. Some must be content to upgrade from Windows 95 to Windows 98. To help those who find themselves in this situation, I’ve formulated some common troubleshooting steps to perform when you encounter protection errors after a Windows 98 upgrade.

Protection error prevention
To avoid protection errors (as well as other upgrade errors), perform these recommended steps before you begin the upgrade:

  • Uncompress your drive. If you don’t have enough drive space available, back up and delete data to make room; remove temporary Internet files, empty the Recycle Bin, and perform other disk file maintenance; or purchase a second hard disk.
  • Run Windows 95 ScanDisk to fix any drive problems before the update. Windows 98 installation scans the disk, but doesn’t fix errors.
  • Disable virus software; if your BIOS has automatic virus checking, disable it.
  • Close any Terminate and Stay Resident (TSR) programs you run with Windows 95.
  • Many computer makers, IBM and Hewlett-Packard among them, used proprietary disk cache and memory manager programs on their Windows 95 machines. If you are upgrading on a legacy machine, these TSRs must be disabled. See the Setup.txt file for more information about TSR conflicts with Setup.
  • In some cases, increasing the size of the Windows 95 Swap File can solve problems when running Setup. To change the Swap File size, right-click My Computer, select Properties, highlight the Performance tab, and choose the Virtual Memory button.

Create a Win98 Startup Disk
During installation, create a Windows98 Startup Disk. You’ll use this disk to boot the computer in case some glitch prevents booting from the hard drive all the way into your freshly upgraded Windows 98 machine. If you bypass the Startup Disk creation screen by pressing Next, create the disk as soon as you can after your update.

To create the disk, go to Start | Settings | Control Panel, then double-click Add/Remove Programs. Click the Startup Disk tab, then click Create Disk.

If your installation doesn’t go well, and you aren’t able to boot into the operating system to make your Startup Disk, you have an alternative. If you can get as far as the Win98 boot menu, you can create a Startup Disk using MS-DOS. The procedure is easy:

  1. Restart the computer.
  2. Hold down the [Ctrl] key until you see the Windows 98 Startup menu.
  3. Select Command Prompt Only.
  4. Insert a blank, formatted floppy disk into drive A.
  5. Type these commands, pressing [Enter] after each one:
    cd windows\command
    bootdisk a:
  6. Follow the onscreen instructions.

Once you have a Startup Disk, you’ll always be able to access the Startup menu.

Virus-proof the blank disk

If you use disks less often, you may forget some important considerations. First, before creating the Startup Disk, scan it for viruses. Second, after creating the disk, write-protect it. Should your problem be a computer virus, setting the write-protect tab will keep the disk from becoming infected. Otherwise, you’ll trade the virus back and forth between your computer and the Startup Disk.

Windows protection error messages
A protection error will occur when the operating system has trouble loading or unloading a virtual device driver (VxD). These drivers may be Windows files or third-party files. Sometimes the error message will name the driver using this format:
While initializing device (device name) Windows Protection Error

In that case, diagnosis is easier—resolve the conflict with the troublesome driver by removing or replacing the driver for that device using MSCONFIG (sometimes you may have to reinstall Windows 98).

In other cases, the driver won’t be named. Protection errors can occur for a variety of reasons, including a damaged registry, VxD driver conflicts, motherboard problems, and CMOS configuration errors. The recommended procedure for correcting unnamed driver protection errors is to start the computer in Safe Mode. If Safe Mode is successful, troubleshoot using the techniques in “Using Safe Mode” (below). Otherwise, you’ll need to boot from a Windows 98 Startup Disk. A useful technique is to create a Boot Log by rebooting the computer into the Windows 98 Startup menu and choosing Step-By-Step confirmation. During boot, answer yes to the question:
Create a startup log file (BOOTLOG.TXT)

This will place a file called Bootlog.txt in your root directory. The log will contain each driver Win98 attempts to initialize, and its result, i.e., success or failure. Read the file; if all else fails and you can’t load Windows, you can view the file through the Command Prompt using this command:
Type Bootlog.txt | More

As you may remember, this command displays the contents of Bootlog.txt one screen at a time. Scroll by pressing the spacebar. The last driver in the file is likely to be the one causing the problem.

Sound and video troublemakers
Sound card and video card drivers are frequent sources of fatal errors. For example, incompatibilities with the Creative Labs’ Sound Blaster Live can cause an invalid page fault. Check the computer manufacturer for an update specific to your computer, and then check with the device maker.

It’s possible that an ISA display adapter won’t be upgraded properly from Windows 95 to 98 when a PCI adapter is also present. In that case, disable the PCI adapter and reinstall the ISA adapter. More information about this problem is available in Microsoft Knowledge Base Article Q185220.

Using Safe Mode
The standard recovery technique for any Windows 98 installation or upgrade is to first boot into Safe Mode, which, you may recall, starts the operating system with minimal device drivers, and with a standard VGA display. To start Safe Mode, reboot the computer, hold down the [Ctrl] key until you see the Windows 98 Startup menu, and choose Safe Mode.

It’s possible that some Windows 95 drivers are not compatible with Windows 98, causing fatal exception errors. To root out the problem drivers, go to Start | Run, type MSCONFIG, and press [Enter]. Click the General tab and check the Selective Startup box.

Click tabs for the files you want to modify: System.ini, Win.ini, Config.sys, Autoexec.bat, and Winstart.bat. Uncheck the boxes for drivers you want Windows 98 to ignore. At your next restart, they won’t be loaded. Continue to troubleshoot by checking and unchecking drivers until you have located the problem. You can use the Web to download updated drivers. When you do, try your computer manufacturer first, then the device makers.

Using Step-By-Step boot

Another way to troubleshoot driver errors is to boot to the Windows 98 Startup menu, as described above, and choose Step-By-Step. You’ll be asked to confirm each driver that is loaded. If the system hangs during boot-up, the last driver is likely to be the culprit.

For more information
The tips in this article should reduce your aggravation when you upgrade from Windows 95 to Windows 98. These Microsoft Knowledge Base Articles offer additional help with your Windows 98 upgrade:

These TechProGuild articles will also help: