Running Obsidian on a VirtualBox Windows 98 Image

My mother unearthed  a load of old  CD ROMs in her attic over Christmas.  She was a big fan of adventure games, in particular MYST and Obsidian, and she wanted to play them again.  The games won’t install on Windows 10, but there was an old Windows 98 installation disk amongst the CDs and so a solution presented itself.

  1. Install VirtualBox
  2. Create a Windows 98 Virtual Machine
  3. Install the games on the VM

I did the following on an old laptop (> 10 years) with Ubuntu installed. It should be no problem on a more modern machine.

Given the number of posts online by other people attempting to run Obsidian, I thought I’d share the process I followed.

Before You Start

  • Install VirtualBox. VirtualBox is free and open source. If you’re not familiar with it, there are lots of tutorials on the web.
  • You’ll need ISOs for Windows 98 and the games you want to use. As I already had the CDs, I created the ISOs using Brasero on Ubuntu.

Creating a Windows 98 VM

The following pages how to install Windows 98 on VirtualBox

Be aware, however, that most of the initial steps outlined were unnecessary: I simply chose install from CD. The Windows image formatted the C: drive for me, I didn’t have to insert a boot disk or fdisk the hard drive.

However, on booting up the VM, the following error occurred

While initializing device NDIS:
Windows Protection Error. You need to restart your computer.

This is due to the fact that modern machines are much much faster than those that Windows 98 used to run on.

I found a fix here:

You need to download the NDIS.VXD file (there’s a link in the article above) and copy it onto your virtual machine. I found it easiest to make a floppy image.

If you’re using Linux, you can make a blank floppy disk image with this command

mkfs.msdos -C /path/imagefile.img 1440

Mount the disk…

sudo mkdir /media/floppy1/
sudo mount -o loop /path/imagefile.img /media/floppy1/

… and then copy NDIS.VXD across to the C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM\ folder of your Windows 98 image. Don’t forget to remove the floppy image or change your boot order when you’re done or you might find your image fails to boot (I wasted an hour before I realized my mistake!)

The above fix should mean that Windows 98 can now run. You’re not finished yet, however, as you’ll need to install video drivers. Go to the Configuring Video section on this link to find out how.

And that’s it, you’re done.  You can now install your games as normal. In my case the meant inserting the Obsidian disk 1 iso and then following the instructions (I’d forgotten about installing QuickTime, but there it is!)

Call me sad, but I enjoyed doing the above more than playing the actual games. It was also a buzz hearing the old Windows start up noise for the first time in years…

One last thought, the entire Win98 image is only about 175Mb.  It’s almost worth cloning it and having a clean install for each game.

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