With the right software, Windows 98SE can still be a very useful operating system. This post will list some of the applications I often install with my Windows 98 setup, and provides the download links, where applicable.
To access FTP, I use FileZilla v2.1.9a, among the last few to work on Windows 98. It can still connect to modern FTP servers which do not require FTP via TLS. Putty v0.61 also works well on Windows 98, supporting serial and telnet. SSH will also work as long as your server uses one of the ciphers supported by this version of Putty.
Microsoft Office XP is the last version of Office to support Windows 98. However, as Office XP does not support Office 2007 formats (without the converters that can’t run on Windows 98) and modern Office version can still create Office 97 files, you might as well install Office 97, which consumes fewer resources and works just as well. To open Office 2007 format, use my release of Go-oo Office.
For text editing, I use Notepad++ v5.9.1. It supports many different programming languages and not much has changed since this version. These old versions came with two releases, ANSI and Unicode for each version. Although both releases can handle Unicode content within text files, the ANSI version can only handle ANSI file/path names whereas the Unicode version can handle both ANSI/Unicode in file/path names. For simplicity, I install the ANSI version.
If Notepad++ doesn’t work, you can always install Metapad. It is more lightweight (190KB only) and works just well, just that it supports far fewer languages (C, HTML and Java).
For media player, although you can install Windows Media Player 9, again this will probably just slow down your computer. You can also try K-Lite Codec Pack v3.45b (file name: klcodec345b.exe), which will install many pre-prequisites such as DirectX and waste system resources. For me as I only need to play WAV, MP3 and MIDI, the default Windows Media 6 (mplayer2.exe) is sufficient. If not, you can try a lightweight player such as WinAmp 5.03a.
To extract ZIP and RAR files, use 7-Zip v4.57 which works fine with Windows 98.
For PDF viewers, I use Foxit Reader v2.3.3309, which supports Windows 98 and can still open most modern PDF files. I also use PDF Creator v1.2.3 by pdfforce.org, which allows you to generate PDF by printing to a virtual PDF printer:
To burn CDs, use ImgBurn. Even the latest version still supports Windows 9x!
To handle floppy disk and hard disk images, use WinImage v8.0.8000 (created in 2005). To handle ISO images, use WinISO v5.3 (created in 2001). Both work well in Windows 98.
To use USB devices such as keyboard/mouse, floppy, CD or hard disk drive, a USB stack is needed. I always install NUSB33E.EXE.
Microsoft .NET Framework v2.0 redistributable package (but not Service Pack 1) supports Windows 98. However, I do not see a point installing it (which will just make things slower), unless you have a specific software which requires it.
Visual Studio 6.0 with Visual Basic and Visual C++ is the last version to support Windows 98. You can also try Borland Turbo C++ 4.5 which is a 32-bit compiler and works well with Windows 98. Otherwise, install the original release of Dev-CPP (v22.214.171.124, 23 Feb 2005) for a more modern C programming experience. This version is designed to support Windows 98, NT, 2000, XP and works fine on my Windows 11 machine.
To view images, I use IrfanView v2.98, although I believe there are a few newer versions that still support Windows 98. In any case, the Microsoft Photo Editor which comes with Microsoft Office 97 is also a very good viewer, and comes with simple but excellent editing tools (brightness, contrast, transparency) easily accessible via the menus. Microsoft Photo Editor was removed in later Microsoft Office versions:
Last but not least, if your Windows 98 laptop has a failing CMOS battery which can’t be replaced easily, a time sync utility is needed as Windows 98 does not support NTP. I always use NetTime, which works fine on Windows 98 and even later OS, and manages to correct any time discrepancies almost immediately. Windows’ NTP implementation might refuse to sync if the difference is too large.
You can download a ZIP archive (win98_softs.zip) with some of the applications mentioned in this article here.