It first came up when I tried to install Office XP on the system.
The install went fine, but when I re-started, all I got was the dreaded "VFAT unable to load" BSOD.
It would boot in safe mode, and by trial and error, I discovered that if I disabled my network adaptor in Device Manager, it would boot normally. I could then re-enable the adapter, and it worked fine, but the system wouldn't start normally with it enabled.
I also started to get all sorts of error messages about the registry being corrupted if I tried to test its integrity with utilities like Norton Windoctor.
Eventually I had to fix the problem by using scanreg to restore an earlier version of the registry, but this of course didn't contain the necessary keys for Office XP.
To cut a very long and painful story short, I had to abandon Office XP (it is actually a dual boot system with Windows 2000, and I now use Office XP just on Windows 2000, with no problem.)
Since then I have had this happen again a few times when I've installed new software, and it seems to happen if anything complex is installed which writes a lot of registry data.
What appears to be happening is that the boot fails if the registry gets to above a certain size, and it seems to be specifically if the system.dat file gets to above about 12.5MB in size.
I recently proved this (I think!) when it happened again when I tried to upgrade to WMP 9 from WMP 7.1.
The VFAT error came back again on the first reboot after an apparently successful install.
As an experiment I saved some of the Realplayer registry keys as exported files, and deleted the keys. (Realplayer installation writes huge amounts of data to the registry.)
The system then booted fine. I merged the keys back in, and the system wouldn't boot again!
The system is just on edge on this, as I have been able to cure the problem occasionally in the past by compacting the registry by using an optimisation program. However I have now uninstalled the Realplayer, which has reduced the registry size considerably, so that I'm not in imminent danger of this happening again if I install something!
Realplayer was the obvious thing to remove as it does write a huge amount of stuff to the registry, and I didn't use it much anyway. I'll probably just install RealAlternative now instead.
I should say that Realplayer always worked perfectly when it was installed.
So, does anyone have any idea as to why this was happening?
Everything I've read on this subject, and believe me, I've searched a lot, implies that the size of the Windows 98 regisrty is limited only by disk space and memory. I have a huge amount of both.
The symptoms seem to indicate to me that something is happening when the registry files get to a certain size which is preventing them from loading into memory.
I have 1GB of RAM, which Windows 98 seems to be recognising and using.
My motherboard is a Supermicro dual Zeon server board (Intel chipset), which I gather hasn't been tested with Windows 98, but seems to work fine apart from this issue.
Could it be a motherboard issue?
Does the Windows 98 registry go into some special place in memory which isn't as big as it should be for some reason?
Is disabling the network adaptor somehow releasing space which is allowing the registry to load?
If anyone has any clues on this, I would be very grateful to know, because no-one I've asked so far has even ever heard of this happening before!
This post has been edited by Dave-H: 21 September 2007 - 09:38 AM