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I have just registered a new account as I have quite a serious problem with my computer that I can't figure out. I have a very old PC running Windows 98SE with an AMD Duron 900MHz.

For some time now my PC has been extreemely noisy so I assumed it was a problem with the power supply fan. Last week it started booting in safe mode so I decided I should take a look. I replaced the power supply with a newer (not brand new) one. I then removed the processor fan to find that there was 1/2 a centimeter of dust build up between the fan and heat sink across the entire area of the fan so no air was getting to the processor, plus one of the fan blades was almost broken off.

I removed the heat sink, cleaned it, replaced it (without adding additional conductive paste) and replaced the fan with a newer (working) one. When I switched my computer back on I realised that I had made the foolish error of not connecting the fan to the mother board correctly so the processor effectively had no fan, and the computer froze before Windows loaded. I then re-connected the fan and ever since this time my computer will not start in normal mode without crashing straight away.

Now every time I startup the computer I get various error messages regarding missing .VXD files, Windows can't find some drivers such a USB drivers, and I sometimes get a CONFIG error advising me to restart. The only way I can get onto the computer is in safe mode,

I don't know if i've burnt out the processor, or if the damage is to the hard drive or mother board or if it's just a registry problem,

If anyone can help me out I would be most grateful,


· TSF Team Emeritus , Microsoft Visiting Expert
3,263 Posts
Hi gazarnold

Over on Tom's Hardware (another tech site) they used to have a video of an Amd processor (it was another member in Duron's processor family, an early big-brother Athlon) attempting to start without a working fan & heatsink [sometimes the heatsink/fan combo would fall off during shipping of systems across the country, and the video was to explore that situation] ... as you might imagine, the processor started smoking in a matter of seconds, & portions of the motherboard around it burnt pretty well along with it.

Check the Hardware
Your situation shouldn't be quite so dire, since you still had the heatsink attached. If the system runs OK in Safe Mode, you may have escaped serious hardware damage. Might as well run diagnostics, though, to make sure - you'll want to see how healthy you old hardware is anyway, so you can plan it's future usefulness.
Test the memory ---
Test the hard drive ---
Check the system's Bios.

Checking the Bios
Enter your system's Bios Setup by pressing the key mentioned in the startup banner or splash screen that appears immediately upon system power on --- "Press F1 (or F2, F10, DEL, etc.) to Enter Setup". Locate a manual for your system/motherboard & follow the recommendations for correct Bios settings (Google searches or vendor websites should yield a manual). For advanced Bios help (especially for those unlucky enough to have a not-very-helpful manual) you can consult Adrian's Bios Optimization Guide (I've recommended it for years) --- --- Once in your system's Bios Setup, pay particular attention to the system time & date: if it has reverted backwards several years, it's time to replace the CMOS battery (instructions might be in your system manual). The battery is often a 3v coin-type battery, such as the popular CR-2032. For a good generic guide to replacing the battery on a desktop PC, complete with illustrations of each step, see Hp’s guide --- --- Since your system had the recent high temperature episode & fan replacement, if your Bios has a section that gives temp & voltage readings, have a look at those to make sure they are within tolerable ranges.

If the system continues to have trouble starting Windows normally, even after you've made sure the hardware is OK & the Bios settings are OK, your quickest repair to fix Windows 98se in such situations is likely an "over-the-top" in-place reinstallation.

Scan for malware before you try the over-the-top. A good tool for this is the "Ultimate Boot CD for Windows" -- if you or a friend have a Windows XP system, you can download the tools to make a "UBCD4Win" -- and scan the PC with the antimalware tools included on it ( --- ---). Alternately, if you or a friend have an external hard drive enclosure, you can place the old drive in that, and scan the drive from another computer.

Here's a guide I wrote a while back for "over-the-top" reinstallations -- it covers most of the details, but if you have any questions, feel free to ask.

*Note that this guide is written for systems with a Windows installation CD, or with the Windows installation ".cab" files on the hard drive -- for "Recovery Disks", you must follow the instructions from the system vendor (these can vary from model to model).

Windows 98/Me "Over-the-top" Reinstall

Sometimes an over-the-top reinstallation of Windows can be a timesaver. On most recent computers the whole procedure can take as little as 30 or 40 minutes. A nice feature of this procedure is that your programs do not have to be reinstalled, and your data is not lost. You likely will need to visit Windows Update when finished, though, to download and reinstall some of the Security Updates. [Windows Update still works for Windows 98/Me, even though its period of active support by Microsoft expired in mid-2006 (all the updates up to that point can still be found there)].


You may need to temporarily disable the Bios virus protection that is found on some motherboards (if your motherboard does not have this feature, you can skip this step). Enter Bios Setup by pressing the key displayed during startup, and somewhere on the first or second menu should be an item to Enable or Disable Bios Virus Protection (might be called BiosShield, or VirusGuard, or whatnot) ---> then, when you're finished with your reinstallation of Windows, re-Enable the Bios protection feature.

On some systems, and over-the-top will require your CD-key (Windows 98/Me product license key). [This is often on a sticker either on the case, or on the original CD]. If you've lost your CD-key: before you start the reinstall look for it by starting regedit from the Start/Run box, then navigate to the key (you navigate in regedit like you do in Windows Explorer) HKEY_Local_Machine/Software/Microsoft/Windows/CurrentVersion . . . if you click on "Current Version", you should see a list of keys and values in the box displaying on your right. One of these will read "ProductKey" and will consist of 5 sets of 5 alphanumeric characters = your CD key. Be careful when in regedit just to look at things and not make accidental changes.

During the reinstall, it is also a good idea to be entirely disconnected from any networks, wired or wireless (unplug ethernet cables, disable wireless), and to be disconnected from printers, scanners, cameras, multifunction devices, fax machines, PDAs, memory card readers, USB flash drives, external USB/Firewire/eSATA drives, etc.

Over The Top ReInstall:

Place your Windows98/Me CD in the CD/DVD drive (or be ready to point Windows to the place on your hard drive where your Windows 98/Me installation files are stored).

Boot with a bootable floppy or CD - "with CD-rom support", and from DOS rename the file to win.bak. Like this

cd \Windows
rename win.bak

If you have the Windows 98/Me CD in your CD/DVD drive, you can then switch to the drive letter of your CD drive [often drive D:], simply by typing the drive letter followed by a colon ( for example - D: ) at the command prompt.

If you have the Windows 98/Me installation files on your hard drive, switch to that location (which is often C:\Windows\Options\Cabs - by typing cd C:\Windows\Options\Cabs ), and start setup (by simply typing the command: setup)

When Windows asks if you want to use the directory C:\Windows.000, instead choose Other and type in C:\Windows (without the .000 following).

Make sure that you have your antivirus, antispyware, and firewall running before you connect to networks afterward. Don't forget to visit Windows Update ASAP to get the Critical Patches the need reinstalling.

Best of luck
. . . Gary
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