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Nano98: Windows 98 that boots and runs under 5MB (2003) (archive.org)
205 points by ksec on Sept 20, 2021 | hide | past | favorite | 136 comments

In the days when Windows was easier to crack, it was not uncommon to find very small, specialised ISOs of "miniature windows" designed specifically for running a certain task -- typically some form of data-recovery app, system repair/maintenance or similar -- and they would fit on a single CD-R, have almost no system requirements, and, if I recall successfully, be bloody useful to my school's computer administrators who otherwise just had to reimage machines all the time with Norton Ghost.

Nowadays it seems that a Windows ISO does not come up short of 4 GB and this tradition of "repacking" them into small, optimised, crap-free operating systems (albeit of questionable legality, but inevitably used on a machine that had a real windows license!) has been lost. I lament this.

When I was in high school, I had a specialized CD like this. The computers in our labs were configured to prevent us from running arbitrary programs, but they weren't configured to prevent booting from a CD.

I created a stripped down Windows 95 live CD that had the default shell replaced by StarCraft. I could sit down at a machine, insert my CD, reboot, and the machine would boot directly into SC.

Hehe, neat! I remember doing something similar, albeit once accidentally. Instead of changing the shell (e.g. to LiteStep), I forced an old DOS game to be executed before windows. Exiting the game would result in shutting down the PC.

I was terrified that I removed my OS and replaced it with a shareware point and click adventure game.

It was a great learning experience though (esp. for my German: https://moorhuhn.fandom.com/de/wiki/Dunkle_Schatten)

I remember running Winamp in the background along with various games (Diablo, Age of Empires, Red Alert). They would always lag terribly.. but not if you didn't log in first!

win+R before login was pretty useful - albeit insecure!

Happy times. With single-digit RAM, every megabyte counts!

Tangential, but I installed Longhorn on a high school computer without considering the implications. I saw another student casually using it a few weeks later like it was nothing special. Out of morbid curiosity, I would have loved to see the technician who came to fix it.

Wonderful to see Longhorn mentioned. This defined my middle school tinkering days, and eventually got me into other OSes like Linux.

This is so meta! In all that time, SC (1&2) to this day continues to evolve the metagame around efficient build orders: what can I do to throw a punch at my opponent sooner than they can expect. If we could start our matches from the BIOS POST rather than the in-game 0:00, I guess you'd have a pretty strong timing push ;)

There used to be a hacked version of Windows 3.1 in the early '90s that fit on a 3.5" floppy (I think it was called Windows Lite), and it was extremely stripped down. The use case was that it could launch Write.exe (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_Write), which let you present formatted materials onscreen similar to Word, so it acted sort of like a light-weight alternative to PowerPoint. Anytime I had to present on someone else's machine, I would use it to ensure things would work.

(Write.exe is still present in Windows 10, and redirects to WordPad, which replaced Write.exe in Windows 95.)

those were seemingly easy to make, kernel.exe gdi.exe user.exe some drivers and ONE FONT.. lol maybe one program. its been a while but it was 'neat'.

With Windows being componentized, this is often a lot easier than it used to be - there's official minimal editions like the forgotten Nano Server (or an attempt at remaking it like remin-core: https://github.com/replisys/remin-core), IoT, Factory OS and whatnot, but even adding the legacy GUI subsystem you can get somewhat small when building Windows PE variants like used for the default setup/recovery images.

At least a few years ago some of this trend was still alive making little PE images that could almost be used for real desktop use on sites like reboot.pro and other spin-offs, though it seems to be a lot less mainstream than the piracy heydays during the XP era.

Factory OS is pretty interesting because it can run any Win32 app (outside of a hypervisor) via a container, something you couldn’t do with WinPE as often there were too many libraries missing to get something like Chrome running.

I wonder if they’ll ever use it to replace WinPE. They’ve had the same installer since Vista, and it probably needs a redo (it still takes forever to install Windows).

Hiren's boot CD use to have both live Mini XP and Mini Windows 98 for all kind of diagnostics and running the repair tools. Back then it was mostly data recovery, bad sector and some password breaking tools.

They created WinPE (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_Preinstallation_Enviro...) for this purpose. The full Windows "desktop experience" is not that well suited for this sort of stuff anyway.

There were legal Linux distros that had similiar repair tools (e.g. Damn Small Linux) and fit on a 50mb business card sized CD-R. Useful to keep in your wallet before the days of USB sticks.

It's still possible to customize .wim images and have post-install scripts to declutter stuff but straying from standardized edition components can cause future updates to lead to a corrupted state, which was the case with windows xp as well. It's just not a large enough use case to warrant support.

For repair/maintenance, there is WinPE (and now, live USB boot)

These convenient Windows builds on torrent sites can be compromised with keyloggers, preconfigured remote desktop backdoors and crypto stealing packages now :(

It is interesting how the use of these underground builds are prevalent enough to be worthwhile to compromise

On reflection those random downloads altruistically shared back in the day by passionate geeks on otherwise sketchy-looking sites were never as harmful to me as the user-hostile, telemetry-sucking, ad-filled crap clogging up the modern appstore.

I tried WinReducer on Windows 10 recently; it didn't reduce the ISO size by much, but it did successfully remove pre-installed apps and services that serve no useful purpose (like telemetry, legacy server features, etc.). Went with a fine-toothed comb through the task scheduler afterwards and managed to get down to a pretty snappy Win10 install that quickly boots to the desktop with 1.8Gb RAM usage (as opposed to the 2.5Gb RAM I see on a regular Win10 install on the same machine).

Don't use its defaults though; it'll remove Microsoft Account login and Store (which I wanted because I have Game Pass for the kids).

I made one of these for when I was a repair technician at a computer shop. They used WinPE, which is the same sort-of-Windows environment that installers run.

UBCD4Win was the toolkit I used. It had all my virus scanners, data recovery apps, pretty much everything I could ever need on there. Like a Linux live CD but with Windows. Shit was brilliant!

Windows still does WinPE, but I think that is limited to OEMs and other fancy Microsoft-licensed corpos.

There are still builds out there, but honestly 4gb isn't much when the thumbdrives are so cheap now. Still blows my mind how cheap they are!

I found this same hacker spirit in the FOSS world. Windows just struggles so much to be independent from its user, that I realized that I have to give up. I hope that many did the same and now nurture their talent where at least they don't have to swim dead against the current.

I found this same hacker spirit in the FOSS world.

Unfortunately that "hacker spirit" seems to end at "must have the source code"; the same can't be said of those customising Windows and such, who definitely didn't have the source but succeeded nonetheless.

How do you mean? Not enough hacker spirit in the FOSS world?

I meant that they seem lost without source[1], while the Windows hackers don't need source.

[1] I remember someone being very surprised that I patched the binary of a FOSS application, instead of changing the source and compiling it --- the former took a few minutes, the latter would've taken far more time (to get all the dependencies, build system, etc.) and possibly introduced other unwanted changes.

I think most people just don't want to see their effort lost to time.

Patching a binary is impressive, sure, but it's the polar opposite of sustainable. You don't have a good way to document your fix, it's dependent on one exact source tree and how the compiler was feeling that morning, and even minor changes from upstream can completely change the way a binary patch would need to work.

It's great for a one-off hack, but part of the appeal of open source for many people is how easy it is for your changes to become part of the "permanent record" of that piece of software.

I like your argument about sustainability. With proper free software, the code itself is part of the product. When you're left to work on a binary, it's not even not guaranteed that your patch won't work with the next version or whatever - often the authors specifically make the life of the modders harder. It's part of the product that you don't get to modify it. It's signed, obfuscated, there's checks for integrity, uglified, ABI modifications for the sake of breaking compatibility. So much of the effort is just fighthing against that, and that's a directly opposing sustainability.

I don't think this argument holds much substance. FOSS developers are absolutely not lost without the source - they just share the fruit of their labor under FOSS licenses. In fact there's a good chunk of work being done black-box style: WINE, many of the drivers, game modding, hell here's a random FOSS binary patcher[0]. So FOSS developers don't seem to be lost without the source.

[0] https://github.com/secretsquirrel/the-backdoor-factory

I remember some (pirated) Windows XP versions that were minimized as well - with some being under 300 MB.

This was the way back in the early 2000s. We also had auto boot USB keys that upon boot would format the main drive and start listening for the Ghost server to send a command to image the drive. I was often amazed at how quickly you could format an entire computer lab.

I wonder why they would repackage a Windows ISO rather than a Linux one. My bet is the software that is in these ISO's only runs on Windows? Otherwise it would seem that a Linux distro would be the perfect candidate for something like this.

You have to understand that the state of Linux in the early 90s wasn't what it is today. Partitioning/reading/fixing a FAT16/FAT32 disk from Linux was perilous, if even possible....

You could also do a slipstream build and make a windows iso that had all your programs and drivers pre-installed. It was very handy in the days when windows seemed to require reinstalling every few months.

A CD is 650mb. You could get them a lot smaller than that. That’s bigger than the full size one f win 98.

It’s the successor of Windows 95 which you could get on floppies.

My first PC I ever owned was scrap gathered from my friends.

My only HDD was 120MB Conner Peripherals HDD that fell on asphalt out of jacket pocket of my friend while he was riding a bike (no kidding!) and was crisscrossed with bad sectors.

I put up an ambitious (back then) plan to map out all broken sectors and then try to fit Windows 95 and Delphi2 onto the rest.

I remember I was left with something like 70MB of usable disk space and most of it was devoted to Delphi 2.

I have spent a number of days iterating moving some Windows files, restarting to see if it still boots and does the job, restoring the files if it did not.

I was left with something like 20MB (? I assume, I don't remember exactly). There was not a single file that I could remove without breaking it, I have edited a lot of registry and INI files to disable features to let me remove as much as possible. There was no sound support, no plug&play, no unnecessary tools, nothing.

Hats off if you can do the same to Windows98 and shrink it to 5MB.

It also reminds me the well known Things That Turbo Pascal Is Smaller Than (https://prog21.dadgum.com/116.html)

This is honestly awesome.

You would've learned more about the system by accident/happenstance than most people learn in years.

You don't have the HDD anymore by any chance, do you? :) it would be cool to image it...

So basically you had 70MB total to work with, you squished Win95 into 50MB, then had 20MB for Delphi?

What were the rest of the system's specs, and what era was this in?

It was circa 1998. It was 386DX, 96MB of memory, had monochromatic monitor, no enclosure (it rested on a towel) and no mouse (yes, I programmed graphical UIs without a mouse). Obviously no networking of any kind.

Yes, it had more memory than HDD!

It was my first development machine (after programmable calculator which was stolen) so I have fond memories of it.

I believe minimum Delphi 2 install was over 70MB so I also had to cut it up to fit the drive.

Smallest Delphi 2 installation is ~39MB, though that can still be cut a lot. For example the installer says it requires Borland Database Engine (~5MB) but it doesn't unless you use the database functionality. However the CD contains the uncompressed full installation files anyway so you can copy the files manually and check what it works by trial and error. You can get it around 4MB by doing so and shrink it even further by rebuilding the component palette to remove all the database stuff and deleting the database-related units (assuming you do not care about DB stuff of course).

I remember back in the day i made an "install" set of 7 floppies (more than necessary but i wanted some extra stuff) to use with my 386 (which had no working CD ROM) for when my parents used the main PC. BTW that 96MB of memory most likely made a ton of difference, mine had 4MB and was horribly slow with Delphi 2 :-P

It's honestly cool when "origin story" just doesn't do it justice and you have to pull out "bootstrap story" instead :)

I got into a few situations like this myself, but none exactly this crazy :)

How'd you fit 96MB RAM into a 386, btw?? My 486DX2s (2005 represent) only had room for a few MB of RAM. O.o

How'd programming GUIs go without a mouse? Typing in x/y/w/h into the properties box? I'm guessing you have a slightly higher baseline awareness of accessibility (focus order, etc) than most, huh.

Also, out of curiosity, what sort of programmable calculator was it?

Wow, programming environments have always been headscratchingly big. (For a one-pass compiler and IDE, 70MB is kind of... surely the (converted) Win95 API headers didn't require that much space...)

> Things That Turbo Pascal Is Smaller Than (https://prog21.dadgum.com/116.html)

> The Wikipedia page for C++ (214,251 bytes).

  $ wget https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turbo_Pascal
  $ wc Turbo_Pascal
     668  10672 164349 Turbo_Pascal
Never mind C++, rather: The Wikipedia page for Turbo Pascal (164,349 bytes).

This was written 10 years ago so it makes sense for the size to change.

> I have only tested this with Windows 98se.

Win98SE the last windows i actually enjoyed using and believed it was an improvement over the its predecessor.

Nowadays im afraid to run modern windows without a VM and a firewall.

Windows 98 Second Edition is terrible in many ways. I could probably hit the comment limit listing them. Yet it remains my favourite operating system of all time, because everything else (yes, even precious Debian!) is just worse. Worse UI, worse memory use, worse hackability…

In Windows 98 SE, there was a button next to “minimise” that would give every widget a tooltip explaining what it did and how to use it; most programs came with a built-in, GUI instruction manual. Nobody else does this! (The best help UI ever made, and Microsoft just dropped it…)

Windows 98 SE included its own kernel-based virtual machine system, which it used for multi-tasking DOS and “sandboxing” DOS drivers. (They had a global lock and full privileges, though, so it's not really much of a sandbox.)

Windows 98 came with Active Desktop: you could display bits of website on your desktop as widgets (e.g. a weather service). It also came with mshta.exe, for HTML Applications; HTAs were basically like Electron, but built into the OS, so you didn't have loads of insecure Chrome versions clogging up your RAM and hard drive. (It was Internet Explorer, but iirc Internet Explorer was actually good around about that time.)

Yes, it was DOS-based. Yes, you could log in as the system user by clicking “cancel” on the “enter your username and password” box. It should be simple to beat that… so why hasn't anyone?

> Windows 98 came with Active Desktop: you could display bits of website on your desktop as widgets

I never found Active Desktop all that useful. It was annoying because if you wanted a jpg desktop wallpaper, it would enable Active Desktop just for that. The problem was that it noticeably slowed the entire system. I would always convert to bmp and use that, taking a hit on disk space (and possibly RAM) instead of speed.

I don't see how using a BMP would've taken a hit on RAM; it needs to decompress the JPEG to display on the screen anyway, after all.

Well, maybe you have to remember the capacities of these days. If my memory serves me right, a "good" computer for win98se was 64 MB of RAM. But of course, there were plenty of "less powerful" ones still running, with 32 or even 16 MB of RAM. With such limitation, I can see how a 800x600 BMP image can become a drain on RAM. The swap engine tries to make up for it transparently by using swap space on spin-disk HDD, but then, it becomes sloooow.

I think the parent is saying that the jpeg will need to be stored uncompressed in ram - likely in exactly the same format as the bmp is stored in memory - for the graphics system to actually render it out to screen. Not that any "extra" cost of a BMP would be trivial.

So, after they're loaded and (possibly) scaled to fit the screen, I'd expect every background image to use exactly the same memory amount.

> So, after they're loaded and (possibly) scaled to fit the screen, I'd expect every background image to use exactly the same memory amount.

Well, not centered or tiled backgrounds, which I recall Windows did support, and upscaling could be done on a per-pixel basis (although I don't know if that was supported), but yes, the image format shouldn't matter.

I don't know the implementation details - but I wouldn't be surprised if it kept a full-screen-size already-scaled/tiled/centered image somewhere in memory

Back when win95 and co were being made, decoding an image was a lot of work for the hardware, I suspect they'll try to make restoring the background (e.g. dragging a window around and changing what's occluded) to be the simplest bitblt they can.

Windows 98 SE included its own kernel-based virtual machine system, which it used for multi-tasking DOS and “sandboxing” DOS drivers. (They had a global lock and full privileges, though, so it's not really much of a sandbox.)

This is one aspect of the Win9x series which is little-mentioned and little-understood, but IMHO actually represents a huge technical achievement in comparison to NT (which is more of a "traditional" OS design) --- it's really a hypervisor for DOS VMs with all hardware passed-through by default. A similar architecture wouldn't be seen on the PC until KVM, over a decade later.

Yes, you could log in as the system user by clicking “cancel” on the “enter your username and password” box.

Win9x being thoroughly a single-user OS, that login dialog was designed only for authenticating to the network.

This might be the first time I’ve seen anyone remember Active Desktop fondly. I remember it being pretty much universally hated during its heyday.

I, for one, certainly universally hated it.

I liked it as a gimmick, i made it scroll assembly code in green text over a "hacker" background. Lasted for a few days only since it was stealing all the CPU time, but it was neat during that time :-P.

HTAs still work on modern Windows. They can be useful in highly restricted corporate environments to provide calculator-like apps.

> In Windows 98 SE, there was a button next to “minimise” that would give every widget a tooltip explaining what it did and how to use it;

Technically this is still there, it is just that almost no applications use it. However one of the very few things Qt with its Qt Designer (which otherwise is a horrific application) does right is being able to set up context help (as they are called) tips very easily and on the spot (the original method in Win9x was way too cumbersome, though 90% of that was WinHelp itself being too cumbersome). I remember doing that for some tools in a gamedev job a few years ago and the ability to have instant description for any element on the tool dialogs was something the designers liked.

>In Windows 98 SE, there was a button next to “minimise” that would give every widget a tooltip explaining what it did and how to use it; most programs came with a built-in, GUI instruction manual. Nobody else does this! (The best help UI ever made, and Microsoft just dropped it…)

KDE has had it on some apps, it still does in System Settings, though it doesn't work anymore on most settings.

Would you mind if I break it in parts?

> Windows 98 Second Edition is terrible in many ways. I could probably hit the comment limit listing them.

Strong evidence it was not that good.

> Yet it remains my favourite operating system of all time, because everything else (yes, even precious Debian!) is just worse. Worse UI, worse memory use, worse hackability…

In terms of UI, yes, very clean UI by default. You can reach that level today but not out of the box. On the other side, it came with very few programs installed, so you had to install third party apps and consistency went to the trashcan once o did that.

Memory management... we have memory control groups today, I can install and remove swap files and devices with the system running, oomd saves my desktop virtually crashing when under memory pressure, I can use compressed memory... I have to admit that amount memory usage is way larger today and, albeit with third party apps, you could have compressed in win9x but it didn't went far.

Now, there's no way win9x comes even close to debian in terms of hackability. You can easily install compilation dependencies and sources of most packages, modify, compile... I don't even want to argue about this.

> In Windows 98 SE, there was a button next to “minimise” that would give every widget a tooltip explaining what it did and how to use it; most programs came with a built-in, GUI instruction manual. Nobody else does this! (The best help UI ever made, and Microsoft just dropped it…)

Current tool-tips in clickable items removes the need of such feature. Self explainable text boxes also. If you need a '?' widget to get help on other widgets, I'd consider the UI is not obvious enough and should be fixed.

> Windows 98 SE included its own kernel-based virtual machine system, which it used for multi-tasking DOS and “sandboxing” DOS drivers. (They had a global lock and full privileges, though, so it's not really much of a sandbox.)

Extremely unsafe and unstable! No separation between processes' memory and hardware access. UNIX had that since the 70's. The 80386 had such features since early 80's. It is hard to find a good reason why a popular OS in late 90's had no such feature. It was fixed when xp was released by using the nt kernel, but it was 3 decades too late.

> Windows 98 came with Active Desktop: you could display bits of website on your desktop as widgets (e.g. a weather service). It also came with mshta.exe, for HTML Applications; HTAs were basically like Electron, but built into the OS, so you didn't have loads of insecure Chrome versions clogging up your RAM and hard drive. (It was Internet Explorer, but iirc Internet Explorer was actually good around about that time.)

By "widgets on the desktop" it meant "ads". Most people simply disabled active desktop, it was a major waste of resources and minor source of instability. I admit that electron apps eat too much memory, but I think it is proportional to the amount of RAM available these days. I don't think things got worse in this area over time.

Also, IE had its fair share of memory leaks, vulnerabilities and instabilities.

> Yes, it was DOS-based. Yes, you could log in as the system user by clicking “cancel” on the “enter your username and password” box. It should be simple to beat that… so why hasn't anyone?

It was beat. Just read above.

> Now, there's no way win9x comes even close to debian in terms of hackability.

True… though not for the reasons you've listed. It's hackable because half the programs are written in Python or Perl, and because it has man pages; your average 6 year old mucking about with the system will eventually stumble across them. Also, environments like LXDE are fairly customisable, providing insight into how the system works.

The ability to download sources with `apt-source` (or whatever the command is) isn't useful if the guts aren't exposed for you to play with; you'll never want to do something if you don't know it's possible in the first place. (A bad thing about Windows: I could never make .EXE files. A good thing about Windows: I learnt what .EXE and .DLL files were, and that they could contain icon resources, just by mucking around with the GUI interface.)

But yes, had I grown up with Debian, I probably would've had more fun. :-P

I had grown up on win9x and had lots of fun! I had contact with other computers/architectures/OSes before, during and after it; so I always wanted to get free of wintel, but that didn't prevented me from having lots of fun.

I tried linux on my first computer. Minilinux was very limited, mostly a toy on that machine. Debian didn't had support for my keyboard at the time, so I never installed it. I tried a RedHat based distro later just to discover it had no support for my soundcard and winmodem, so I had to go back to windows.

Since the machine was somewhat limited for a late 90's early 2000's, I had to take some care when using it. I discovered that regedit could be run from DOS and that it could backup and recover the register without needing to boot windows. I simply stopped uninstalling programs: just deleted them and recovered a previous register state. With a bit of care I could use the same machine from 1998 to 2001 without ever reinstalling windows. Friends were impressed because of that.

I could use that machine to run video game emulators, abandonware, delphi and c++ builder 5, turboc, IRC, p2p, browsing the web, listened to mp3 and watched webstreams with realplayer. When the matrix movie arrived I could watch it using xvid/divx with some special configurations to make it run fast enough on my machine. The software was well optimized to do so much with a 200mhz mmx processor with 32MB RAM.

Later, the soundcard gained support in 2007 and I replaced the modem with a network card, got 2 floppy drives units, 2 HDDs a cdrom drive and a cdrw-recorder. It became a capable linux box, but it was too late and I already had a new machine which had better compatibility with linux than with windows. But I still have some fond memories of that machine, I repent throwing it away.

> Current tool-tips in clickable items removes the need of such feature.

The described feature isn't really about tooltips, but about showing context-specific help. Tooltips are generally a sentence whereas context help can be a paragraph or two. In addition tooltips are generally placed in toolbars or other "static looking" items whereas context help can be used with any widget on screen, including entry/edit widgets (it isn't that it is technically impossible to use tooltips there - some applications do that - but it is abusing the tooltips and can be unwieldy).

Oh, I also disabled Active Desktop. :-) But in retrospect, had I been a power-user at the time, I would've used it for all sorts of cool stuff.

It's mostly the UI I remember fondly. Technically, of course, it was a garbage fire.

No love for Windows 2000? NT kernel with the classic Windows interface. It ran pretty well on Windows 98 machines and was extremely stable.

So long as you didn't play games. 2000 meant abandoning the vast majority of your PC game library, early on.

You could hack around that and get DirectX working, I was doing all my gaming on Windows 2000 back in the day.

Though I think I may have had a proper dos boot disk for some games, hard to remember, it was quite awhile back. :)

You would've needed a DOS boot disk, yes; while Win98SE was fairly great for playing DOS games, 2000 was most certainly not.

I ran Windows 2000 in high school and never had trouble running any of my games. That said, I didn't have any DOS games in my library, which I'm guessing is what you are referring to.

I tried once. Kinda liked it but it was heavy on my built-for-98-se machine and lacked some things a teenager wanted in a computer - like DirectX.

But I've tried anyway. Then I got owned so hard by Nimda that it is still the first thing that comes to my mind when I think of Windows 2000.

Win 2000 Professional was my favorite windows ever.

Fast and light as Windows 98 but more stable than Windows XP.

2000 and original XP are almost identical (IIRC one is NT 5.0 and the other is NT 5.1). IMHO, The reason hackers loved 2000 and not XP is because of the toy-like XP theme - which shows hackers can be shallow too.

Win2K, good memories. Used it for Delphi and some C++ Builder development between 2000 and 2001; pretty solid, probably more than XP (at least until XPSP2) but needed some more horsepower to use it properly.

>It ran pretty well on Windows 98 machines

I don't think so, for example requirements for RAM:

Windows 98: 16 megabytes (MB) of memory (24 MB recommended)

Windows 2000: 64 megabytes (MB) of RAM recommended minimum;

I used Win 98 SE for a few years, but I subsequently switched to Windows 2000 which was far more stable. I used the same installation (installing updates and service packs via Windows update) from around 2002 through 2010 until a lightning strike took out the system board and the computer could not make it past the BIOS POST check.

I actually used this to run Windows in a BOSCH emulator on my first smartphone - HTC TyTN II. It was painfully slow and unusable for any practical purposes.

> BOSCH emulator

Do you perhaps mean Bochs[1]? I've seen it booting Windows 95 on an early PSP and similar stunts, so running Windows inside Bochs on a smartphone would IMO not be that much out of the ordinary.

Or is there really a PC emulator from BOSCH[2] available somewhere?

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bochs

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Bosch_GmbH

Bosch emulator to emulate the advantages of antilock brake systems.

Yes, Bochs.

It's obvious that he meant Bochs, no need to play dumb.

At least over here (Germany & Austria) Bosch is a very common household name, as they not only are one of the larger employers around, but also have their logo on lots of common household appliances (e.g. dish washers, washing machines, ...) and tools, in addition to manufacturing ECUs for pretty much the entire German car industry.

I just found the idea quite funny that I could have a "BOSCH emulator" in my tool box, right next to my BOSCH electric drill. Especially since OP even used the capitalized spelling from the brand logo.

I'm not trying to be mean here, I genuinely found it funny and tried to point that out the way people usually do in social interactions, rather than rudely responding along the lines of "OMG you made a typo there". I guess that got a little "lost in translation" due to the textual medium and culture difference?

Siemens writes a lot of software. Wouldn’t surprise me if Bosch also did

Yes, indeed. And Siemens actually does have their own hypervisor: https://github.com/siemens/jailhouse

Bosch publishes some Java Open Source stuff for IoT.

They, indeed, do.

Never heard of Bochs before, but I wouldn't be surprised at all if Bosch AG had an emulator for some out-of-date PC hardware config, given the breadth of components (automotive especially) they do. I've found out about much crazier things than that on HN.

What's a BOSCH emulator? Or is this a "bochs" typo?

He meant "bochs"; I suspect an "autocorrect" miscorrection, my tablet does also include popular brand names as "helpful" suggestions. And when you don't see any red waves under the words before submitting, that miscorrection might go unnoticed when posting.

My goto to tool to get WindowsXP down to ~100MB (drivers mostly): https://www.nliteos.com/

I had that mixed up with ntlite in my head (which will do windows 10).

I used this to make a custom Win 10 install for my first gen threadripper desktop. There were major teething issues since I bought it on launch day. Specifically, the Intel wifi driver that was bundled in the windows installer at that point would blue-screen on threadripper the moment it loaded. Intel had an updated driver available, but the bad driver was literally in the windows installer. I couldn't actually get to first boot. Used ntlite to make a custom windows installer where the only change was the updated intel wifi driver.

Love this. Now someone show me how to make a nano Windows 10 installation without all the telemetry BS. Essentially the kernel only with custom explorer.exe.

Experimented with modding Hyper-V Server (the free one) with some success, but too many DLLs missing and multimedia functions don't work.

Maybe you could try by modifying WinPE images [0]. They're quite lightweight. WinPE has been around since Windows XP and it's updated regularly. The last version matches with Windows 11 incoming release.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_Preinstallation_Enviro...

Projects that build upon WindowsPE have existed since Win2k, several of those can be found on github, some updated over the years to use newer base images.

But I always wondered about the legality of using that approach to create a windows Image you could boot of a USB stick, or even a Boot-image server over network.

Afaik, WinPE is the engine under the installation system in older version, and can only be legally used in workflows peripheral to System installation/debug/repair.

Windows Embedded seems to be the MS-preferred approach these days if you need a custom-purpose Windows installation.

How to get/use Windows Embedded legally without an Enterprise agreement has be on my "look-into-it-some-day"-list, but since I don't have/use Windows-only tools in my daily workflows, the urgency has been somewhat steadily decreasing.

WinPE is super convenient.

I've used to build Linux USB installers for PoS systems. Some of these systems used some kind of flashable custom keyboard that most of the time had to be programmed in place and the proprietary software ran on Windows.

I've build a 100MB-ish image containing the current version of WinPE and the program along with its library dependencies. I think I had to download some kind of special blob to that Syslinux could load it into memory.

I also remember booting a small WinPE ISO into the server virtual ISO ILO function to repair remote Windows servers on remote retail stores. Pretty much all the disk related stuff is included. That particular ISO had the proprietary drivers for the server raid controllers.

Anyway very good stuff if you only need to run some old style software that doesn't require multitasking.

I wanted to create a similar "from scratch" installation by adding the bootloader and the kernel to a virtual disk image, then connecting the kernel-mode debugger from the Driver Kit to a virtual machine COM port, and checking what files the kernel expects to see before it falls over (as it doesn't find them). My end goal would have been to add MSYS2 and launch an init system and ultimately a terminal. Unfortunately there were a lot of steps before the system gets to a usable state, I don't think I was anywhere near that point even after a whole lot of reboots & debug sessions.

The summary in this Wikipedia article about the startup process helped a lot: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_NT_startup_process

It is still Windows 10, but Windows LTSC would be a start.

Works fine for daily use after you restore some small things.

Tiny 10 took this to extremes - the latest version can fit on a CD-R. It probably contains less than you want, but it's an interesting exercise on how to reduce Win 10 size:


Windows AME (https://ameliorated.info/) is a bit extreme, but technically does do this

Holy shit they remove Windows Update? That sounds like a great way to slide into madness as software breaks or malware rears its head

Eh, honestly I usually have Windows Update disabled anyway because it causes much more headache than it is worth. Occasionally, once a year at most, I re-enable and update and it has about a 50/50 chance of not making me wish I'd just reinstalled instead.

That sounds decidedly self-inflicted. Windows 10 (minus its LTSC variants) are designed for a much quicker update cycle. "jumping" from versions literally a year apart sounds like a great way to break things

From experience, updating constantly is a pretty great way to break things anyway. This way at least I am able to keep my system stable and working the way I want it to for longer, until I'm ready to deal with it potentially breaking.

It is usually better to chose when to risk breaking stuff then having some auto updater running.

Windows updates that actually break things are exceptionally rare these days, and rolling them back is usually pretty easy. All my Windows environments live on the slow ring and I've not once encountered a problem caused by a bad update.

Conversely, I've had Manjaro updates break my GRUB config twice in the last year, which is a pretty daunting problem to fix for 99.9% of end users.

I don't expect the small team at Manjaro to do a better job of this than a trillion dollar company, I just find the reputation WU has these days puzzling. Deferring updates for extended periods of time seems to consistently cause my users far more problems than it supposedly solves.

I only ever have trouble with Windows Update on machines that go months or years without updates. The last two major feature updates installed in minutes like an every day bug fix or security patch.

Yeah that was kinda the part where I went "....ooookay I don't know how practical this is for me, but... uhh... bookmarks anyway"

I've searched high and low for something like this. Will give this a try. Thanks

This could be a nice OS for archive.org's browser embedded PC emulator environment: https://archive.org/details/win95_in_dosbox . Not so fun to download 45 megabytes of Windows installation to try out some piece of shareware :)

I think the pb is that it's so barebone that pretty much nothing works out of the box. One has to add a few more components, depending on which application needs to run (as an OS alone is, well, not an end in itself). However, that's where it stings : adding "components", yet but which ones ? in which order ? how ? Componentization was not a topic, so there's no tool, almost no doc, just tribal knowledge on the topic. That makes it essentially useless for the vast majority of humanity.

That does make sense. I suppose one could gather a record by hooking the kernel to log which files were accessed and which were not. But that would be a lot of trouble and the end result would just kill the cacheability of the base OS layer of those emulation images.

XP had no modern browser... Until now!

800,000 users can't be wrong (out of 240 million XP users worldwide).

This project is important because Firefox stopped working on XP 4 years ago - and you can't do things like captchas without a modern browser.

Looks like the Mypal project is currently imploding due to a license dispute:


This is a pretty cool find! I feel inclined to share my project from a while ago, where the idea was (inspired by Dockerfiles) to automate the building of a working Windows 98 installation in QEMU.

It's fairly janky and slow, but it does what it promises and starting from usual installation media will produce a HDD image with Windows 98 installed and somewhat customised (containing some files I wanted and a custom desktop wallpaper and such).


EDIT: Looking closer, it would be possible to steal tips from this guide to make it quicker and faster probably - although the aim with Paschke was to start from a vanilla installation media, instead of just putting the minimum files needed into a disk image.

I wish this was possible today. But I won't get a small Windows 10 distribution no matter how hard I try or how much I'm willing to pay.

You can, however, get Windows AME, which is kinda interesting.


> To assure that our changes are permanent, we need to remove Windows Update and its self-healing ability.


How long has it been around? Anyone here used it extensively enough to recommend?

An excellent question. It seems interesting, and like it has a reasonable social consensus, but I do wonder if everyone'll just be going hunting for LTSB 5-10 years from now.

...Maybe treat it like Existential Arch Linux?

(Where "existential" applies to both "the project might be dead in a few years" and "they disable Windows Update, so not actually Arch Linux" :D)

Thanks, this seems like a good source of information!

I remember how live distributions became popular among technicians in early 2000's. The main advantages they had over windows were could more easily pack lots of software, there was nothing to care about license and popular hardware usually worked out of the box without needing to install specific drivers.

If anyone is impressed by these 5MB, please remember this: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=28515025

Hirens was a brilliant tool for cleaning malware infected systems. Most malware of the time would prevent opening task manager, regedit, services.msc etc. Often business systems of the era had so much manually configured or proprietary software that it wasn’t always possible to wipe and reinstall.

I used to keep a 2.88 MB floppy with tomsrtbt on it.

I've seen webpack builds larger than this... much larger.

The size of a typically large webpage.

Hellz yes. I remember buying this and hacking together my own Win 98 distros: https://www.litepc.com/98lite.html

Can't believe that their product page is still up. I believe it came about after the 90's MS anti-trust cases. MS argued that IE was integral to Windows, so these devs made a product to strip IE out, just to show that it wasn't as integral as MS claimed. Then they built on it and it became a legit product for slimming down Windows installs.

After discovering that the Windows 98 DOS bootup disks boots DOS, creates a ram drive, and decompresses the various utilities into a ram drive, I decided that it would be fun optimizing the bootup disk. I tried various things that include switching out the cabinet decompressor with pkunzipjr and formating the floppy disk with 2MGUI, a utility that puts 2 megabytes of data onto a disk, but I couldn't fit the 3 disks set into 1 disk.

Those were fun times.

The submitted URL (http://web.archive.org/web/20090209050149/http://www.etek.ch...) is crashing due to an "internal error", so I've changed it to a different URL which isn't - at least for now.

I misread that "Windows 98 that boots and runs under SMB" and was fully expecting a Windows 98 thin client or something of the sort.

I used to do this to have more space on my old machine.

Sadly I deleted my first drawings made in Windows Paint

I had a friend that did this to run Windows 3.0 (IIRC) on his old 286 from a single floppy.

Did anyone else here ever use/would recall a Windows XP district called ‘TinyXP’, which would run under some similarly phenomenal specs?

I spent years using that; especially in VM’s!

In the early days of Intel Macs, I used TinyXP almost exclusively in Parallels. :)

Silly it has such complex instructions, instead of a script.

Discourages me from even trying this... can't be that good if the person that made it couldn't even make a script.

This was a website of someone sharing a little passion project with the world. Not someone trying to convince you to do as they did because they are convinced that their way of doing things was the right way.

The instructions are hardly complicated and frankly I'm not sure it would be safe to write this in an 98 era batch file. eg removing any files not in a file list is a risky process in itself regardless of the constraints of DOS batch files.

2003 was the per-spoonfeeding era.

That was in 2003 when people could read and stuff more content into their head then one twitter tweet.

Instructions are not complex, they're the opposite - they're extremely simple.

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