UTM frontend for QEMU on M1 MacBook Pro: Creating a VM and installing Windows 98 (part 1 – MSCDEX driver issues)

tldr; I couldn’t get the boot floppies to recognize the cdrom iso when using QEMU was configured with UTM, but runing QEMU from the shell with the same floppy and cdrom iso imaged worked completely fine. The following config steps maybe useful if you’re running into the same issues, but if you’ve managed to get a Windows 98 working under UTM leave a comment and let me know!

I previously played around with the UTM frontend for QEMU on my M1 MacBook Pro, and thought I’d give installing Windows 98 a go.

Using UTM 4.01 beta, from the first menu I selected the Windows option:

On the next page I configured the Windows 98 iso and disabled the UEFI boot option:

Next I configured the VM with i386 emulation, 256MB, and a 1GB disk::

Next I added a removable disk, type floppy, and attached a Windows 98 floppy disk boot image:

Booting. up, not matter what option I use, it wouldn’t boot from the floppy disk image:

I’m not sure if this is an issue with this 4.0.1 beta, but I tried multiple .img floppy images, and none of them would boot.

Next I tried 4.0.0 beta and had the same issue. A quick search on the UTM project’s github site didn’t find any similar issues. After testing different options, I found that the default option in the VM setup menus to add a boot iso apparently assumes that iso is actually bootable, and then if it’s not it doesn’t even seem to try booting from the floppy, and strangely reports the error “Boot failed: could not read the boot disk”

What I found did work was to avoid using the Windows option on the first page of dialogs, and use the Custom/Other option instead. On the next page you can again configure the boot iso, but since the Windows 98 iso I have is not bootable and we need to use a boot floppy, check the ‘Skip ISO boot’ option instead. We’ll add a floppy for the boot disk, a cdrom iso, and then we can correctly boot:

Now booting up we get the install menu from the boot floppy:

This disk image is currently unformatted, so we get the messages about formatting it with fdisk first before continuing:

From the fdisk menu select option 1 to create a DOS Primary partition:

Now we’re prompted to restart:

After rebooting, the VM attempts to boot from c: but it’s still blank at this point, this was the same issue during the Windows 95 install too. Press Esc when prompted to get the boot menu and select the floppy:

After rebooting now we’re got issues where it can’t see the cdrom dirive and the MSCDEX driver is unable to load a driver:

At this point, I obviously don’t have the right drivers to read from the cdrom iso image, but remembering it worked ok with the Windows 95 boot disk, I booted from that floppy images and selected the NEC driver which worked before:

… well that didn’t work either, it still can’t load the drivers for the cdrom iso. At this point I abandoned the boot floppy and cdrom iso and tried a bootable iso (the Second Edition OEM Full is a bootable cd, from https://winworldpc.com/product/windows-98/98-second-edition )

At the point where is tries to load MSCDEX, it also fails. At this point I’m thinking UTM is setting some option for the cdrom drive that is not supported by MSCDEX, which is weird because I know I’ve installed Windows 98 just using qemu-system-i386 before with these same boot disks and isos and it worked fine.

If anyone has exact steps and options to get the Windows 98 installer to see a cdrom iso with UTM, let me know, because at this point I cut my losses and went back to just using qemu from the cli instead.

UTM frontend for QEMU for M1 Apple Silicon: Installing Windows 95

QEMU is an emulator for a wide range of machine architectures. I’ve played with QEMU on MacOS before to install and run Solaris on SPARC. It turns out there a QEMU build for Apple silicon M1, and there’s also a gui frontend to help with the configuration of various machines, called UTM.

Is there any CPU architecture that QEMU does not emulate? This is pretty amazing:

Let’s take a go at emulating an x86 32bit and install Windows 95. I added 3 drives, floppy (to boot from install disk image), a CD-ROM (for the install ISO) and a 4GB drive to install to:

Here’s where you add the disk images, and a summary of the other settings:

On first boot I got this error:

Doing some searching online it’s not immediately obvious if this is a configuration issue or a bug in UTM. One of the comments here does mention that the hdd disk image needs to be first (even though the dialog says the listed order is the boot order). I added the disks in this order and this seems to work:

While in the settings I also notice if you check the ‘advanced’ checkbox there’s options to turn of UEFI boot as that wouldn’t have been on PCs of this era, and changed the CPU to a 486:

Adding a blank 4GB disk image, a Windows 95 boot floppy image, the iso image for install cdrom, and then starting up, we can boot to a DOS prompt and start fdisk to format the blank disk image:

This works for the first time, but after you’ve formatted the blank disk image, booting a subsequent time fails with a ‘no operating system’ error. To get around this (because it won’t start unless the hd image is first), press Escape as soon as you get the BIOS screen and then you can select the boot device. In this case pick the floppy drive.

And now we’re away:

Select 1 for the NEC cdrom driver. At this point the cd iso should be on d: and c: should be your hdd disk image. If you try and run d:\setup.exe you’ll be reminded that fdisk doesn’t format your disk, you you need to format c: as well before you can install, otherwise you’ll see:

Rerun d:\setup.exe after format completes and now scandisk starts up:

Windows 95 setup is running – yes you can install x86 based OSes under UTM/QEMU on Apple Silicon!

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