While I can give you the rough outline, if you don't have a Windows 98 CD, then you need to get one. There is no substitute.
1. Put in the diskette drive and boot the Windows 98 diskette you made on some desktop by running Win98se.exe from http://www.bootdisk.com
2. If the hard disk is toast, use FDISK to partition it and then the usual FORMAT C:/S More about that at http://reviews.cnet.com/5208-6122-0.html?forumID=44&threadID=51410&messageID=612187 I will NOT duplicate that content here.
3. Now that we have a computer that boots to DOS we can add some CDROM drivers and get access to the CDROM Drive. Since this is Windows 98 and you've been at this for up to 6 years, I won't give you any step by step, but the files you need Config.sys, Autoexec.bat and dos CDROM driver files are on that boot diskette for you to copy over. Don't forget MSCDEX.EXE
4. Swap the CDROM drive unit back in and put in your Windows 98 CD. Boot from the hard disk.
5. Create a directory called C:\Win98 and copy all the files from the CD directory called Win98 to the C:\Win98. Given the advanced age of this OS and how many years you've had to hone your skills, I won't bore you with a copy command.
6. Remove the Windows 98 CD and CHDIR to the C:\Win98 directory. Type Setup and install Windows 98.
7. Collect all those drivers for motherboard, video, audio, modem, usb and what have you from Dell.com and install them.
8. That's it.
It takes me about 40 minutes on a 1GHz P3 Dell with 256MB of RAM so schedule that much time to pull it off.
PS. I don't know your skill level, but given how long Windows 98 has been out of circulation, Windows 98 users tend to be very smart about such and just need a guide to the steps.
I am very frustrated in trying to re-establish win98 on my laptop. I no longer have the cd boot-disk and am unable to bring in the win98 op because of the dual usage mode of the drivers. Can anyone point me in the direction of getting a duplicate of the boot cd or a method by which I can bypass to load the operating system. I tried to order from Dellware and all I got was and Indian that I could not understand and he left me sit on the tele for about 25 minutes until I hung up. HELP