Computing: Computer Administration

Installing BeOS 5 Personal Edition.

"BeOS was an OS developed to run on the BeBox hardware, a PowerPC based machine. The OS was first released in October 1995 for use on the AT&T Hobbit, and moved over to the PowerPC platform the next year. An Intel x86 port of the OS began in March 1998 with version R3. The last version released was R5.1 in November 2001 for x86 only. This OS was meant to be used for multimedia applications. It is POSIX compatible but is not a UNIX derived operating system.
BeOS 5 Personal Edition is installed into a 500 MB virtual hard drive on a FAT/FAT32 Windows partition (whereas the Professional edition can be installed as any other operating system; it also includes extras that the Personal Edition does not include)".

The paragraph above is how BeOS is described on the BeOS 5 page of the WinWorld website, from where you can download BeOS 5 Personal Edition as an ISO image. The installation process requires 2 steps: 1. installation of some Windows system, 2. installation of BeOS, by running the CDROM setup program from within Windows. Concerning Windows, I recommend to use Windows 9x. Installation on a more recent OS (such as Windows Me, 2000, or XP) is also possible, but, because these system haven't anymore a real MS-DOS subsystem, booting BeOS is more complicated.

This tutorial describes the installation of BeOS Personal Edition on Windows 95B; it should also apply to other releases of Windows 95 as well as to Windows 98. The installation of Windows 95 is a standard Windows 95 setup and is not described here. Note, however, that you must not install the Creative Ensoniq AudioPCI driver. If you do so, BeOS will not be bootable (at least not without modifying your Windows 9x configuration).

You install BeOS Personal Edition the same way as you would do with any Windows application. When inserting the installation CDROM, setup is normally started automatically via autorun; if not, open the CDROM in file explorer and run CDBeOS.exe. The Install the Windows version of BeOS window is displayed; no idea why it's in French. Click the first icon from the left to start setup.

Installation of BeOS 5 Personal Edition: Starting the installation on Windows 95

In the next Window, you are told (from here on, the language of the setup program is English) that you are actually installing version 5.0 of the OS onto a Windows drive. Pushing the Continue will unpack the setup files.

Installation of BeOS 5 Personal Edition: Unpacking of the setup files

After the Welcome window (screenshot on the left), the About window (screenshot on the right) is displayed, telling you about creating a boot floppy (recommended on Windows 9x, mandatory on Windows Me, NT, or higher).

Installation of BeOS 5 Personal Edition: Welcome window
Installation of BeOS 5 Personal Edition: About BeOS window

Somewhat bizarre: The setup program gives you the possibility to choose the installation drive (default is C:), but not the installation folder, that is automatically called "BeOS" (so, the OS being installed to C:\BeOS). After the drive selection, you are asked for the Windows 95 program group (where the BeOS launcher will be placed), then the Current settings window (summary of your choices) is displayed.

Installation of BeOS 5 Personal Edition: Current settings display before starting file copy

Push the Install button to start file copy. When done, and after having asked you if you want to register your BeOS, setup is complete. You may or may not view the readme file. Finally, push the Finish button to exit setup.

Installation of BeOS 5 Personal Edition: Setup successfully terminated

You can start BeOS by double-clicking the shortcut that has been created on the Windows 95 desktop (or use the launcher in Program menu). Please, note, that starting BeOS is not launching a Windows application. In fact, when you do so, the computer is restarted, and instead of booting into Windows 95, it will boot into BeOS 5 PE.

BeOS boots up with the display of a boot menu, containing the following items:

Installation of BeOS 5 Personal Edition: The BeOS boot menu

The system boots up with the BeOS initialization screen, where you can follow the initialization of the different components. It's at this stage, where my system hangs with an entirely black screen when I try to set the video mode. It seems that the boot menu isn't always displayed (maybe because of some settings I changed?). You can force it to be displayed by hitting the space bar when the system starts up.

Installation of BeOS 5 Personal Edition: The BeOS initialization screen

When BeOS is started for the first time, the Thank you and Read me first file is displayed. But, there are chances that you also get the message The graphics card in this machine is not supported by the BeOS. There are solutions to this issue available, as for example experimental video drivers that might work. I myself haven't succeed in changing the video settings, and thus I'm running my BeOS 5 PE with a resolution of 640x480 pixels and gray shades instead of colors...

Installation of BeOS 5 Personal Edition: Unsupported graphics card message

Note: You can "turn off" this message by pushing the Don't nag button in the corresponding dialog box.

The screenshot on the left shows the BeOS 5 PE desktop. At its upper right corner, you can see the Deskbar (labeled "BeOS)", that is comparable to the Apple menu on macOS or the Start menu on Windows. When you click it, a menu opens. It contains, among others, an expandable item called Applications that allows you to launch the different apps, and another expandable item called Preferences (screenshot on the right), that gives access to the configuration of the system. It's also here where you have to go in order to shutdown or restart the system (to note that "Restart" will reboot the computer and so start Windows 95, not directly restart BeOS).

Installation of BeOS 5 Personal Edition: The BeOS 5 PE desktop
Installation of BeOS 5 Personal Edition: The Deskbar with the 'Preferences' menu opened

Among the icons on the left part of the desktop, we have:

The screenshot shows the content of Personal Edition and the originally installed applications in apps (with "NetPositive", the BeOS web browser, selected).

Installation of BeOS 5 Personal Edition: Originally installed applications

Browsing the folder structure is similar to the way it appears on the old Windows releases, as for example Windows 95 and Windows NT, i.e. there is not one single file explorer window, showing the content of the last folder opened, but a separate window for each folder. These opened windows are placed into the Tracker (that you find below the Deskbar at the top-right corner of the desktop). You can use this feature to show, hide, or close all windows, as well as to bring one of them to the foreground, making it this way the active one.

Installation of BeOS 5 Personal Edition: Browsing the folder structure and 'Tracker' feature

Note that there are further ways to execute commands on BeOS: As on other operating systems, the right button mouse-click opens a context menu (several important commands may be executed by right-clicking the desktop). And also as on other OS, there are keyboard hotkeys, that may be used to directly execute a command; e.g. ALT + F = Find, comparable to Windows-key + S = Search on Windows.

With this note, my tutorial concerning the installation of BeOS 5 Personal Edition is finished. If you want to know more about this OS running on Windows, you might want to continue reading with BeOS 5 Personal edition post-installation setup (another tutorial on my site).

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