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Possible to add external CD-Rom to laptop

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I have an older Compaq laptop 80486/8 that I want to use to send and recieve email with. Since there is no CD, I cannot install any ISP software.
I tried to get to MSN.com as their software is on this Win 95, thinking I could get to the AOLtest site whereby I could download their program.
It gave an error message telling me to replace the driver for the adaptor which I tried to no avail.
I am thinking now the best thing is to at least get it to 98 and use an external CD. I see them for sale and it says compatible with 95 but I do not want to get stuck in the middle of this process.
What I need are some suggestions:
1) What type of CD-ROM to buy that would use the PCMCIA slot and has an easy install.
2) How to get 95 to recognize it-all I know is I have to get to the boot section and change the boot order to get the CD-ROM as number 1.
3) Reinstall Windows by running setup in the c:\images\os\Win98 directory.
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Welcome to G2G

Your laptop is a 486, right? I strongly suspect it may struggle to run win98 even using a massively stripped down install. If you can get the machine online using win95, then do so.

Can you tell me what type of connection you plan to use for the Internet? ie dial-up or broadband etc. Also, are you sure about wanting to use AOL?

If you have another machine in the house thats already online (not using AOL) but which does use a dial-up connection, you should be able to simply configure the laptops internet settings to match the other machine & away you go. The ISP software is rarely necessary (except for AOL), its simply there to make setting the connection up easier.

If you have another machine thats on a broadband connection, another option (assuming you have a network card in the laptop) would be to network the laptop to the other system & share its internet connection. Again, no isp software should be necessary. This method would also allow you to transfer any files you do need (such as a later version of IE) straight to the laptop from the other computer, without requiring a CDROM drive. The only problem you may face, is when changing the network settings on the laptop, it may ask you to insert the win95 CD. If you have a floppy drive though, you should be able to place the relevant cab file from the win95 CD onto floppy disk using the other PC.

If you find you need to have CDROM access on the laptop, then a pcmcia cdrom is probably your best bet. This should come with the drivers you will require to get it working. You only need to change the boot sequence in the bios if you need to boot from CD, otherwise you can boot to windows normally & the system should detect the presence of the PCMCIA CDROM & allow you to install the driver for it.
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