Hi, Dunno ~
Windows 98 is not a stable operating system. Over time, lots of crud builds up. When I was heavily into gaming, I used to format the drive and re-install Windows from scratch every three months to keep it clean.
So it's time for you to learn how. Don't be in a hurry. The first thing you need to do is get everything backed up. There are a number of ways to do this, but since you haven't been doing it, you may not be prepared for it. First of all, do you have a CD burner? That's probably the best way. It's impossible to have a backup of anything with floppy disks because nothing fits on them anymore. If you can save your important things to CDs, you can reinstall them easily.
There are two kinds of hard drives: those that have failed and those that will. If you have data that you cannot bear to lose, it must be backed up. It's like putting the deed to your property on the roof and hoping the wind doesn't blow.
If you have a CD burner, you need software to burn with. Most burners come with something. If not, I can suggest a burning program that will work for you.
The object is to first gather things that you need to keep. You need to open Internet Explorer and export your favorites. You need to go into Outlook Express if that's what you use and export your address book and email. You need to have all your passwords written down and the sites that they go to. Anything you forget will be gone forever. Anything that does not copy well will be gone forever.
Most people save things to My Documents. Sometimes, programs like Microsoft Word make another folder like My Files. Wherever you have things saved, they must be backed up. Most people who don't have a lot of stuff can get it easily onto a single CD. But you can back up to as many CDs as you need. Redundancy is good. If you have a checkbook program, it must be backed up. If you can back up to more than one place, such as a thumb drive or floppies, this is good. (I back up my business programs to a flash card, a CD/RW, floppies, and the hard drive to later be backed up to CDs, every time I use them.)
Individual important emails can be backed up by choosing the File menu and Save As. Those are small enough to save to floppies. (Keep in mind that sometimes older floppy drives don't work well anymore and can stop reading and writing about halfway through the disk)
And let's hope your floppy works OK because you need a boot floppy. You need to make it if you haven't got one already. (Something that should be done when you first get the computer.) To do this, go to the Start -> Settings -> Control Panel, Add/Remove Programs. Click the "Startup" tab. Put a clean floppy in the drive and click Create Disk.
Test the disk. Put it in the drive and try restarting your computer. The computer should boot from the disk - it will boot into DOS, not Windows, and it will ask you if you want to boot with CD-Rom support. You do. Once booted, it will simply be a daunting black screen with an A: prompt like this:
And you'll have to figure out what to do from there. Although DOS is very complicated, you don't need to know much of it to reinstall Windows. If your disk works, you can simply type:
. . . and you'll be moved to a Windows directory. Then type:
. . . and you'll start Windows. Take the disk out of the drive and mark it Win 98 Startup Disk.
To do all the above, you should be comfortable making and naming folders. For instance, when saving Emails, it would be much easier to find them later when you create a folder like "saved_emails_01" (without the quotes) and save your emails to that folder.
For each of the things mentioned above, you can find how to do it with Google. Or you can simply ask for more help here and I or anyone else will be happy to help you. And here
is a pretty good guide for re-installing Windows. I always reinstall from the CD, though they recommend copying files to the hard drive first. Once you've got everything backed up, test it to make sure it works. Put the CD with your email and/or other files in the drive and open it with Windows Explorer (by going to My Computer or with the keystrokes: Windows key +E) - find the CD and then navigate to the email you want to open and double-click it. It will open in a window and you'll be able to read it and do whatever you want with it. Open your favorites folder and make sure that everything is listed. You'll be able to re-import the favorites after the install.
Download an antivirus like AVG and burn it to CD so that you can have an antivirus installed before you connect to the internet. You should also download such things as Spybot S&D, Ad-Aware Personal, Spyware Blaster, and a firewall like Zone Alarm. Once you've got 'em on CD, you can install them before setting up your internet account. Then you won't get attacked with your new clean system.
One other serious problem can be drivers. You will need drivers for all your hardware. If you have an audio card, a video card, a network card and/or modem, you will need to be able to reinstall programs and drivers that came with them. This is one of the hardest problems with re-installing, especially when someone gave you the computer and not the disks or manuals that came with it.
If the computer is an HP or some other branded one, you may have a complete restore system that will restore both the operating system and the drivers and everything the computer came with. It will not restore anything you've you've added. Any programs like Word, Word Perfect, Microsoft Money, Quicken, and so on, will need their original install disks and licenses.
The Windows startup disk can be used to rescue your computer when it won't start at all. It can be used to begin the setup of the Windows install.
Don't be afraid - this is stuff millions of Windows users have been doing since before 1995 and you can learn it. And once you learn how to back up your data, you will feel much more comfortable about it, and far less likely to ever lose it. You should do it regularly because you never know when your ancient power supply will decide it's been working long enough and fry the entire computer. You can get a new computer, but data loss is forever.