Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.
While Windows 98 itself may to blame, there are a couple reasons why Windows 98 won't recognize new hardware installed on a machine.
I am trying to install a wireless network on four computers. These computers all have the same motherboard, but vary from Celeron 300 Mhz to 700 Mhz with min. of 64MB Ram, and using Win 98 Se operating systems. I bought 4 D-Link DWL-G510 PCI Cards which on the box says should work. Windows does not find any of the network cards. I have changed positions of the PCI Slots with no help. I go to Device manager and there is no new hardware to find. I went ahead and exchanged one of the D-Links with a Linksys and still have the same problem. After spending some time with their help desk, they were unable to give me any usefully information. I can take the same devices and the wireless router and install them on other computers that are 300Mhz, 64 M Ram using Windows SE with no problems. The only thing I can think of is with the motherboards. Any ideas?
Personally, I like to blame Windows 98 when there are new hardware detection problems. It's too bad you don't have more RAM and WinXP.
But I do have an idea or two.
The first is your motherboard's BIOS. Plug-and-Play requires a little help from the BIOS. Especially in older machines PnP support might not be there at all or might not be enabled if it is. So check for BIOS upgrades for those motherboards, and double check that PnP, if listed, is enabled.
Another approach is just to install the drivers anyway. If those cards come with driver software, I'd install it even if Windows didn't recognize the cards. Back in the days before plug and play, this was in fact the way it had to be done: drivers had to be installed before the hardware would be recognized.
And yes, as you suspect, the motherboards themselves may be an issue as well.
But I still like to blame Windows 98. That's one more reason why my home is a Win98-free zone.