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Non Microsoft Drivers
I've been looking for some non MS drivers to test with Win98 and up to this point, the choices have been less than thrilling.  A few brave souls have modified or patched both of the most popular Intel BMIDE drivers to work on Win98 with mixed results.  After testing the Intel BM drivers on OSR2, there was little to tempt me to run them on Win98.  Unless I see some results that suggest that there is performance to be gained, I think I'll pass on these.

Triones Revisited?
In the last couple of months, the Highpoint Tech - XStore drivers have made an appearance.  Since I have had rather poor luck with Triones / Highpoint drivers in the past, I wasn't exactly looking forward to the prospect of a few installations of Win98 where the outcome had a strong chance of locking up my system.  However, there were enough reports of "better than MS" performance (aren't there always) that I decided to give them a try for myself.

Highpoint Tech - XStore - EPoX v. 1.10
The EPoX 1.10 installation turned out to be a case of "the Drivers from Hell."  I will spare you the gory details, but suffice it to say that out of 4 separate, fresh installations of Win98, my best results were when the only thing that went wrong was that the secondary IDE channel worked with a nice yellow exclamation mark beside it on the first boot. Rebooting locked up the system with a power off, scandisk,  safe mode as the only way to get back in.  The rest of the attempts were worse.

In all fairness, the drivers were not written expressly for my motherboard with support for the BX chipset not stated on the Highpoint Tech site.  However, EPoX's site does have the following write up.
"The driver will replace any current Intel, VIA, or Microsoft IDE drivers in the system. For best results the system should be functioning properly with the current drivers before installing this new enhanced one." 
EPoX does sell motherboards using the BX chipset.

Highpoint Tech - XStore Pro - Abit v. 1.20
After my version 1.10 fiasco, I was understandably wary of this new incarnation until I did some research on this new program.  The XStore v.1.20 seems to be more of an optimization program than a replacement driver.  There is no ideatapi.mpd driver file included as in v. 1.10's installation.  There is an installation of a virtual device driver, vsdexp.vxd and some registry changes. 

This is an interesting observation, as the Highpoint Tech site seems to conflict itself in the differences in the drivers used between the versions 1.10 and 1.20. In the FAQ, the statement is made that version 1.20 uses the same driver as the earlier XStore drivers:

"Q: What is XStore Pro?

A: XStore Pro is a bus master driver that replaces the Microsoft default driver which increases system performance as well as hard disk performance.

Q: What is the difference between XStore and XStore Pro?

A: The drivers are identical except XStore Pro has an added software cache feature that produces better performance benchmarks."

 While in another statement,

"*IMPORTANT NOTE* XStore Pro v1.20 does not replace the Microsoft default driver.  XStore Pro now works in conjuction with the Microsoft driver. To verify that XStore Pro is installed in you system you should have a folder called XStore Pro with a README.TXT and a UNINSTALL  ICON.  To locate this folder click on Start go to Programs and then go to XStore Pro."

The latter statement would appear to be true.

The installation is straight forward and presented no problems.  The performance comparison between using the program and not using it was mixed.  On my system, there was not an "across the board" increase in performance, but the results are encouraging enough that I will leave the program installed to give it a long term test.  I'm happy to finally have something good to say about a Highpoint product.  I will add more information to this page as I spend more time with the program.

Test System
Celeron 300A o/c'd 4.5X103
Abit BH6
Hitachi PC100 SDRAM (64 MB)
Matrox Millennium G200 Video (8 MB SGRAM)
DCS S805 A3D Sound Card
Quantum Fireball SE 3.2
Quantum Fireball ST 3.2
Matshita CR-574 CD ROM
D-Link DE-528 Ethernet Card
Hayes 5675 56K v.90 / Flex Modem
Inwin A500 Case w/ cooling modifications

Software installed on tested OS
Win98 Retail
Adaptec Threadmark 2.0
HD Tach 2.52
Ziff-Davis  WinBench99
Matrox 4.24 video drivers
Aureal 4.05.112c sound drivers
Modem and Ethernet divers not installed

A "typical" installation of Windows 98 was used.  Programs that were not needed for the benchmark were not allowed to run.  Each benchmark was run three times and the results were averaged.  Virtual memory was left to Win98 default.  The partition defragged between each benchmark.  The system was rebooted between each benchmark.

Windows 98 - Celeron A 4.5 X 103

Test Win98 UDMA
Win98 UDMA Enabled Win98 UDMA
XStore v. 1.20
WinBench 99 . . .
CPUmark 32 945 952 944
FPU 2440 2440 2450
Business Disk  2160 2310 2360
High-End Disk  5810 6950 7380
CPU Utilization 50.2% 5.57% 5.30%
Avg Seek (ms) 12.2 12.0 11.9
Transfer - Beginning 7570 KB per sec 10100 KB per sec 10100 KB per sec
Transfer - End 7670 KB per sec 9530 KB per sec 9460 KB per sec
Win98 Build 1998 1998 1998
. . . .
Threadmark 2.0 3.73 MB per sec @ 
62.21% Utilization
5.26 MB per sec @ 
17.62% Utilization
5.15 MB per sec @ 
24.67% Utilization
. . . .
HD Tach 2.52 . . .
Transfer Rates
Max - Min - Avg
In KB per sec
8342 - 6274 - 7267 11064 - 6545 - 9559 11058 - 6549 - 9557
Avg Seek -
Peak Transfer Rate
15.0 ms 
8.3 MB per sec
14.8 ms 
28.2 MB per sec
14.9 ms 
28.2 MB per sec
CPU Utilization 86.0% 2.3% 2.7%

Timed File Transfer
The last test was to test the speed in transferring files between my two hard drives in a real-world application.  For this test, I assembled a folder containing 105 MB of Win95 CAB files and jpg's.  The folder was moved from drive 0 to drive 1 and back again.  This process was repeated three times for each configuration with the results being averaged.

Timed File Transfer

Test Time to Transfer Transfer Rate
Win98 no UDMA 34.0 sec. 3.09 MB per sec.
Win98 UDMA 21.0 sec. 5.00 MB per sec.
Win98 + XStore 21.5 sec. 4.89 MB per sec.

While, on my system, the Highpoint Tech XStore Pro program is far from the advertised performance increase of 10% for system and 60% for the hard disk, it is an interesting alternative to running the stock MS fare.  Highpoint Tech has my attention and I will continue to watch for new releases from them.

Win98 UDMA