by Alan German
Do you have
a need - or a desire - to run DOS programs? Perhaps you
have some programs that you wrote many moons ago (like my
Clipper-compiled, dBASE III, accounting program from 25
years ago!) Or, maybe you have some old games that you
haven't played in a while. But, when you go to start
these DOS programs on your new computer, running 64-bit
Windows 7, you are presented with an error message that
your program is an "Unsupported 16-Bit
Application". In other words your version of Windows
won't run DOS programs.
not strictly true. Sure, 64-bit Windows won't run DOS
programs natively, but you can work around this
limitation by using a virtual machine. For example, you
could install Virtualbox on your computer, set up a
virtual machine (VM), install DOS on this VM, load your
DOS program, and run it inside the VM.
The major downside to this procedure is that you will
have to find a copy of DOS to install in the virtual
machine. If you can even find such a beast, it's very
likely that your copy of DOS will be on 3.5" floppy
disks - and your brand spanking new box doesn't have a
floppy disk drive!
It turns out that there is a much simpler solution -
install and run DOSBox. This software is essentially a
dedicated virtual machine for DOS, and you will be able
to run your old programs with relative ease.
By default, DOSBox loads with drive Z: enabled. This
contains such old favourites as COMMAND.COM and
AUTOEXEC.BAT. However, DOSBox is much more useful if we
point it to a real disk drive (or partition) by using the
mount command. In the screenshot, you can see that I have
enabled drive d: in DOSBox as the real drive D: (the data
partition) on my hard drive.
Clearly, one can mount any Windows drive in a similar
manner. So, for example, we could run a DOS program that
is installed (loaded) on either the C: or the D: drive,
or mount a CD-ROM and run software directly from the
trick with DOSBox is that it uses a configuration file
(dosbox.conf) stored in the main DOSBox folder (usually
C:\Program Files\DOSBox). Multiple entries in this file
control, a whole host of program features. I found it
particularly useful to change
"output=surface" to "output=opengl".
These modifications enabled a somewhat larger window to
be used for the main DOSBox program than that established
Finally, DOS commands added to the last section of the
configuration file are run automatically when DOSBox
starts. Placing specific commands here can be very
useful, for example to mount a disk drive/partition that
will be used in subsequent DOS operations.
I have adopted this technique to mount my data disk each
time I run DOS Box, and to transfer control to this
drive. As you might guess, the commands at the end of the
configuration file are:
So, there you have it - the possibility of recalling a
blast from the past! Run your old DOS programs on your
brand spanking new 64-bit Windows computer using DOSBox.
# Lines in this section will be run at startup.
mount d d:\
DOSBox (Open Source)
Peter Veenstra, Sjoerd Harekiet, Tommy Frössman and Ulf Wohlers
Originally published: February, 2015
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The opinions expressed in these reviews
do not necessarily represent the views of the
Ottawa PC Users' Group or its members.