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The following article first appeared in TuneUp: Blog About Windows. It is reprinted with permission of the author.
Author: Tibor Schiemann, President & Managing Partner, TuneUp
The resurgence in classic gaming has spurred both the nostalgic and the simply curious to explore treasures like Monkey Island (1990) or Wing Commander III (1994). Back in the old days, you could power on your trusty computer running DOS, Windows 3.x or Windows 9x and point-and-click the day away. But enjoying such classics on modern machines isn’t so easy, especially considering how much hardware and software architecture has changed over the past few decades. About 90% of the time, the good old DOS, Windows 3.x or Windows 9x games won’t even start. There are, however, some tricks for running these retro games on today’s PCs.
Most games from the 1980s and 1990s ran on DOS, lesser known as the Disk Operating System, a command-line operating system that powered most 286-,386- and 486-era PCs. DOS even lived on to be the backbone of Windows 3.x and Windows 95, so most games from that era continued to require the command line OS.
Of course, today DOS is extinct and no longer a part of Windows. And this means most games won’t run under the command line of Windows 7—and even if they did, what ran at 33, 66 and 400 MHz won’t be able to keep pace with today’s 3800 MHz CPU speeds. The way around this is using DOSBox, which emulates the antiquated operating system as well as legacy hardware. It’s capable of automatically adjusting a PC’s speed to the type of DOS game you’re running. While DOSBox is easy to set-up, it does require some command-line skills.
Here’s how it works. First, download and install DOSBox from this site. Then, copy all of your DOS-based games into a folder, for example, “C:\DOSGames,” and launch DOSBox. You’ll then find yourself in the “Z:\” folder.
Next, mount one of your local folders to a drive letter on DOSBox, since the tool has no direct access to your drives. Also, be sure to shorten all folder names, since you’ll need to type them all by hand when mounting. Here’s an example of how to do this step. Say that you’d like to put Sim City 2000 in the C:\DOSGames folder in order to mount this folder as the DOSBox drive letter “G.”
Then, you’d simply type “mount g: c:\DOSGames”, followed by the drive letter “G:” and then hit enter. Then type “Dir” to see the contents of this drive, which should reflect those in your local folder, “C:\DOSGames.”
If you’d like to then switch to a subfolder, type “CD game” (replacing “game” with the name of your games folder). For instance, in the example above, I would switch to the “SIMCITY” folder by typing “CD simcity.” Then, type “DIR” again to see which of these files runs the game. The file name typically would be the name of game with a “.exe”, “.com” or “.bat” file extension tacked on. After you’ve typed in the name of the game’s executable file, hit enter to run it. If you have problems running any game, check out DOSBox’s massive compatibility list or check forums to see if others are experiencing the same issues.
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