How To Play DOS Games Under Windows XP

windows logo thumb   How To Play DOS Games Under Windows XPWindows XP is easily one of the most successful operating systems that Microsoft has ever released, but for those of us who remember the good old days of DOS, using a computer with a graphical point and click interface, seems almost magical ““ and mundane.

Tell me, where’s the fun in not having to deal with himem.sys and esoteric commands to make the sound blaster mode work ? I’m sure none of us really miss those days. But, for an old timer like me, DOS will always hold a special place in my heart.

I still remember all those fun filled afternoons when I’d come back from school, drop the schoolbag and sit and play Digger on our state-of-the-art IBM PC. Haven’t heard of digger ? How about Invaders ?


When Microsoft released Windows XP in 2001, they effectively ended an era of DOS based games and applications. All Microsoft operating systems before XP, had DOS at their heart and could run DOS applications pretty well, but XP was based on an all new architecture which was supposed to be more secure, faster and free of the legacy of DOS.

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Security and a spiffy new architecture is all well and good but if you’re like me and you crave good ol’ games of yore, there is still hope for you. What to know how to play DOS games under Windows XP?  DOSBox is here to the rescue.

How to Play DOS Games Under Windows XP With DOSBox

DOSBox is an open source DOS emulator. What that means is that it creates and emulates a DOS based environment for your application. To the application, it appears as if it’s running on it’s own under DOS. So, while DOSBox manages the show behind the scenes, the user really doesn’t need to bother about compatibility, memory management and other stuff which only the old timers amongst us would recognise.

DOSBox is also really easy to get started with. All you need to do is download DOSBox and execute the installer. The installer will create a shortcut to DOSBox on the desktop. Double click the shortcut to run DOSBox for the first time.

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Does that Z:\> prompt look familiar ? How about C:\>?  Well, DOSBox, by default, does not create a C: drive for you. Instead, it lets the user select a directory on his/her computer and mount that inside the emulator as the C:\. This is the directory which we’ll use to store all our old DOS utilities and time wasters games.

Create a directory named DOSApps under c: on your windows computer. The name of the folder or the drive on which it is created does not matter as long as you can remember it.

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Copy all the DOS apps that you want to run under DOSBox to this folder. I’m going to use DOSBox to run Digger, my favorite DOS game.

Now, get back to DOSBox and at the Z:\ prompt, type in the following command:

mount c c:\DOSApps

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As you can, DOSBox has mounted Drive C and mapped it to the local directory c:\DOSApps that you created earlier. Now, switch to the c:\ drive and enter the dir command to see a list of all the files in it. You should see a listing of all the DOS applications that you copied to the directory earlier.

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That’s all. I’m all set now to play my favorite DOS game of all time. I give the command digger at the prompt and, lo-and-behold, digger it is, in all its (former) glory.

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What are your favorite DOS games ? Try running them in DOSBox and let us know how you fare. Do you have your methods to play DOS games under Windows XP? Share them in the comments section below.

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13 Comments -

0 votes

Flavio

I tried DosBox some time ago but had some trouble to have audio working. As far as I remember, the “set blaster…” command was conflicting with Win audio settings. All my memory efforts, to recall the tricks I played with real MS-Dos, were not effective. How did it run for you?
BTW, most of people who started with MS-dos are for sure more aware of what a computer does and how it has to be managed, than “GUI-only” users. Do you remember hot it was to install drivers in the good ol’ CLI days?
Viva la command line! (I still use it a lot, both under Win and Linux!).

0 votes

Sharninder

viva la command line indeed !

The set blaster command worked for me out of the box. Try using the latest version of dosbox and see if that works for you. dosbox as an opensource software, is pretty active and the latest version might work for you, or the community might be able to help you with your specific problem.

That said, virtualization and emulation is tricky business. Games and drivers under DOS had to resort to a lot of trickery and that might not work for an emulator to emulate. So, some games will still give problems though a majority of programs will work.

0 votes

Ammon

Mac users should use the fantastic DOSBox front-end Boxer. Just drag and drop the folder containing the original game (or application) files and Boxer configures and packages it for you. Dead easy.

0 votes

Sharninder

Thanks for the Mac tip Ammon.

0 votes

Doc

> All Microsoft operating systems before XP, had DOS at their heart

Wrong. Windows NT 3, 3.51, 3.52, and WIndows 2000 had NO DOS whatsoever, and are the origin of CMD.EXE

0 votes

Sharninder

Yes Doc. I should have made this clearer. Win NT, 2000 were Microsoft’s server operating systems and were built on the NT kernel and weren’t based on DOS. cmd.exe is also basically a DOS terminal emulator.
Windows XP was based on the NT kernel and so shares many of the characteristics of Win NT and 2000 including a penchant for *disliking* old time DOS games :-)

0 votes

jacksonbms

By the way, there is a version of Digger for Xp. It’s called Digger XP.

0 votes

Cheryl

I’m still running my favorite DOS-based Mahjjong game on XP/SP2 using a PIF file copied from the WIN98 machine. But, there’s no sound involved in the game. Perhaps DOSBox is needed to activate sound.

0 votes

games

All the animation are just great, it very cool game try it

0 votes

Grundig

You can laso try some good abandonware site like where you can play games directly.

0 votes

Lauren

It is still not working. I’m trying to play Chips Challenge. Gahh! Help?

0 votes

Sharninder

If you can tell what problem you’re facing exactly, someone around here might be able to help you.

DOS games were pretty notorious for using undocumented hooks and stuff to get things working and if chips challenge is using something like that, there is a big chance that the dosbox guys simply haven’t implemented it.

You might want to take a look at Virtualbox if you’re looking at real virtualisation and run a full fledged DOS system over your existing windows machine.

0 votes

Troy Holman

Tried this for MY favorite old-time game: Microprose Redstorm Rising, circa 1988. Works great! Thanks for the help. Only one silly question: I realise it’s called DOSBOX, but is there anyway to maximize the game window? It wants to play in a small window in the cemter of the screen, with the maximize box grayed out, and no ability to drag the sides larger. Would like it full screen, like on old ’95 set. Thanks for the help, again! TH