Virtualisation | Play DOS games with DOSBox | Posted 23.03.2010 by AndyM
Play DOS games with DOSBox
If like me, you entered the world of fledgling supercomputing in the days of DOS 6 and Windows 3, chances are you also enjoyed the wonders of DOS games. The early nineties were a time when "2d" games like Duke Nukem and Comander Keen gave way to the first "3d" offerings. Wolfenstein 3D soon gave way to DOOM where for the first time, you could run around an immersive environment blowing away assorted bad mutherf**kers with an assortment of blockily-rendered weaponry. The First Person Shooter had arrived.
These days it's easy to take the technology for granted, with games getting incredibly realistic. However despite the realism and high quality graphics, some nostalgic old-timers (and a growing number of younger afficionados) hanker for the games which ruled in the days when you didn't even need a special graphics card and 4MB of video RAM was considered plenty - you only needed 16.3 million colours right..?
Windows 3 ran on DOS (you typed WIN at the DOS prompt to start it). Windows 9.x and ME pretended not to, but actually ran on the last version, DOS7. Windows NT and all Windowses since Windows 2000 did away with DOS completely but still kept a DOS emulator (CMD) which looks and behaves much like DOS, but is really just pretending. Unfortunately DOS games generally won't run in the Windows DOS-emulator and this led some to keep a separate DOS-based computer just for playing old games on.
Not any more. Step in DOSBox which is a DOS emulator (or virtual machine) that runs under Windows and looks and feels just like the original DOS of yore. It emulates and supports the hardware of the day including the mighty SoundBlaster soundcard and Novell's erstwhile IPX/SPX networking protocol. DOS games are completely fooled into thinking they're back in 1994 and so will you..
Firstly go the the DOSBox website and download the required version (Win32 installer for Windows). Make sure to note the install directory (screenshot) in case you need it later. Once installed, DOSBox is ready to run from the START menu (screenshot) although a little further configuration may be required.
DOSBox is easy to configure and tweaking the thing consists of adding a couple of lines. The configuration file lives in the following location:
C:\Documents and Settings\%username%\Local Settings\Application Data\DOSBox\
- where %username% is your Windows logon id (screenshot - mine's andym).
Go to this folder, double click on the dosbox-0.73.conf file (or whatever version is installed) and open it in a text editor such as Notepad.
The end of my my modified dosbox-0.73.conf look like this:
# ipx: Enable ipx over UDP/IP emulation.
# Lines in this section will be run at startup.
mount c f:\progs\dosbox\root
mount d v:\ -t cdrom
This enables the IPX/SPX network protocol used by many early networkable DOS games (like DOOM, Hexen, Duke Nukem 3d). Only necessary if you want to multiplay with others
mount C f:\progs\dosbox\root
This entry sits inside the [autoexec] section of the config file. It mounts a subdirectory inside the DOSBox install directory, which will become the root directory C:\ once it boots up. I created a new folder called F:\progs\dosbox\root but you can call it anything as long as it's listed here.
mount d v:\ -t cdrom
This mounts a CD/DVD drive. The d option will make a local drive letter D: for the CD/DVD. The V:\ part refers to the drive letter used by the host system.
The path statement tells DOS where to look for important operating system files. Under DOSBox instead of an A: drive you have a Z: drive, which also represents the old C:\DOS directory - which doesn't exist under DOSBox!
Typing the PATH command inside DOSBox simply shows up "Z:\" by default and this is usually all you need. I add a subdirectory called DOSPROGS to contain any extra external DOS commands I might want to add - basically like the old C:\DOS directory. I also run Windows 3.11 so I've added that. Finally I also include the original Z:\ drive otherwise it would get lost with the new PATH declaration.
Finally I like to tell DOSBox to change to the (virtual) C: drive on booting..
Games are installed from the active console. Start DOSBox, pop in a CD or floppy or even better, copy the install files to a subdirectory where they can be accessed (screenshot). It may be necessary to configure the game to recognise the virtual soundcard, but I have nad no problems at all getting games to run just like they did under the original DOS (screenshot).
I have even been able to get good old Windows3 running just like it did back in the day (screenshot).