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How to use DOSBox to run old DOS games and programs

Sometimes it is fun to go back and play the DOS video games I grew up with. But it can be tough since Windows doesn't utilize DOS anymore. But you can still run your old DOS games using DOSBox.

How to use DOSBox to run old DOS games and programs

So the other day I was going through some old CD's and came across a Gravis Gamepad disk from 1996. It has a few DOS shareware games I used to love to play, including Doom.

My first thought was "Wouldn't be fun to go through a couple levels of Doom?". My next thought was "It's not going to be easy to set up.". Since the DOS games I wanted to play were 16-bit, the 64-bit version of Windows 10 I'm running wasn't going to do it.

There were only two (2) solutions that came to mind; a MS-DOS based Virtual Machine or a Personal Computer (PC) emulator like DOSBox. Since I just wanted to play a few games, DOSBox was the simplest way to go.

Now DOSBox is not a full blown version of DOS and lacks many of the features of MS-DOS. It was created for the purpose of running older DOS based games. It will run some DOS based programs too, but results will vary.

To get more features, you would need to look at a SVN build. SVN builds are versions that people have built from the latest version of the source code. Additional features you can get with a SVN build include copy / paste and printing support.

Now to get things going I went through the Gravis disk and found the games I wanted to play. The way DOSBox works is it creates a virtual DOS environment using an existing folder as the root DOS drive. So I created a new folder in File Explorer on my D: drive named DOSStuff to use as the DOS root drive. I then created a sub-folder called Temp and copied all of the DOS game folders I wanted from the Gravis disk to it.

Now just for the sake of argument, I decided to see what would happen if I tried to run one of the install programs / scripts from a 64-bit Windows 10 command prompt. Sure enough I got an error about running 16-bit programs. I was going to need to install DOSBox first.

16-bit error message inside of Windows 10
16-bit error message inside of Windows 10

So I downloaded and installed the basic version of DOSBox. The installation was quick and simple. I did a couple of minor changes to the DOSBox options so it would automatically mount the D:\DOSStuff folder as the virtual C: drive and change the command prompt drive letter to C:. All of the old DOS commands were coming back to me.

F.Y.I. - I use the term Folder for when I'm in Windows and Directory for when I'm in DOS. They are both the same thing. I'm just old school when it comes to DOS.

DOSBox running on a 64-bit version of Windows 10
DOSBox running on a 64-bit version of Windows 10

I quickly navigated to the Temp directory in the DOSBox command prompt. I then proceeded to go into each game directory via DOSBox command prompt and run each of the install programs / scripts. With a little tweaking of the game options, I'm off to relive some of my favorite DOS video games using DOSBox.

Doom running inside of DOSBox on Windows 10
Doom running inside of DOSBox on Windows 10

For more information on DOSBox, just follow the links below.

DOSBox, an x86 emulator with DOS
DOSBox SVN Builds

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