Running Old DOS Programs in Windows XP or Vista

The first PC my family ever had had an 8088 4.77MHz processor, 640KB of RAM, 20MB hard drive and a CGA (4colors) graphics adapter. This was back in the early to mid-80s, but I remember how much fun I had playing many games on that system. Back then, of course, all games and applications ran in DOS, the operating system at the time.

I still enjoy some of the old games, however, computers have change much since that time and many of those DOS games are either difficult to get working in Windows, or don’t run at all. In this post I will introduce you to a free application that you can download that allows you to still run those old DOS applications in Windows XP or Vista.

Introducing DOSBox

Anyone who has tried to run old DOS programs in Windows XP or Vista knows how frustrating it can be to get them to work properly. About a year ago I became frustrated with not being able to play some of my old DOS games, so I decided to search the Internet for a solution. I came across DOSBox.

DOSBox emulates an older Intel x86 computer that includes sound, graphics, mouse, joystick, and modem support that can be used by the old DOS programs and games. While most of the emphasis in the development of DOSBox is on games, older DOS applications can still run, but communication, networking and printer support are still in early development.

When you run DOSBox you are greeted with the standard DOS screen, complete with a command prompt. Since this emulates DOS, it does not include all the features available in the full-blown older versions of DOS. The lack of features does not stop you from running many of your old DOS favourites.

Using DOSBox

Using DOSBox to run your old games is really simple. Although there are many configuration options available, I found the default options to be good enough for most games. To use DOSBox, use the following steps:

  1. Download DOSBox from the DOSBox Web site.
  2. Run the executable that you download, and follow the prompts to install DOSBox. When the installation has completed there should be shortcuts to DOSBox in your start menu.
  3. Install your DOS game to a directory on your computer. Keep in mind that you should follow the standard DOS file naming convention of 8 characters. If the names are longer, then Windows will truncate the name in DOS and include a tilde (~). Remember where you install the game as you will need this in one of the following steps.
  4. Click the DOSBox shortcut in your start menu to launch the emulator. You will now see the DOSBox screen, with a welcome message, some sound commands and a command prompt.
  5. You will notice that you are on drive Z, which is a virtual drive used by the tool. You will need to map to the drive letter, or directory of your game.
  6. To connect to the drive of your game, you will type the following:

    mount [drive letter:] [games directory]

    For example, if the game is installed in C:\Games\TheGame on your hard drive:

    mount c: c:\games\thegame\

    Once you mount the drive you can just change to that directory and call the executable for the game. Your game should now run without issue.

If there are issues, you can check out the DOSBox Web site for more information. You may need to change some of configuration settings in the tool to get your game to run, however, I have run many games without problems on the default settings.

The DOSBox Web site also talks about how to slow down the game if it runs too fast, which you may need to check out if the game does run too fast.


For many people that played computer games in the 80s and 90s, and wish to play them on Windows XP or Vista today may have trouble getting them to work properly. Luckily there is a free solution called DOSBox that can help you to get those games to run quickly and easily. I have once again been able to enjoy playing some of those old DOS games in XP and Vista because of a great tool called DOSBox.

6 Responses to “Running Old DOS Programs in Windows XP or Vista”

  1. JonGrimes says:

    Great article, thanks !

  2. Peter says:

    Nice tutorial.


    DOSBox developer.

  3. Paul says:

    Spyhunter…I played that game quite a bit. Tried it recently and didn’t do to good.

  4. Martini says:

    Or, you could hop in my time machine with me and we could travel back to 1985 for a few games of Spy Hunter.

  5. Paul says:

    Thanks for finding that major error in my template. It has been corrected.

    Much appreciated.

  6. Shailendra says:

    You are loosing your readers. The subscribe link with the RSS image above the technorati image is not proper. Correct it as fast as you can.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.