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Getting old MS-DOS games to run in Windows

DoomAs Microsoft Windows progresses not all older games and programs are going to work or work properly. Below are recommendations for getting older games working in your version of Windows and issues you may encounter.

Unable to install or run game
Memory related issues
Sound related issues
Video related issues
Other recommendations

Unable to install or run game

Install from command line

When running the game, make sure you are running the game through an MS-DOS window or command line. If the game reports any errors, they will not be seen since Windows closes the command line window after the program has completed.

Use 8.3 format

Make sure the name of the directory or subdirectory of where the game is being installed is no longer than eight characters. Although Windows supports longer file names and directories, older MS-DOS games do not. For example, do not install older games in the "Program Files" directory and instead create a new "Games" directory.

Check for patches

If the game developer is still in business, see if any patches or updates are available for that game that may help to resolve issues that you are encountering.

Change compatibility

If you are running Windows 95, 98, ME, or XP, change the compatibility of the program by right-clicking on the shortcut, clicking on properties, and clicking the compatibility tab.

Use a boot diskette

If your computer is using FAT16 or FAT32 and not NTFS create a boot disk and boot from that diskette to run the game.

Memory related issues

If you are encountering memory errors, such as not enough expanded memory (EMS), extended memory (XMS), or conventional memory, when attempting to run the program, follow the steps below.

  1. Right-click on the shortcut for the program and select Properties.
  2. Click the Memory tab. If you do not have a Memory tab, skip this section.
  3. On the Memory tab, you can adjust the amount of memory as needed for that program. Unless you know how much memory the program needs, try setting these values to Auto.

By default, many of these settings are set to 1024. Users should also set the Initial environment value to the highest value of 4096.

Sound related issues

Specify sound settings within game

Some older MS-DOS games do not auto-detect your sound card and use the sound card settings from the autoexec.bat and config.sys. If the game allows you to specify the sound settings within the game use the common settings: INTERRUPT=220 IRQ=5 or 7 DMA=1.

Remark sound settings in autoexec.bat

If you are running Microsoft Windows 95 or 98 and are encountering sound issues, edit the autoexec.bat and rem out any line that begins with BLASTER=. If you changed anything, save the files and try to run the game again.

Configuring sound in autoexec.bat

If the above steps have not resolved your issues and you are running Windows 95 and 98, try specifying the sound settings by adding the below line in the autoexec.bat.

SET BLASTER=A220 I5 D1 H5

If you are running a game that requires an autoexec.bat or config.sys file, these files can be created on the root directory (C:\) with the sound settings in them.

Determining your sound card settings

Users can view their sound card resources by viewing the properties of the sound card in Device Manager. Users running Windows 98 can also check their sound card settings through the System Information program by following the steps below.

  1. Click Start > Programs > Accessories
  2. Click System Tools
  3. Click System Information

or

  1. Click Start > Run
  2. Type msinfo32

Sound emulators

If you are unable to get the sound to work in DOS, companies also provide software sound emulators that in some cases can enable your sound card to work through MS-DOS. A great example of a free sound emulator is VDMSound.

Video related issues

Not all video cards, even the latest & greatest video cards, support all VESA modes. Before continuing, make sure your video card has the latest video drivers.

Other recommendations

If after following the above recommendations, you are still unable to get your MS-DOS game working properly, try the below recommendations.

  1. Consider trying an emulator program, such as DOSBox.
  2. If the game is an older version of a Windows program, you can also run PE Explorer to adjust the SizeOfImage value to a value compatible with Windows 2000 and Windows NT. You can download this program from http://www.heaventools.com/.
  3. Create a dual boot with Windows and MS-DOS.
  4. If your computer is using FAT16 or FAT32 and not NTFS, create a boot disk and boot from that diskette to run the game.
  5. Consider purchasing an older computer dedicated to playing older games.