DOSBox · Windows

DosBox Beginners, Newbie and First Timers Guide


Updated in January 2014 to fix some some formatting issues and broken links.
Updated in September 2010 for DOSBox 0.74.

DOSBox is a brilliant yet compact and easy to use virtualization program designed to run old DOS applications under modern operating systems. This tutorial assumes you have a little understanding of the basic DOS commands and the use of a command line.

This tutorial will be designed for Windows users, though DOSBox does work on other operating systems such as Mac OS/X, Linux and FreeBSD.

Download DOSBox from their website (http://www.dosbox.com).

DosBox Installer

Run and install the newly downloaded DOSBox program. Follow all the defaults if you don’t understand any of the questions or prompts.

DOSBox 0.74 Windows start menu

Once installed, you should have a new DOSBox entry in your Windows Start Menu.

DOSBox 0.74 Manual is the extensive DOSBox instruction manual in plain text format.
DOSBox 0.74 is a shortcut to start the application. By default it loads up a partner debugging console which is useful for troubleshoot your emulated DOS games and applications.
DOSBox 0.74 (noconsole) runs the application without the partner debugging console.
Screenshots & Recordings loads up Windows File Explorer to browse your DOSBox screen, audio and video captures.
Uninstall will remove DOSBox from your computer.
Video folder contains instructions on how to use the video capture feature within DOSBox. There is also link to the ZMBV codec that might be required to view your view your video captures within Windows Media Player.
DOSBox 0.74 Options loads up the default settings file used by DOSBox. It is a text INI settings file which is human readable and editable.
Reset KeyMapper will return DOSBox’s control and function keys back to their default.
Reset Options will return DOSBox’s settings file back to its default.

To edit DOSBox’s settings you need to click on the DOSBox Options shortcut. This should open up a configuration INI file within Windows Notepad. If you are using Windows Vista you may need to right-click the shortcut and Run as administrator otherwise you might not be able to save any changes you make.

Within the file you will see rows of text and settings most of which contain short descriptions. All the rows that start with a hash # are commented out which means DOSBox ignores them. Scroll down to the very bottom of the file and you should encounter [autoexec]. This is where you will type and save commands that DOSBox will automatically instigate every time it starts up.

Somewhere on your computer you will need to create a directory that DOSBox will use for it’s virtual hard drive. You will be able to copy files and folders into this directory and DOSBox will be able to access it. If you don’t know what this all means then we will do a simple exercise to show you.

Goto Computer in your Windows Start Menu
Double-click your Local Disk (C:)
Right-click on the whitespace within the window but make sure no folders or files are selected
Select New and then Folder
Rename the newly created folder to DOS Hard Disk
Return back to Notepad that is opened with dosbox-0.74.conf.
Under [autoexec] on a new line add the following snippet.

mount C "C:\DOS Hard Disk\"
C:

The first line tells DOSBox to mount your directory C:\DOS Hard Disk\ as a virtual hard disk and assign it a drive letter of C:
The C: tells DOSBox to automatically go to your newly created C: drive.

Save your file in Notepad (File > Save).

Now run DOSBox.

DOSBox 0.74 startup

Thanks to our changes to the dosbox-0.74.conf file, DOSBox has automatically mounted the directory and used it as a pseudo hard drive. Now you are running a simulated DOS prompt.

In DOS to list the content of your hard drive you use the command DIR which is probably short for directory list.

Currently this shows the C: drive is empty.

Open Computer from your Windows start menu and goto your DOS Hard Disk folder located on your C: drive. Create a new directory and name it anything you want.

Now if you return to DOSBox and type DIR, your C: drive will still list your DOS hard disk as empty. DOSBox caches the drive on startup. So every time you make a file or directory change outside of DOSBox you need to refresh the cache using the RESCAN command or by using the CTRL F4 key combination.

Now download the file vgaseasn.zip (http://www.bengarrett.info/blog/vgaseasn.zip).

Download the file vgaseasn.exe (http://thelarkins.com/fun/SierraChristmas/1992/). It’s an old DOS VGA Christmas card demo created by Sierra Online back in the early 1990’s. Once downloaded, copy the file into your C:\DOS Hard Disk\ directory.

Using the DOSBox prompt.

RESCAN
DIR

You should see the copied vgaseasn.exe directory. Create a new directory named vgaseasn.

MKDIR vgaseasn

Move the file vgaseasn.exe to the directory vgaseasn

MOVE vgaseasn.exe vgaseasn

Enter the directory and list the files within.

CD vgaseasn
DIR

Run the program.

vgaseasn

You should be prompted with the question Continue with Self Extraction?, answer Y.

run vgaseasn

downloaded from sierra bbs

This command will list only the files with the BAT file extension.

DIR *.bat

In DOS most games either used a file with a BAT (batch file), COM (command file) or more commonly an EXE (execute program) extension to start the program.

DIR *.exe

Will list two files listed install.exe and sierra.exe.

Run the install.exe.

install

It should run and a Sierra On-Line Game Install/Setup Program dialog should appear. Press ENTER to skip the dialog and you’ll go to a menu titled Installation Choices. There you will have a list of hardware selections, using your keyboard arrow keys move up to Graphics : VGA and press ENTER.

You can see here that the Sierra On-Line installation program under DOSBox has detected oth VGA and EGA graphic cards. Make sure VGA 256 colors is selected and then press ENTER. Return to the previous menu and scroll down to and select Music.

Here you can see the Sierra install program detects a number of music cards that is emulated by DOSBox. ESC to return to the previous menu and then select Speech. Again you will see a number of audio options available under DOSBox.

Now quit the install program by pressing ESC until you receive a red prompt asking you to exit. Back at the DOSBox prompt, type.

sierra

If everything goes well you will be greeted with an animated Christmas card. You can quit the program anytime by pressing ESC. Go back to the install program and play around with the graphic, music and sound options to see the effects.

Enjoy, I will have more tutorials in the future covering the functions and operations of DOSBox.

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82 thoughts on “DosBox Beginners, Newbie and First Timers Guide

  1. is it possible to install an open source operating system(guest) in a windows 7(host) via dosbox? if yes, how? can u make a tutorial? please. this is project.

    1. Dosbox is an operating system emulator, not a hardware emulator like vmware or virtuabox. So you could probably only install an operating system that is designed to sit on top of DOS. Windows 1 to Windows 3.* and alternative DOS editions come to mind. FreeDOS is open and can be made to run within Dosbox. http://www.freedos.org/.

        1. Dosbox is an emulation of DOS for installing on your existing operating system as a program. FreeDOS is an operating system that is designed as an open source replacement for Microsoft’s commercial DOS from pre-1995. It is not designed to run DOS games within Windows, Linux etc. To run a game in either dosbox or freedos would be the same process though.

  2. Hi! I have a windows 98 game on disc. Now I want to play this game in my Windows 7.64 operating system. When I try to start the setup.exe file in DOS BOX, I recieve a error message from DOS BOX saying “” This program must be run under Win32″”. Please Help. Thank you.

    1. DOSBox is a DOS emulation program. Windows 98 as an operating system is a few generations after DOS so a DOS emulation such as DOSBox is not going to be able to run a Windows 98 program. If you want to run a Windows 98 program within Windows 764bit you will need to right-click on on your game’s setup.exe, select Properties, select the Compatibility tab, click the Run this program in compatibility mode for: checkbox, and then select Windows 98 from the pull-down list.

  3. Hey I have a quick question, I already have a game loaded to C:\ how do I clear it so I can load a different game?

    1. C:\ is a virtual hard disk. You can have more than just a game there, but generally you should put each game into an individual directory. Try these commands in the DOSBox prompt for example.

      md doom
      dir
      cd doom
      cd ..
      ren doom doom2
      rd doom2
      dir

      You can find all the DOSBox commands by typing HELP /ALL

      To answer your question you might want to try DEL *.* <– IN THE DOSBOX prompt!
      Otherwise you could just use Windows explorer to delete the content of wherever C: is pointing to on your computer. Then in DOSBox you could refresh the directory cache by typing RESCAN.

  4. I have Duke Nukem 3D atomic edition – run it using dosbox and instaled; however it keeps asking me to place the cd on the drive to play – its already there.

    help please

    1. You need to mount the CD drive so that the Duke Nukem 3D game can actually discover the disc.

      If your drive is D then

      mount D D:\ -T cdrom

  5. The code above if entered into Dosbox.conf, when you open Dosbox, it will mount, load, and go to this folder and display the files with-in.

    Now just create batch files with the commands normally used to load doxbox games, place them in the gamelist folder (C:/gamelist)

    =============================================================
    My Batch File Example- Type in notepad, save as FILENAME.bat
    =============================================================

    @ECHO OFF
    mount c c:\harvest
    mount d d:\ -t cdrom
    c:\
    harvest.exe

    —————————————————————-

    I saved this batch file as harvest.bat. Now when I open Dosbox, it automatically opens the gamelist folder, and displays the files, (only harvest.bat now).

    Now you only have to type harvest.bat (or any other game.bat you have), to mount and play your games.

  6. Here is a neat trick I figured out for running Dosbox games fast ans easy.
    First edit the dosbox.conf file to mount a new drive letter and folder you will not use.

  7. hi just run thru this, it was going well untill it said “this program must be run under win32” can u help me please thankyou

    1. you need to provide a little more information then just a generic error message. such as what operating system you are trying to run dosbox under.

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