DOSBox · Windows

DosBox beginners, newbie and first timers guide


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

DOSBox is a brilliant yet compact and easy to use virtualisation program designed to run old DOS applications under modern operating systems. This tutorial assumes you have a little understanding of the underlying 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 troubleshooting 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 to its default.

To edit DOSBox’s settings, you need to click on the DOSBox Options shortcut. It 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]. It 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 its 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.

Go to 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 to Notepad that is open with dosbox-0.74.conf.
Under [autoexec] on a new line add the following text …

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 go to your newly created C: drive automatically.

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 go to 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 and then DIR. You should see the copied vgaseasn.exe directory.
Create a new directory named vgaseasn by running MKDIR vgaseasn
Move the file vgaseasn.exe to the directory vgaseasn by running MOVE vgaseasn.exe vgaseasn
To enter the directory use CD vgaseasn, once in use DIR to list the files within.
Run the program vgaseasn, and you should be prompted with the question Continue with Self Extraction?, answer Y

run vgaseasn

downloaded from sierra bbs

Use the DIR *.bat will list only the files with the BAT file extension. 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. Using DIR *.exe, you will see two files listed install.exe and sierra.exe.

Run the install.exe by typing 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 both 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 some music cards that is emulated by DOSBox. [ESC] to return to the previous menu and then select Speech : . Again you will see many 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, an animated Christmas card will greet you. 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.

82 thoughts on “DosBox beginners, newbie and first timers guide

  1. 1) I installed dosbox to play a game.
    2) My laptop now takes 97% of it’s usage to run.
    3) Uninstall.exe file not found.
    4) So I did a backup.
    5) Dosbox still there without uninstall option.

    What should I do now?

    1. Hi Amanda, unfortunately I am a blogger not a technical support. But I would make sure you actually downloaded and installed DosBox from the official website on Sorceforge.net.

      http://sourceforge.net/projects/dosbox/files/dosbox/0.74/DOSBox0.74-win32-installer.exe/download

      DOSBox does not run at start-up. So if you rebooted and your computer is still running slowly I believe something else would be causing it.

      You can press [Ctrl] [Alt] [Del] keys together on your Windows keyboard and bring up the Task Manager. That will tell you what is using all your processes, and from there you can kill whatever is slowing your system down.

  2. One problem I’m having is making Paradox properly work in DOS BOX 0.74. When I open Paradox in it, it says the home directory of the version I’m using does not exist and when I go to change directories, the directory I want that is on my computer does not show up in Paradox (whereas it DOES show up in Paradox when I open Paradox directly into Windows 7 HP 32-bit on the small screen). I’m trying to figure out how to do this ahead of possibly having to replace two XP machines with machines that have Windows 8.1 64-bit with XP no longer being supposed.

    Any help on fixing this issue. I also downloaded version 0.60 which Paradox is supposed to work on, but could not get it to work there either.

    1. Hi Wallyhorse, I had to Google ‘paradox dos’ to work out what you were referring to. I assume you are talking about the database?

      DosBox has a small tidbit of information on Paradox.
      http://www.dosbox.com/wiki/Software:Paradox_4.0

      Otherwise you can run DOS on any modern computer using VMWare Player or Oracle VM VirtualBox. There is a bit of a learning curve for first time users of virtualization but that would be your best bet to start.
      http://www.vmware.com/products/player
      https://www.virtualbox.org/

      You will also need a copy of DOS to use with either software. FreeDOS would be your best bet if you don’t have access to MS-DOS or PC-DOS. http://www.freedos.org

  3. I dowwnloaded dosbox for running turbopascal on windows 7. It seems to work, but I am unable to show the program in full screen. I only have a window, and can’t make it fulle size. Can you help me?

    1. Hi Toben, in DOSBox type “intro special” without the quotes. That will list a number of useful key combinations including how to go full screen and back.

  4. I write in,
    mount C “C:\DOS Hard Disk\”
    c:
    on the note pad but when I go on DOSBox it says that drive C does not exist and that I have to mount it first, what do I do?

    1. Hi Michael did you follow the previous steps in the article ?

      + 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

        1. Did you type mount C "C:\DOS Hard Disk\" into Notepad rather than copy/paste from the blog?

          I ask as the " (double quotation mark) is a different character to “ ” (curly quotation marks).

          Unfortunately WordPress automatically converts " into ” . I noticed the blog unintentionally displayed curly quotes and I have since fixed this.

    1. Sorry Colleen it seems the links are now down. I’ll see if I can get the files hosted elsewhere.

  5. hi. i using windows 7 64 bit, i try to install turbo c++ 4.5(the file name SETUP.exe) using dosbox but it say This program requires Microsoft Windows…any idea why?

    1. DOSBox is a program that emulates an old PC running the Microsoft DOS operating system. Generally software designed for Microsoft Windows will not work under DOS or DOSBox. If you want Turbo C working on DOSBox you need an early edition that supports DOS rather than Windows, as they are different pieces of software.

      If you just want to get Turbo C to work on your 64-bit Windows 7 system you may want to use virtualisation software so you can install and run an older 32-bit version of Windows within Windows 7.

      See Vmware Player http://www.vmware.com/products/player/
      Or VirtualBox https://www.virtualbox.org/

  6. Hi Ben. I wonder if you could give me advice on how to save my game in DOSbox. I know someone asked about it too but my problem isn´t exactly the same.. (I think). -I have an old 4 cd´s game only in ISO files (wing commander 3 to be exact). I imagemounted the cd´s and the playing is fun but as I tried to save it (there is a menu in the game where this can be done, and the game happily tells me that the game is saved..) and closed the DOSbox I wasn´t able to load the game anymore the following day. -Instead I had to imagemount the 4cd iso.files all over again and when the game started the list of saved games was empty. — now.. I am clueless what to do with this since I´ve only used DOSbox in these last 2 days. I have Vista os, DOSbox 0.74 and a crappy 5 years old HP laptop. What can I do next? 🙂

    1. Okay the quick and easy option would be to spend $6 and rebuy the game on GOG.com. They will legally sell a copy of the game to you but also package it and test it to work on Windows XP, 7, 8 http://www.gog.com/gamecard/wing_commander_3_heart_of_the_tiger.

      Otherwise what you may have to do is insert the first CD and get it to install some game files. Generally if you do a DIR command on the ISO mount there should be a file INSTALL.COM, INSTALL.BAT, INSTALL.EXE or something similar. ISO images are CD-ROM images, the ROM stands for Read Only Memory meaning you cannot write data to it. So CD games from this period generally installed part of the game to a computer’s hard drive (DOSBox C:) and used that for save games and temporary files.

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