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. Hello, I have been trying to use dos box to play my dune 2000 cd from 1998 (made for windows 95) on my computer. The win32 Error message comes up and I can’t play my game. Is there a way to fix this? Dune 2000 is a win16 game.

    1. Hi, unfortunately DOSBox will be of no help. It is designed to run games made before Windows 95.

      You may want to give OpenRA a try? I haven’t used it but it seems to allow you to run Dune 2000 on modern computers.
      http://www.openra.net/about/

  2. Hey mate, ive been trying to run Warcraft: orcs and humans, and i get to the install and try and select destination directory it tells me it cant create the directory, can you help at all?

    1. Hi Jordy,
      If you’re installing from a CD you need to first make sure the destination directory is on the C:\ hard drive.
      Otherwise maybe try creating the directory manually before running the install program.

      mkdir c:\warcraft

  3. Hi I have been using the free DOSBox for Android, and it’s great. But it doesn’t seem to come with a text editor. Could you recommend (a preferably free) one, just so I don’t have to rely on the PC to edit config / autoexec files. Thanks

    1. I am not sure if you mean for android or a text editor for dos? FreeDOS (an open sourced DOS clone) has ‘edit’ which would work in dos box.

  4. i have windows 7 and im trying to play kings quest VII when i type in all the information in dos box it comes up and says this program requires microsft windows. i dont know what i am doing wrong please help

    1. Hi Judy, I believe you are running the Windows 95 release of this game. There were multiple versions created for different platforms and systems of the era. Unfortunately DOSBox only works with DOS games, not Windows.

  5. Like another individual in the comment section, I too am having issues downloading King’s Quest 7. Every time I enter “install”(.bat) it says “Can’t find KQ7INST.001”. The file it says it can’t find IS in the folder. This is the second KQ7 file I’ve downloaded, each are from different sites (just in case one of the files were incomplete or bad). I’m just frustrated at this point. Any helpful tips in regards to this?

    1. Hi tcoftw,

      DOS is rather archaic and there was no standard way to install software onto it. So developers made their own install utilities and tools. Sometimes they included multiple tools for different tasks. So that install.bat could be to copy the game from the original CD-ROM onto a person’s hard drive and maybe useless for you. Have you tried running the game in DOSBOX instead of trying to install it before hand?

      Otherwise you can buy the game from here. It will guarantee to work on modern computers.
      http://www.gog.com/game/kings_quest_7_8

  6. Hello, I am new on DosBox, I have Windows 10 and am trying to run simple asm file but it says “This program cannot be run in DodMode”…First DosBox was not opening but then I attached external device I-e mouse, now it is opening and I have mounted and everything but it gives this error when I run an asm file.
    Please Help urgent..

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