Windows 7 Retro Gaming with DOSBox

January 10, 2011, By Christian Cawley

With a Windows 7 computer you should be able to take advantage of most if not all of the most popular new games, whether they’re available online via Steam or purchased from a shop, or free online games. The majority of such games will be professionally produced, with excellent gameplay, graphics, sound and even feature a multiplayer element.

But sometimes, a gamer just wants to play something a little more simplistic, with less impressive graphics and more recognisable gameplay.

As a result, many older games remain popular – but sadly the majority of these cannot be played under Windows 7. While some retro titles can be enjoyed using compatibility mode or by setting up an old version of Windows as a virtual machine, for the really old titles you will need a different type of solution altogether.

Play retro games in Windows 7 with DOSBox

MS-DOS and Windows 7

Windows games from the late 1990s were all compatible with Windows 95 and 98, as well as MS-DOS. MS-DOS was the forerunner to Windows, and as such games were produced that could be run in this GUI-free environment.

This enabled software and games of this era to take full advantage of system resources that weren’t otherwise spent up allowing multitasking, and the result was some pretty excellent titles.

Obviously things have moved on considerably since the 1990s; MS-DOS is now no longer available, reduced to emulation in Windows 98 it was kicked out of the operating system in Windows XP to be replaced with the command line tool.

So how can retro games (or indeed software) be enjoyed in Windows 7?

Forget Virtualization – Try Emulation

The answer is with emulation – and the main tool for creating an emulated MS-DOS environment is DOSBox, a piece of software that is available not only for Windows but also Linux, Solaris, Mac OS X and many other operating systems.

To get your copy of this free software (to which you can donate if you like it) head over to www.dosbox.com and download a copy. It is a remarkably small 1.4MB for Windows users, and requires just a few MB of hard disk space.

Once installed you can take advantage of various retro gaming classics that are either available in your own collection or that have been acquired from abandonware websites.

Playing Retro PC Titles with DOSBox

When you run DOSBox you will be presented with a Z:\> prompt. What you will need to do is “mount” a virtual disk within the software. The best way to do this is to find or create a suitable folder on your hard disk drive within which you can save your game files.

For instance if I create the folder DOSGAMES on my C:\ drive, I would issue the command:

mount c c:\dosgames

At the next prompt I would switch drives:

C:

This changes the Z:\> prompt to C:\>, and from here I can run my intended game. Type DIR to list the directory contents, change directory with CD DIRECTORYNAME and enter the name of the .EXE or .BAT file that is required to launch the game!

Resources for Abandonware Games

There are several online repositories of abandonware – software that is no longer supported by developers or publishers which has been made available, licence free, to be downloaded by retro gamers.

www.xtcabandonware.com

www.abandonia.com

www.abandonwaredos.com

www.hotud.org

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