Intro to Emulation on Windows 7

March 17, 2011, By Christian Cawley

With a suitably-equipped Windows 7 computer you have the ability to emulate pretty much any other platform, whether it be with the creation of a virtual machine (best achieved on a PC with a multi-core processor) or by using dedicated emulation technology.

There are many different types of emulator, from MS-DOS emulators like DOSBox (ideal for running legacy applications and retro gaming) to emulators of consoles (both current and abandoned) or even completely different devices. Microsoft even provide emulators of their mobile platforms, Windows Mobile, Windows CE, Zune and Windows Phone.

The most common purpose of emulation, however, is in gaming – so in this series of tutorials we’re going to take a look at the top emulators and how they can be installed and set up.

Emulation on Windows 7 goes way beyond DOSbox

Common Emulators for Windows

There are various uses for emulation, but most commonly you will find it comes in handy when you want to emulate a different platform on your Windows PC. While virtual machines can be used to run Mac OS X, Linux distros and various other platforms as closely as the originals, emulators might miss a few hardware functions in order to allow the software to be run as close to stable as possible.

Over the years there have been many emulators for other platforms produced, from Commodore 64 and earlier to current consoles such as the Nintendo Wii.

Although emulators are available for Linux and Mac OS X, most are available for Windows. However one of the most popular is MAME – Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator.

MAME has been around since 1997 and allows computer owners to enjoy arcade machine games, original versions of titles like Street Fighter or Time Crisis. Such is the popularity of this emulation platform that some gamers even go to the expense of installing their computer and monitor in a wooden cabinet for true arcade gaming authenticity!

What Will I Run on the Emulator?

Ideally, an emulator will be used to enable you to run legacy software, perhaps in order to retrieve data that can be printed out or even saved and imported into a more modern application with backwards-compatibility.

As we’ve already seen, most of us use emulation as a means to enjoy old games. With this activity comes a risk of piracy, however, as a quick browse of the web will reveal ROMs of various games for your chosen emulator. These are made available under various circumstances – some might be abandonware, for instance, made legal to use by a declaration from the copyright holders – but others aren’t legally available. By downloading a ROM for any software that you don’t already own (and this is platform-specific) then you are breaching copyright law.

Ultimately, what you run on the emulator is your choice – but do us all a favour and stay within the law.

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