[adeel420] Running DOS games on Windows XP and 2K

  • From: LTC <mshaqeel@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: adeel420@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Tue, 24 Dec 2002 15:44:01 +0000 (GMT)

This was originally posted at the "Open Mic" forum at
Mechwarrior/Battletech fan Website; it was posted as a
solution to getting
Mechwarrior2 working under Windows2000.

Original Document was loacted at:
IT Week
© 1995-2002 VNU Business Publications Ltd. All rights


Running Dos games on XP
By Roger Gann

When Microsoft released Windows XP in October 2001, it
was its first
consumer operating system that wasn't based in any way
on legacy Dos code.

For most users, this was good news as it promised a
more stable and
user-friendly experience. And despite the absence of
Dos, XP is still
capable of running most ye olde Dos apps perfectly
well. It even makes a
decent stab at running Dos games, which can be tricky.

But its track record here isn't 100 per cent; it can
run some games but not
others, or maybe run the graphics but not the sound or
vice versa. Sound is
typically the biggest problem.

It's complicated by the fact that many Dos games treat
music and sound
effects as separate issues and you may wind up getting
one and not the
other. Luckily, there are ways to get round some of
these game snafus.

Check your properties
Before attempting the steps below, try running the
game by simply clicking
on it, then try various settings on the compatibility
tab, perhaps to trick
it into thinking it is running under Windows 95.

If a Dos game doesn't run properly, the odds are that
its program window
will open and close so quickly you can't even see its
contents. Since you
can't troubleshoot a program without seeing the error
message it's giving
you, you need to access the MS-Dos shortcut for it so
you can modify its run

To do so, right-click the game's executable, choose
Properties and disable
the Close on exit checkbox found on the Programs tab.
Once you've set this
option, try opening your Dos game's executable again.

This time the Dos window should remain open after the
program bombs out,
allowing you to see the error. Sometimes this will be
something that Windows
XP can't get around, but other problems are fixable.
If it's a memory
problem, usually having to do with not enough XMS or
EMS memory, there's a
simple fix.

Since many Dos games required what was then a lot of
memory, and Dos could
only offer 640KB of Conventional memory, you had to
use commands such as
himem.sys and emm386.exe to give your games use of
Extended and Expanded
memory. If a game is going to have memory problems,
you'll typically get
some form of no Expanded/Extended memory error when
you try to run it.

To try to fix this problem, right-click the program
and select Properties.
This time, choose the Memory tab. On this tab are
sections for configuring
Conventional, Expanded, Extended and Protected memory.

By default, you should find that the dropdown list in
the Total field of the
Conventional memory area is set to 'Auto'. You'll also
find that the
dropdown lists for Expanded and Extended memory are
set to None and 0,
respectively. Choose 'Auto' for both of these options
and click OK to close
out of the Properties window.

The initial environment should also be set to its
highest setting of 4096.
Under the Total dropdown box is a box labelled
'Protected'. This protects
the system memory from modifications made by the
selected program and should
be checked.

Configuration files
If this doesn't solve your memory problems, there's
still one trick up XP's
sleeve. Those of us old enough to remember the twin
evils of autoexec.bat
and config.sys will remember the constant tweaking of
command lines,
attribute settings and so on in order to squeeze the
last ounce of
performance from our machines. Well, these old files
haven't completely gone
away, they've just assumed new identities.

If you open My Computer and go to your
Windows/System32 folder, you'll find
them disguised as config.nt and autoexec.nt and, guess
what, you can tweak
them just like you could tweak their predecessors and
each game can also
have its own private copies of these files.

As a precaution, copy these files into your Dos games
directory before
making changes to them. It's important to remember
that the autoexec.bat and
config.sys files in your root directory have nothing
to do with Dos

To make a Dos game use a new set of config and
autoexec files, right-click
its executable file and choose Properties. This time,
return to the Program
tab and click the Advanced button. This opens a
dialogue box labelled
Windows PIF Settings, which contains two fields: one
for an autoexec
filename and one for config.

By default these two fields point to your
%SystemRoot%/System32 directory
but, if you put copies of your config and autoexec
files in a 'Games'
directory, then you'd change them to:
C:/GAMES/CONFIG.NT in these two fields.

If you find when playing a Dos game that its speed is
way too fast, try
enabling the Compatible Timer Hardware Emulation
checkbox that appears
beneath these two fields.

To edit the contents of config.nt or autoexec.nt use
something like Notepad.
Both files are well commented. Unfortunately, the
changes you can make here
are restricted, confined mainly to things such as the
EMM=RAM command. Some
games require this option to be set before they'll
recognise your Expanded

If you're experiencing audio problems, you can also
try to alternate
settings for the existing Set Blaster command in
autoexec.nat. This command
tells a Dos game at what address your audio card is
located, which IRQ and
DMA setting it uses and which type of card it is (the
format for these
settings and a list of Soundblaster card types are
included in the file).

Typical audio card settings that Dos games look for
are address 220, IRQ 5
or 7, DMA 1 and Type 3 (Soundblaster 2). This means
the Set Blaster command
in your autoexec file should be: SET BLASTER=A220 I5
D1 T3. General Midi
support defaults to an address of 330.

Sound and video issues
Windows XP has Soundblaster emulation built into the
NTVDM (NT Virtual Dos
Machine - the part of XP that runs Dos apps), meaning
you get almost full
support for sound in old Dos games. It's not perfect
(you don't get OPLx
emulation if your sound card doesn't have an OPLx chip
on it, and some DSP
functions don't work), but it works for most things.

For clean audio, using General Midi or your PC's
internal speaker is your
best bet. Even with a Soundblaster card, choosing
'Soundblaster' rarely
results in flawless functionality. If you have the
option, enable as few
separate audio streams as possible, preferably just
one. This helps avoid
some of the slowdowns that occur in some titles when
using Soundblaster for
sound effects.

If you're having problems getting your Soundblaster
card to work then you'll
need Vlad Romascanu's clever VDMSound program. Not
only does VDMSound
provide Soundblaster emulation in software (which
works with any
Windows-supported sound card), and not only does that
emulation con Dos
programs into thinking they're talking to a kosher
Soundblaster, but
VDMSound makes configuring XP's Dos subsystem fairly
easy. Download this
tool here.

The video modes available on your graphics card can
also affect whether a
game is going to run or not: 'Vesa Compatibility' is
important here.

Some newer Dos games (such as Duke Nukem 3D) use Vesa,
the nearest Dos has
to DirectX, for high-resolution graphics. As with
Soundblasters, using Vesa
requires talking direct to the graphics card,
bypassing Windows.

Microsoft has implemented Vesa support in the XP
kernel, meaning Dos games
ought to run flawlessly. Alternatively, use the
VGATest utility (a free
download from here
http://www.ece.mcgill.ca/~vromas/vdmsound/) to see if
your 3D can natively do 'Vesa'.

Finally, don't forget the '8.3' naming limits of Dos,
so keep the names of
folders containing Dos games under nine characters.
Also, Windows XP can't
make Dos shortcuts from batch files or other
non-executables so, if your
game runs from a CD and uses a batch file on the hard
drive to launch, your
configuration options (including memory management)
are going to be very

Roger Gann welcomes your comments on the Windows XP
column. Contact him via
email here xp@xxxxxxxxxx Please do not send
unsolicited file attachments.


Do You Yahoo!?
Everything you'll ever need on one web page
from News and Sport to Email and Music Charts

Other related posts:

  • » [adeel420] Running DOS games on Windows XP and 2K