Play Clas­sic Games With DOSBox

Maximum PC - - R&D - –NATE DRAKE


DOSBOX Down­load the soft­ware for free


VIN­TAGE GAMES You need ei­ther the orig­i­nal

game files or a CD. IF YOU LIVED THROUGH THE ’90S, you prob­a­bly have fond mem­o­ries of gam­ing clas­sics such as RedAlert,Doom, and Star­craft. De­spite the clunky graph­ics and wit­less AI, it’s hard to re­cap­ture the sense of ex­cite­ment that came from giv­ing Stalin a bad day, or bat­tling against the forces of hell on the moons of Mars. Sadly, most of these vin­tage gam­ing clas­sics don’t work na­tively on modern PCs. This dilemma is the fo­cus of the DOSBox project, an em­u­la­tor de­signed to mimic In­tel x86. The em­u­la­tor’s pri­mary fo­cus is to play games that were re­leased prior to Win­dows XP (2001), but in prac­tice, you can ac­tu­ally run a num­ber of DOS/ Win­dows pro­grams. The DOSBox web­site main­tains a data­base of all sup­ported soft­ware (­p_list.php?let­ter=a).

You’ll no­tice that DOSBox bears an un­canny re­sem­blance to MS-DOS it­self. This is all part of the fun: You only need to mas­ter a few com­mands to re­live your gam­ing glory days. In this guide, you’ll dis­cover how to get started, as well as how to ac­cess more ad­vanced op­tions. We also cover how to con­nect a gamepad or joy­stick, as well as how to con­fig­ure DOSBox for LAN gam­ing. 1 IN­STALL AND LAUNCH DOSBOX To get started with DOSBox, open your web browser, and nav­i­gate to Se­lect the “Down­loads” tab, then click the green “Down­load Now” but­ton. Once the down­load is com­plete, open your down­loads folder, and dou­ble-click to launch the DOSBox in­staller. Click “Yes” to al­low Win­dows 10 to be­gin in­stal­la­tion. Click “Next” to con­tinue, then do the same when DOSBox asks you to choose which com­po­nents to in­stall.

Click the “In­stall” but­ton to fi­nal­ize in­stal­la­tion. A short­cut to DOSBox now ap­pears on your desk­top. 2 PRE­PARE GAME FILES For se­cu­rity rea­sons, DOSBox can’t ac­cess your disk drives di­rectly. In­stead, it mounts fold­ers as vir­tual drives. If you have mul­ti­ple games, con­sider cre­at­ing the folder “C:\GAMES” or sim­i­lar, so you can ac­cess all your ti­tles from one place. For the pur­poses of this guide, we’ve used a share­ware ver­sion of the first­per­son shooter Doom2 (avail­able from www.dos­game­sarchive. com/down­load/doom).

If you are lucky enough to still own the orig­i­nal CD of a par­tic­u­lar game, such as Tom­bRaider II, but don’t have reg­u­lar ac­cess to an op­ti­cal drive, you need to cre­ate an ISO im­age, so DOSBox can ac­cess it. Util­i­ties such as Al­co­hol 120 can do this for you. See http://sup­­co­­edge­base. php?postid=27806 for more in­for­ma­tion.

Copy­right law in some coun­tries per­mits soft­ware own­ers to copy disks to a new medium for their own use—for ex­am­ple, by cre­at­ing an ISO, as out­lined above. Some states also per­mit down­load­ing games from what are known as “aban­don­ware” web­sites, be­cause the copy­right holder no longer ex­ists. Take some time to re­search what’s le­gal in your ju­ris­dic­tion be­fore pro­ceed­ing. 3 MOUNT AND RUN YOUR FIRST DOSBOX Dou­ble-click the DOSBox icon on your desk­top to launch the em­u­la­tor. If you’ve pre­vi­ously used MS-DOS, the in­ter­face should look rea­son­ably fa­mil­iar [ Im­age A], but bear in mind that DOSBox only rec­og­nizes a few MS-DOS com­mands.

>> Be­gin by mount­ing your game folder as the C vir­tual drive—for ex­am­ple:

mount C C:\GAMES\DOOM2

>> If your game is stored on an ISO, mount it as vir­tual drive “D” with img­mount so the com­mand be­comes: img­mount D C:\GAMES\STAR­CRAFT.iso -t iso

>> Once your vir­tual drive is mounted, switch to it by run­ning the com­mand:


>> For ISOs run:


>> You next need to run ei­ther the game ex­e­cutable or the cor­re­spond­ing setup pro­gram to in­stall the game files. Use the fol­low­ing com­mand to list all the files and fold­ers in the cur­rent di­rec­tory:


>> You can use this com­mand to switch to a new di­rec­tory:


>> Once you’ve lo­cated the cor­rect file, run it by typ­ing the full name—for ex­am­ple:


4 AC­CESS DOSBOX CON­FIG­U­RA­TION SET­TINGS All DOSBox em­u­la­tion set­tings are man­aged via the “DOSBox.con” text file [ Im­age B]. In Win­dows 10, you can find this file within your “Ap­pData” folder—for ex­am­ple, C:\Users\Nate\ Ap­pData. DOSBox should also dis­play the lo­ca­tion of your con­fig­u­ra­tion file in­side the main win­dow when you launch the em­u­la­tor. If the file doesn’t yet ex­ist, you need to open DOSBox, and run the fol­low­ing com­mand to cre­ate a con­fig­u­ra­tion file in your di­rec­tory:

con­fig -write­conf dosbox.conf

>> Open the file “C:\Pro­gram Files (x86)\DOSBox-0.74 Op­tions. bat” to view the DOSBox con­fig­u­ra­tions in Mi­crosoft Notepad. Each sep­a­rate op­tion is listed on its own line. Those lines that be­gin with “#” are ig­nored by DOSBox. How­ever, you can read these lines to ex­plore what each op­tion does and view any al­ter­na­tive set­tings. For in­stance, out­put can be set to opengl , which of­fers faster per­for­mance, but po­ten­tially more blurry graph­ics. You can also tog­gle sim­pler op­tions, such as set­ting fullscreen= true , for ex­am­ple.

>> You’ll get the very best from your em­u­la­tion ex­pe­ri­ence by cus­tomiz­ing your con­fig­u­ra­tion for each game you play through DOSBox—it sup­ports mul­ti­ple con­fig­u­ra­tion files. To launch the em­u­la­tor with a spe­cific one, use the com­mand-line ar­gu­ment

-conf w . The sim­plest way to do this is by mod­i­fy­ing the DOSBox desk­top short­cut. 5 GAMEPAD CON­FIG­U­RA­TION DOSBox sup­ports many game con­trollers and joy­sticks out of the box. In the con­fig­u­ra­tion file, joy­stick­type is set to auto by de­fault, en­abling au­to­matic de­tec­tion of de­vices. If you have a spe­cific type of con­troller, you can spec­ify this here as well. Visit the DOSBox man­ual for a full run­down of these op­tions (­ual.html#Joy­stick).

>> Be­fore you can use your gamepad with DOSBox, you must also en­sure it can be de­tected by Win­dows. First, con­nect the con­troller to your USB port. In Win­dows 10, a no­ti­fi­ca­tion should ap­pear au­to­mat­i­cally to say that the de­vice is con­nected. For this tu­to­rial, we used a PS4 wire­less con­troller con­nected by USB cable.

>> To check your gamepad is work­ing, click the Win­dows 10 “Start” menu, and en­ter “game” in the search bar. Next, click “Set up USB game con­trollers.” This opens the con­trol panel, and your gamepad ap­pears. Click “Prop­er­ties,” then open the “Set­tings” tab to ac­cess the cal­i­bra­tion op­tions.

>> Only cer­tain DOS games are con­fig­ured to work with joy­sticks and gamepads. For in­stance, Doom works with the key­board by de­fault. If you want to use a modern con­troller with a clas­sic DOS game, press Ctrl-F1 when run­ning DOSBox. This opens the “map­per” [ Im­age C]. From here, you can bind gamepad but­tons to keys. For in­stance, to bind the S key on your key­board to the “Down” but­ton on your con­troller’s Dpad, use your mouse to click on the key in the map­per win­dow, se­lect “Add,” then hold “Down” on the Dpad. Re­peat this process for each of the keys used in game. Click “Save” when done to store your set­tings. 6 AD­VANCED TWEAKS One of the most com­mon com­plaints of DOSBox users is that they can’t find the all-im­por­tant back­slash (\) on their key­board, which is nec­es­sary for ac­cess­ing files and fold­ers. The eas­i­est work­around is to use the map­per, as out­lined in the pre­vi­ous step, to re­as­sign back­slash to an­other key­board key [ Im­age D].

>> Cer­tain DOS pro­grams may re­quire more mem­ory than the amount DOXBox al­lo­cates by de­fault (16MB). You can al­ter this by ac­cess­ing the con­fig­u­ra­tion op­tions as out­lined in Step 4, then chang­ing mem­size=16 to some­thing more suit­able.

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