DOSBox – Run DOS programs on 64-bit Windows

Michael PietroforteMVP By Michael Pietroforte - Fri, December 11, 2009 - 23 comments google+ icon

Michael Pietroforte is the founder and editor of 4sysops. He is a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) with more than 30 years of experience in system administration.

DOSBox-WordPerfect-5.1 Who says that WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS doesn’t run on Windows 7 x64? I was tempted to write this blog post with WordPefect, because I once was a great fan of this text processing software. Well, of course it doesn’t run natively on a 64-bit Windows. I used the free DOS emulator DOSBox. I suppose, its main purpose is to run old games on modern operating systems. However, I am pretty sure that there are quite a few legacy DOS programs in productive environments out there. Since Windows XP, the built-in DOS emulator has only limited capabilities. And on 64-bit Windows, you can’t even run 16-bit Windows apps, let alone DOS programs.

Of course, you could use a virtualization solution to run DOS apps, but that might be overkill for some purposes. The DOSBox setup of version 0.73 produced an error message on Windows 7 x64 after the installation. However, it appeared to work smoothly, anyway. The emulator comes with only a couple of DOS commands, which are usually enough to run programs. If you want to have a full blown DOS environment, you can use FreeDOS within DOSBox.

DOSBox

To run external programs in DOSBox, you have to mount a folder on the host with the command “mount c c:\[folder]“. This folder will then be your C drive. To configure settings, such as the screen size or the amount of high memory available to programs (how I miss these good old DOS times), you have to edit the dosbox.conf file. There are a couple of frontends that simplify the configuration.

I must say I was quite fascinated when I played with DOSBox. When I installed WordPerfect, I began to remember how system administration was in those days. The DOS era ended only about 20 years ago, but this environment seems unbelievably primitive compared to today’s information technology. Considering that the development in IT is growing exponentially, it is likely that the next five years or so, will bring comparable innovations to those of the last 20 years. If this is true, Windows 7 will soon be a very primitive OS. But I am sure there will be Windows 7 emulators running somewhere in the cloud or on your watch-sized mobile phone.

-1+1 - Rate this post
Loading ... Loading ...
Your question wasn't answered? Ask in the new 4sysops forum!

23 Comments- Leave a Reply

  1. r wells says:

    Wish you had added more detail such as do graphics and previewing document features work in 5.1. Otherwise, very useful piece, just wish the article was longer. Thanks for thinking about DOS program users. No one else does.

  2. I also was very glad to find DOSBox, because WP51 is my preferred writing environment, and I just got a new laptop with Windows 7 on board.

    But I got a terrible surprise the first time I tried to save my document as a text file. CTRL-F5 failed to bring up the Save As menu. As it turns out, this is because DOSBox interprets CTRL-F5 as a command to take a screenshot.

    DOSBoxWiki tells us that there are special keys bound by default to certain DOSBox functions. Thankfully, there’s also a keyboard mapper that allows the WP51 user to reclaim CTRL-F5 and all the rest of the commands we use.

    Here’s what I ended up doing:

    Step 0 – Open up Windows Explorer (or whatever 7 is calling it) and go to C:\Users\[You]\AppData\Local\DOSBox. There, make a copy of mapper.txt (in the appropriate AppData folder for DOSBox) and save it under a different name. I like mapper_old.txt.

    Step 1 – In DOSBox, fire up the Keyboard Mapper by pressing CTRL-F1 (which ought to be Go To Dos in WP51, darn it!). On the right, below the representation of the keyboard, are 12 named functions: ShutDown, Cap Mouse, etc. One by one, delete whatever keyboard shortcuts are assigned to them. For instance, click on ShutDown so that it turns green and click Del in the box below.

    Step 2 – Make a new assignment for Mapper so you can get back in. CTRL-F12 is good, because WP51 doesn’t use that. But the DOSBoxWiki page doesn’t explain well how to assign things to CTRL-[key] though. Here’s how: Click Mapper so that it’s green, then click “Add” down below. The red text tells you that it’s waiting on a keyboard combination. Press F12. *Just* F12; if you try to press CTRL-F12, it’ll expect you’re trying to assign a new function to Left-CTRL. Just press F12 on your real keyboard and then click “Mod1″ in the vertical triad (Mod1 Mod2 Mod3) at the bottom of the screen. Now you have assigned Mapper to the keyboard command CTRL-F12.

    Step 3 – Click Save (saves all changes to [AppData]\mapper.txt. Then click Exit. All WP51 commands should now work as they’re supposed to, and CTRL-F12 will get you back into Mapper in case you want to further customize it.

    Step 4 – If things go very wrong, go back to DOSBox’s AppData folder, delete mapper.txt, and rename the copy you made to mapper.txt, and you’re back where you started.

    Or just reinstall DOSBox, I guess.

    I hope you and your readers find this helpful – it took me a few hours to figure it all out, so if passing it along helps someone, then awesome.

  3. r wells, thanks. I somehow think that there will be a DOS renaissance sooner or later.

    Nicole, I knew it. There had to be WP51 lovers out there. This is the power of the Internet. It brings soul mates together. ;-) Thanks a lot for this comprehensive guide. I am sure other WP51 users will appreciate it.

  4. And now I feel very, very silly. It appears I’ve reinvented the wheel, and rather badly at that.

    Anyone wanting to seriously use WP 5.1 on Windows 7 using DOSBox should probably read this article. The author gives clear instructions every step of the way and has made available a replacement key mapper file so you don’t have to do all that clunky stuff that I did.

    Good stuff. And there’s a lot more help for WP 5.1 users all over that site. Take a look.

  5. tapan says:

    this is very usefull.you have download dosbox and turbo c++
    64 bit.then run setup.your screen apear a dos box short cut enter it.and this command write
    z:\mount c c:\turbo\ (enter)
    z:\c:
    c:\cd tc
    c:\TC>cd bin
    c:\TC>BIN>tc

    enjoy work

  6. KEITH VASS says:

    Does anyone else still use a DOS Accounting program called “Financial Manager” originally from Hooper International in US? Anf if so, how do they run it in Win7 x64 environment?

  7. N.K.Chakraborty says:

    Dear Sir,
    Kindly send me guide line for downloading process of DOSBox ver0.74 for Window-7 and RUN the Dosbox from the icon located on the desktop for installation of Turbo C. I tried several times,but it does not run and even does not open.
    With best regards.

    Yours sincerely,
    N.K.Chakraborty,
    nkcbarc@gmail.com
    BARC, Mumbai-400094

  8. Doris Ganser says:

    Hi, Thank you for being here.
    The following was written by my computer guru who installed DOS Box on my computer several years ago so that I continued to be able to use WordPerfect 5.1 for all text applications with all its functions until recently. Suddenly Ctrl-F2 stopped working.
    Incidentally, I am a translator and need no graphics. I am using an ancient clicking “Personal Computer AT” IBM keyboard with 10 function keys only on the left because I can “play” all the function key combinations “blind” that way, and I am extremely fast but only in WP51. I don’t need all the Windows schnickschnack but can, if absolutely necessary (I found only one improvement over WP51 in the correction feature, not having to highlight words I delete but it does not make up for other Windows shortcomings and slowness in many other respects, such as searching.) I have an office that converts my jobs to whatever program the client wants and adds special layout, graphics or whatever else the client specifies. The printing the guru mentions below is not important for me – I email most jobs to my office and seldom need to print from WP. If I do, I don’t mind opening the job in Windows for printing, which works fine.
    >>> Ctrl-F2 is being overridden in dosbox by Dosbox’ printing function. Is there a way to remap ctrl f2 to a different key combination or perhaps if you happen to know a way to disable dosbox’ built in ctrl f2 combination (Unfortunately not available via the keymapper)? Moreover, I want to use dosprn for printing, but I can’t figure out where wp51 sticks the spool file. Do you happen to know?<<<

  9. dhruv says:

    i have windows 7 home premium and i am trying to upload c++ with dosbox on it but while doing the mount etc thing, at the end it shows
    c:\tc\BIN>tc
    illegal command : tc.

  10. gbolahan says:

    hello friends…av been trying to use qbasic on my window7 home premium but it seems it doesnt match my systems requirement…i dowwnloaded dosbox 0.74 but i dnt seem to understand its language…i’ll appreciate if some one puts me through……….tanx

  11. ubcstudent says:

    When i installed dosbox 0.74 and ran the program all I got was a black screen. The prompt screen never loaded. All I get is:

    MIDI:opened device:win32

    and a blinking cursor… it never gets past here… any tips?? I’m stumped and not very tech savvy

  12. mohd moosa says:

    i run latest foxpro show error illigal sourse of application.

  13. Dharmendra Gohel says:

    i m using dos base Financial Accounting system. How to run this software in Windows 7 64 BITS

  14. John Connell says:

    LEO works very well in DOSBOX.

    LEO is a DOS mathematics word-processing programme, written by Bruce Ramsay around 1990. LEO displays the mathematics on screen, even complicated expressions, for example an integral of a fraction of polynomials. You do not have to type all the LATeX text. For example, instead of typing $\epsilon$ you just type ctrl-g e.

    LEO saves its files in LATeX or AMSTeX form, ready for publishing by scientific societies. It is the best LATeX writer that I have ever seen. It is better than Scientific Word. But the last Windows DOS shell it ran under for me was NT 4.0. XP wouldn’t run it, nor does Windows 7. LEO runs beautifully under DOSBOX.

  15. Harsh Agarwal says:

    I use a Accounting Software Dos Based.. Had installed DosBox 0.74 but unable to use it.. Please let me know the procedure.

    Thanks
    HARSH AGARWAL
    harsh.pta@gmail.com

  16. Namgyal says:

    WP62 is a very important and necessary software from me but when I tried it on Windows 7 through DOSBOX, it was very slow. Especially when I used a document with graphic box, it was so so so slow. And I always need to use the graphic box. So, DOSBOX is just partly useful. Actually I couldn’t enjoy it.

  17. I recently had to reinstall everything on my Windows 7 laptop, so this time around I tried to do the WP51/DosBox thing right. I followed the instructions here for wrapping DosBox in D-Fend Reloaded. Works like a charm.

    (Granted, I haven’t tried to print from WP51 yet.)

  18. Debbie says:

    I am trying to run a DOS program. I have all the functionality working except one. I try to enter a new length frequency and I get “Critical Error” Error: 3 file in use. Line 174 in Procedure UP_RVCATCH RV_LFIN.FXP. I have removed the “read only” attribute on all the folders and files in the directory. I’m stumped. Everything else is working perfectly except this. I’d appreciate any help you can give.

    Thanks

  19. Ben Woods says:

    I wrote a post a while back on how to set up wp51 in windows 7/8 with working printing and whatnot. It’s pretty detailed and super newbie friendly:

    http://goo.gl/0ScKFa

  20. Tom says:

    I also like old dos programs. One in particular is Bannermania. I can get it to run alright, but it doesn’t recognize the new printers (only the old dot matrix), which makes it pretty worthless. Do you know of any work arounds?

  21. Ben Woods says:

    Why would you want to use that program when anything even remotely modern completely outclasses it?

    You can get better results with less effort in Word, Libreoffice or Google Docs.

  22. Thanks for the link to the WP51 setup article, Ben Woods.

    Tom – Good luck finding an answer to your dilemma. I’m not familiar with that program but I understand wanting to keep old DOS programs running if only because of nostalgia. Ben’s response to you is very similar to the reaction I’ve gotten from acquaintances to my insistence on using WP51. (Or fountain pens. Or a typewriter.) I hope you’re able to get it to run.

  23. Ben Woods says:

    WP51 is still somewhat useful (although it too is completely outclassed by anyone who uses google docs and has memorized the keyboard shortcuts).

    Bannermania isn’t. Modern tools are far better and far easier to use.

    To answer the question though… No, not so much. You could try to screw with ghostscript, but I doubt you’ll get any useful results.

===Leave a Comment===

Login

Lost your password?