DOS Games on Windows 7 and Windows 8, XP and Vista
Free DOS Games
A lot of great PC games from past times are still available, and can also be downloaded. There are several websites that offer large collections of DOS games, like www.classicdosgames.com or www.dosgames.com. The games on these websites are freeware, shareware or released into public domain, which means you can download them legally. However, many old games don't work on modern PCs due to different memory management, processor speed, different sound settings etc. To make sure these things won't be a problem, you can try using either a DOS emulator, or a source port (if available).
How to play DOS games again - DOSBox DOS emulator
To play DOS games on 64 bit versions of Windows 8, Windows 7, Vista or XP, you need a DOS emulator. For 32 bit versions of Windows a DOS emulator is highly recommended. The most popular DOS emulator these days is DOSBox. Version 0.74 works with Windows 8, Windows 7, Vista and XP (32 and 64 bits). DOS games work like they should work in DOSBox, with sound and the right speed. To get a game working, follow instructions on our DOSBox page. If you have the original CD of a DOS game, you can follow our guide to install and play a game from CD.
What about the Windows Command Prompt?
All Windows versions have a command prompt. That's a command line interpreter; a DOS-like environment where you have to type in commands to do stuff. It's in the accesoires part of the start menu (Start - All programs - Accesoires - Command prompt). You can use this command prompt to run DOS games or programs, but only when using a 32 bit version of Windows 8 or 7, Vista or XP. Your DOS game most likely will start, but you might encounter sound problems. Tweaking the screen resolution of the command prompt window also is difficult, if not impossible. To avoid these problems, use a DOS emulator like DOSBox.
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DOSBox is great. But sometimes it gets better when there's a source port available for a particular game. A source port is a software project based on the source code of a computer game's engine that allows the game to be played on operating systems or computing platforms for which the game was not originally created. Thus compatibility problems show up when you try to run them on a newer or different platform. Examples are 3D games made for DOS, like Doom, Heretic and Hexen. We searched for the best source port out there and found them for the following games: Descent I, Descent II, Doom, Heretic and Hexen, Duke Nukem 3D, Dune II, Hexen II, Quake, Quake 2, Redneck Rampage, Strife, Wolfenstein 3D.
Install DOS (FreeDOS) on Windows 7, 8, Vista or XP with VirtualBox
When DOSBox doesn't do the job and you can't find any software update or source port for your application, your last option is to set up a DOS-only system. There are several ways to do this, but we recommend to use FreeDOS for all of them. This is a free, open source, DOS-compatible operating system. You can download the CD image here. Some suggestions to install FreeDOS:
- Install FreeDOS on a dedicated system
- Setup a dual boot system (Windows XP and FreeDOS in this example)
- Install FreeDOS in VirtualBox on Windows 7, 8, Vista or Windows XP
But err... What was DOS again?
DOS stands for Disk Operating System. MS-DOS (Microsoft DOS) was the most common known variant and made Microsoft as big as it is now. DOS was used before Windows. It used a command line interpreter (shell). That means that you had to type in commands to get things going, like copying files, starting programs, etc. Great stuff to think about, clicking around in your comfy Windows 8 suite. And the games, oh yes, the games...!