How to play Windows 95/98 Games on Windows?
Almost every operating system nowadays is a 64 bits system. Software for Windows 95 or 98 is made for 32 bits DOS systems. When trying to get that software running on a Windows 10 or Windows 11 64 bits system and they don't work, we have 4 possible solutions for you, of which 1 surely will work (it takes some experience and time though). Unfortunately, a simple Windows 95/98 emulator does not exist (yet). If your looking to run Windows XP games, check the Windows XP page.
Some programs and games that were designed for Windows 95, 98 or XP also run properly on Windows 10 or Windows 11. If they don't work, the first thing you can try is to start the program or game in compatibility mode.
- Right click on the file or shortcut you want to start and choose "properties"
- Click the compatibility tab
- Check the checkbox "Run this program in compatibility mode for:" and choose your operating system.
- You can also choose to run the game in 256 color mode.
Patches and source ports
Although the compatibility options above look hopeful, they probably won't work anyway. You better search the internet for patches or source ports. Patches are pieces of software that update the game or program. When instructions are included, it's recommended that you read and follow them! Those patches are often released by fans or amateur programmers, so be careful and ALWAYS scan for viruses and malware! A source port is, different from a patch, a rewritten version of the original program or game which works on other operating systems, but uses the original game or program content. On this website we have guides to install source ports for Hexen II and Quake 2.
Installing Windows 95/98 on Windows 11 or Windows 10 with VirtualBox
If compatibility mode doesn't work and you can't find a patch or source port, you'll have to use Windows 95/98 itself. As mentioned, a Windows 95/98 emulator does not exist. So you'll have to set up a Windows 95/98 system. However, you don't have to search for an old computer in your basement for this. You can create a virtual machine on your current computer. You can do this with VirtualBox. Within that virtual machine you will install a fresh copy of Windows 95 or 98. Sounds easy, but it really is a job for computer nerds with advanced knowledge. Remember to uncheck VT-x/AMD-V activation at system - acceleration to avoid system failure when installing Windows 98.
VirtualBox doesn't officialy support DOS based operating systems like Windows 95, 98 or ME. These operating systems run very slowly on VirtualBox with default settings. CPU load is constantly 100% and video settings don't get any better than 16 colors with a maximum resolution of 640x480. You can try and install an additional video driver to boost performance. Better choose 32 bits Windows XP if possible. When you need DOS, use DOSBox.
When you have installed the desired operating system on your virtual computer, please make sure that you also install the VirtualBox Guest Additions to enable the graphics driver and therefore 3D hardware acceleration. Note that the Guest Additions are supported by Windows NT and later OSes (Windows 95, 98 and ME are NOT supported). You can install Guest Additions by starting your guest operating system and then click the menu item Devices (on top of the VirtualBox windows) and choose Install Guest Additions.