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Old 05-06-2007, 03:26 PM   #1
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Table of Contents:

(Small pictures you may encounter throughout the guide are thumbnails linking to larger screenshots - they weren't placed directly in the article to allow faster loading.)


Last edited by The Fifth Horseman; 30-05-2009 at 09:07 PM.
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Old 06-06-2007, 11:56 AM   #2
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This guide assumes you know some basic terms associated with computing, like "file", "directory", and "operating system". If neither rings a bell then you might want to read something like "Computers for dummies" (or just spend an hour or two to check these and related entries on Wikipedia) so that you understand the basics.

Similarily, you should know how to install software on your machine (if you don't - "Windows for dummies" is your friend). Being familiar with DOS operating system and its' features is helpful, but not absolutely neccesary. If you want, you can check the Wikipedia list of Dos reference sites to catch up on the subject.

Well, of course you don't have to know any of these to proceed. So read on freely, and of your own will.

The examples I'm showing are just that - examples. Nobody forces you to do them, but if you have trouble getting a certain step done, you might want to follow the examples to understand how things are done.

It is assumed the operating system you use is Microsoft Windows, most likely XP (DOSBox works both on NT and 9x Windowses, and is used exactly the same on all of them).
Some things are different for Mac OS and Linux users (in particular the paths), but as newbies don't usually come within a mile of either OS, you should be able to get around those minor issues. There are DOSBox versions both of these systems.

I'm not going to give you complete detailed information on each and every keyboard shortcut accessible under DOSBox. To view their list, all you have to do is type in "help" when running DOSBox' command prompt. Similarily, I do not go into in-depth details of all internal programs you can call up from the command prompt (altough a more extensive listing will be in a later part of this guide).
For in-depth information on both of these, please refer to your README file. The one that's linked to in the DOSBox menu under the Start Menu.

Yes, that's the one.

NOTE: this guide was written for v0.70, and more specifically - the official release. It is fully applicable to v0.71 and v0.72 releases.

Don't come crying for help if you're using an outdated version - I've seen newbies downloading and installing versions as old as v0.61 after the v0.70 has been released. Don't follow in their steps, unless you really enjoy being ridiculed.

For the same reason, don't come crying for help if you're running an unofficial build. They are not supported by the DOSBox team, so if you ever think of using one - it's on your own responsibility.

Disclaimer: This guide is provided "as is", without any warranty given or implied.
This means I do not take responsibility for any damage you might cause to yourself, your data, computer hardware, parents, siblings, pets and whatever else (sanity included). If you're stupid enough to accidentally format your hard drive when trying to unpack an archive, it's your mess to deal with.

Last edited by The Fifth Horseman; 14-12-2008 at 08:04 PM.
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Old 06-06-2007, 01:40 PM   #3
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0.0: "I downloaded the game, WTF do I do now"?

The game you downloaded is packed into one large file (called an "archive"). In order to run the game, you must unpack it first.

If you have Windows XP, there is a very basic ZIP packer/unpacker built into the system. Let's face the facts, however: it's nearly useless.

Windows users are advised to download and install WinRar. Total Commander is optional, but I suggest you install it also, as it's far more convenient to use than the basic Windows file manager (and VERY convenient for handling your DOS game collection).

Note: I'm hearing some people accusing Abandonia of being a scam because the programs I mentioned above are shareware. You are not required to use these specific programs. They're my personal preference, BUT there are free alternatives to both of them that are equivalent in functionality - 7-ZIP and FreeCommander, for one.

Mac OS and Linux users should refer to the comparison of archivers on Wikipedia to find one for their systems (make sure your unarchiver of choice can unpack ZIP and RAR archives).

If you don't know where your game has been downloaded, it's recommended to check "My Documents" (or your local equivalent) - that's typically the default place where your internet browsers save them.

I suggest you come up with some reasonable single location to put your games in. Remember that each game should be placed in an individual subdirectory, and also that those that hold DOS games (particularly those you'll run under DOSBox) should have names no longer than eight characters and not containing spaces (this is because DOS - and consequently also DosBox - has trouble with those). Now, it doesn't really matter what these names are - as long as you remember what directory has which game, it's allright.

My own preference is to place them all on drive F, under directory labeled "Dosgames", but if you like it better you can create a "Games for Dos" directory in your "My Documents" directory or an "oldgames" directory directly on your C drive (or anywhere you like, really).
This tutorial uses an example of C:\Oldgames, but if you want you can substitute it with your preferred location and name of the games directory. It doesn't matter as long as you know where it is.

Let's download "Power Dolls" from the site and unpack it to C:\oldgames\

Here is the archive, sitting nicely on our Desktop.

NOTE: WinRar can create a path to extract to, but if you're using a different unpacker, you might have to create the directory manually.

Double-click on the downloaded file in your explorer window to open it.

As you can see, this particular archive does not contain a pre-made directory with the game files in it (some archives do). We'll have to include that in our plan. The archive you have downloaded from the site already contains a directory - the example is also used to illustrate what to do if an archive does not contain one.

Without selecting any files, click on the "Extract To" icon. Yes, that huge icon with words "Extract to" written under it.

The program currently wants to unpack the game under a subdirectory of wherever the archive was. Unfortunately, this also happens to not be the way we need it, so we'll tell it to do it elsewhere.

To go with our example using C:\Oldgames as the games directory, let's change the textbox to say C:\Oldgames\Dolls.

Why that last part? As I said, this particular archive does not contain a directory - without adding the \Dolls to the destination, the files would end up scattered in your games directory in one huge mess, neither pretty nor convenient.

In your case, since the archive on Abandonia contains a directory, you only have to put C:\Oldgames as the destination.

Now, click on OK.

Just to make sure we unpacked our files to the right location and not - for example - the third moon of Jupiter, we'll make sure they are where they're supposed to be.

Dead on target.

Now let's get this show on the road and discuss actually getting your game to run.

Last edited by The Fifth Horseman; 22-01-2013 at 10:42 AM.
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Old 11-06-2007, 02:19 PM   #4
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1.0: "wTf iS DOSBox aNd dOeS iT rUn oN wInXp ???"

Knowing how impatient most people are, I presume you already tried running the game (and maybe others you downloaded). And found yourself sitting right in front of an error message saying "Unable to use EMS, press any key to continue" (or something similar - in some cases, the only thing that would happen would be a console window opening and immediately closing).

Why did that happen? Most of the games on this site were made for DOS or older versions of Windows and thus may not work correctly in modern Windows enviroment. There are, however various ways of getting around that problem, the best one being DOSBox.

What is DOSBox? For starters it's not the command prompt utility present in Windows XP, sometimes incorrectly referred to as "the DOS box of Windows" by the users.
You might have already had some experience with emulators of other systems - there are ones for Commodore, Amiga, Spectrum, Game Boy, PlayStation, NES/SNES and a bunch of others.
DOSBox is not really that much different from them, except it does not emulate a console but a computer system with DOS installed on it.

Don't worry if you didn't understand jack of what I just told you - in a nutshell, DOSBox allows you to run DOS games on your modern machine like they ran on your old 486 with DOS (or, if you never had a 486 system, then on your parents' 486; or one belonging to your older sibling; or... well, I think you already got the point).

Let's go to the DOSBox download page and download the latest executable for your system. And, of course, install it.

You don't have to read the README file right now if you don't want to, but I suggest you do that when we're done with the basic part of the guide. Many things are explained in it which we will only mention once or twice in the guide.

Last edited by The Fifth Horseman; 05-12-2009 at 12:38 PM.
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Old 11-06-2007, 02:33 PM   #5
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1.1: Stranger in the DOS land

It's time you got yourself acquainted with DOSBox. You're going to spend a lot of time with it.
Go to Start Menu **** Programs and the new DOSBox menu entry. Run DOSBox.

Now, where are we? This blinking thing on the bottom is called a command prompt. From here you can enter commands for DOSBox to execute.

In order to run a game, you will have to make DOSBox "see" the directory you put it in first.

Type in the following:

MOUNT C C:\oldgames

What does this command do? First is the word "MOUNT" which tells DOSBox to "read" one of the directories on your computer as its local hard drive. The letter that goes after that indicates one that is assigned to that drive. Finally, the third part is describes where is the directory you want DOSBox to mount.

NOTE 1: if the path to your target directory contains spaces, you must enclose it in hyphens, like that:
MOUNT C "C:\Documents and Settings\Harvey\My Documents\Games for DOSBox"

NOTE 2: If a game's config file needs its location on the hard drive specified, when the game is ran in DOSBox that location has to be adjusted to where the game is located under DOSBox. For example, if you unpacked Alien Virus to C:\Oldgames\AV and mounted that C:\Oldgames as the C drive in DOSBox, the reference in the config file should be to C:\AV (as this is how DOSBox "sees" it).

Press Enter to execute the command (you need to do that to confirm every command you enter).

You got a message: "Drive C is mounted as local directory C:\Oldgames", but the prompt didn't change. You're still in the virtual drive Z:.

Next command you need to input is "C:" This tells DOSBox to "move" the command prompt to that drive.

Now let's try displaying what your "C:\" drive stores. Type in "DIR". You will get something like that (with the obvious difference that my directory with the game is called DOLLS and yours PDOLLS):

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Old 11-06-2007, 02:37 PM   #6
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1.2: [autoexec] FTW!!! K THX LOL!!!

Very good, but you don't want to bother with mounting that directory and changing to it every time round, right? That would be just a plain waste of time, so we'll take a small detour that will let us stop bothering about it.

Go to the same location in your Start Menu where you launched DOSBox from. A bit below the DOSBox shortcut, there will be one labeled DOSBox.conf. Open it (if Windows "asks" what program to open it with, choose "Notepad").

Looks all techy and complicated? Don't worry. For the moment we won't be bothering with most of this.

Scroll down to where it says "cycles=auto".
You _could_ leave these settings at their defaults, but this way what we do next will work faster. So let's change the lines to:


This way, DOSBox will start at 10 000 cycles and manual speed adjustments will increase and decrease the speed by 1000 cycles. You can later change these values to ones that better suit your system and the games you're running or go back to the default Auto preset.

NOTE: the part of DOSBox.conf responsible for core mode and cycles are the ones you're going to change the most. While some games need high cyclecount to make them run smoothly, there are also others which have to be ran on very low cycles in order to be playable.

Rest of the configuration doesn't concern us - but we will be coming back to it eventually.

Now what _really_ interests us is the very end of the config file, after where it says:

# Lines in this section will be run at startup.

Rings a bell? Every command you enter here will be automatically ran when DOSBox starts.
It's a great way of avoiding to have to mount your games directory every time you start the emulator.

So let's put there the following two lines:

mount C C:\oldgames

And save the modified config file.
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Old 11-06-2007, 02:46 PM   #7
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1.3: Commander on the bridge!

NOTE: Installing Norton Commander is not possible on DOSBox v0.65 because of a bug (which has been fixed in v0.70).

That helped us a little with running the modified config, but do we want to stay with the command line forever? Hell no, especially when there is a better way to view your games directory in DOSBox.

It's called Norton Commander and is a file manager. If you don't know what a file manager is, a simple way of describing it is a sort of frontend for DOS (and obviously it also works for DOSBox).
The big advantage of it is that unlike some of the dedicated DOSBox frontends, it does not cause any additional problems in running the games. And of course it's pretty damn cool, too.

Download Norton Commander (the link is to the same archive as on Abandonia's programs page). Extract it to some subdirectory of your games dir - in our example, this will be C:\Oldgames\NCInst.

Now let's run DOSBox again. As you may have noticed, you didn't have to mount your games directory or change to the C drive - that is because of our prior addition to the [autoexec] section of the config file.

Now let's change to the directory where you unpacked the installer of Norton Commander and install it already:

CD ncinst

(The CD or chdir dommand tells DOSBox to change to a given directory - remember that for the future)

You will be prompted to select your display type. Select "Color" to proceed. On the next screen choose "continue".

When prompted for installation type, select "Full Install". This will send you to a screen where you can choose where you want Norton to be installed.

You can leave it on defaults and click on "Continue".

You will be shown a screen that reports the installation progress. The installation will complete in under a minute anyway.

Another menu will appear afterwards. Choose "go to program".

That's the Norton Commander main screen, but the left half is disabled at the moment. Move your mouse cursor to the top of the screen and click there to see a menu.

Click on "Left" and then from the menu that scrolls down choose "on/off".

For the moment, we'll be leaving DOSBox again - click on "quit" and confirm to close Norton Commander and then type in "exit" to close DOSBox.

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Old 11-06-2007, 02:47 PM   #8
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You can now delete the "NCinst" directory from your hard drive - it will not serve any purpose now that you've installed Norton Commander.

Let's make DOSBox run Norton Commander on startup, shall we? As you might have guessed, to do that you need to open DOSBox.conf and go to autoexec section. At the end, type in a new line that says

Also, as games are just so much better to play in fullscreen mode than in a puny window (coincidentally, "Hulk smash puny window" springs to mind), let's make DOSBox start in fullscreen mode. Go to the beginning of the config file and change the line that says "fullscreen=false" to say "fullscreen=true".
However, if we did only that, DOSBox would display "stretched" and not really useable at all.

To prevent that from occuring, also change "fullresolution=original" to "fullresolution=1024x768" (this makes DOSBox use a set resolution in fullscreen mode) and "output=surface" to "output=ddraw" (this will automatically stretch the width of the display to match your desktop dimensions). Finally, we need to enable aspect correction (for games that use 320x200 and 640x400 resolutions). Scroll down to find the line saying "aspect=false" and change it to "aspect=true".

NOTE: While output=ddraw is preferable for the new users because of its versatility, you might want to experiment with using output=overlay and the various avaliable scaler options (a comparison of several of them can be found here)

Now that we're done doing that, let's run DOSBox yet another time (I said you're going to spend a lot of time with it, didn't I?)

So, Norton has started and everything. So maybe let's double-click on "PDolls" to open the directory and then again on "PD.EXE" to run the game? Not yet, because there is one last thing we need to make sure of.

Let's see if the game's sound configuration is correct (most of the games downloadable from Abandonia should be pre-configured to run with DOSBox' default settings, but it's a good habit to make sure about that - and if you download a game from elsewhere, there is no guarantee it'll be pre-configured the right way at all).

Let's run Install.exe and see what we've got (don't worry if you don't know what half of these things mean, we'll get to it in a moment). Other games may have different configuration utilities (also using different names, like setup, config etc), but the basics of what you need to configure are more or less the same:

Now, what are these?
Soundcard is the type of sound device the game uses (it doesn't have anything to do with the one installed in your PC - DOSBox incorporates emulation of the neccesary sound hardware). VDMSound and DOSBox emulate Sound Blaster 16 by default, but as you have just found out - the game doesn't have the option to use it. Next closest model is Sound Blaster Pro, so let's use that one.
IRQ, DMA (sometimes referred to as DRQ) and Adress are three settings important for the sound to work. All you need to remember about them is that VDMSound and DOSBox both use IRQ 7, DMA 1 and Adress 220 as the default values.

Move the highlight to the top line, where it says "Installation". Press left or right arrow to change it to "Setup". This will make the setup save the configuration without attempting to reinstall the game.

Let's save these settings (in this case, F1 does it) and exit by pressing Escape.

NOTE: The type of emulated sound card can be changed in Dosbox.conf (the setting is named sbtype). Also there, you can change the IRQ, DMA and Adress values for it, but modifying those is not recommended (since you can cause yourself a lot of trouble in configuring the games).
NOTE: Each emulated Sound Blaster card is compatibile with its precedessors, altough some games and programs may refuse to recognize Sound Blaster 16 as a valid Sound Blaster compatibile device.
For that reason, I personally suggest changing the emulated soundcard to Sound Blaster Pro 2 (as that one does not suffer from those problems).

Now run "PD.EXE" and enjoy the game.

In theory, that's all you need to know to run games. The thing with theory is, however, that it never stands up to the practice. Therefore, we'll meet again in the next part of the guide.

Have fun and see you in the datastream!

Last edited by The Fifth Horseman; 27-03-2009 at 10:41 AM.
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Old 06-09-2007, 04:21 AM   #9
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Thank you so much! k:
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Old 14-10-2007, 05:36 PM   #10

thanks your guide was very useful!!!
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