How to use DOSBox

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One of the many things that my friends often ask me is how to run their old PC games on their new Windows 7 or Mac OS X machine. Well if it’s a DOS game, you’re in luck. DOSBox is a DOS virtual machine that you can run in Windows 7/8, and there are versions available for Mac OS and Linux too!

The problem is that DOSBox isn’t quite the easiest piece of software to use. There are plenty of front ends that you can use. But I’m going to show you how to go from never knowing about DOSBox to becoming a DOSBox master in this one blog article!

How to get started

You’ll notice that when you start the program up it’ll show “Z:\”. And you’ll be thinking to yourself “There’s no such thing as a Z Drive (Unless I have a NAS)”, this is just a pseudo drive that DOSBox makes to begin with, but you’re going to need to make a C drive for a harddrive, and a D drive for your CD/DVD drive.

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To make each drive, you’re going to need to “Mount” them. To do this you’ll need to type “mount” followed with the drive letter, then the destination for that drive. For example I used “mount C C:\DOS\”, this will create a virtual C drive into a folder called “DOS” in my PC’s C Drive.

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Now we need to mount the CD ROM drive. To do this you need to mount the D drive, but you’re going to need to tell DOSBox that it’s a CD ROM drive and not a hard drive. Do to that you’ll need to add a parameter at the end of the command, which is “-t cdrom”. This tells DOSBox that it’s a CD ROM drive that has discs that can be removed, without adding it at the end will cause issues if you swap discs. If you still own a floopy drive and need to mount a floppy disk drive, use “MOUNT A A:\ -t floppy”.

With this you can begin to install your game and play it just like how you did back in the 80s and 90s.

Advanced stuff

The example above is only the very basic of DOSBox, but there’s a draw back to it, you’re going to have to mount the drives every time you boot DOSBox up. So let me show you how to make Config files and shortcuts that load DOSBox with config files in them!

In this example, I’ll be setting up a config file for the original SimCity game. In this case the CD-ROM version of SimCity.

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I ripped a BIN file of the SimCIty CD, this is so that I don’t have to keep popping the disc in every single time I want to play it. After all, we’re in an age where PC gamers don’t have to load discs into our PCs to play games. To put it short, this tells DOSBox what to do in order to run the game, and what settings to use. What you should look at is the stuff under [autoexec]. It’s just like what you do to mount and ready a game to play. But how do we use this to run the game from just a shortcut?

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Go to the folder where DOSBox is kept. Right click the folder and create a shortcut.

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Now right click on the newly made Shortcut and click on properties.

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Go to “Target:” and start off placing quotation marks at the start and the end of the of the address.

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After that, write “-conf” and the location of the config file outside the quotations.

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Rename the shortcut, and double click it!

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…and now I’m playing the Original SimCity without the need to manually mount drives again! Awesome!

I hope this guide helps you to play some awesome classic DOS games on your new-fangled PCs and Macs!