Complete Pictorial Guide to Installing the Aces Collection Series with DOSBox
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How do you get your old game working on a modern system?
The short answer is to download and use DOSBox. For other options read on.
Most of the games featured on this site run best in a 16 bit DOS environment where they have full access to available hardware. Current versions of the Windows operating system are programmed for 32 and more recently 64 bit platforms where a 16 bit application may not be able to run directly. Windows does provide a virtual machine that allows execution of 16 bit programs on these platforms. Unfortunately the built in virtual machine leaves much to be desired when trying to get old games working correctly. The good news is there are numerous 3rd party applications that will give much better compatibily with these 16 bit applications. The following are some recommendations on how you can get that old 16 bit application/game running again just as you remember it.
Some people like to keep an old computer around just for the reason of running their old applications and games. If you don't have one you might be able to find one at a flea market or yard sale for a low price. If you don't have a DOS installation disk handy, you can download FreeDOS and install it to get the computer up and running. You will probably have to use a memory manager to free memory for memory hungry games, and figure out the correct IRQ and DMA settings for your sound card.
If you don't have space for another comptuer and you have a FAT partition on your hard drive, you could use a boot disk to boot directly into DOS. Then you can install your old program on your FAT partition and run it directly. You can get a DOS bootdisk at bootdisk.com. You'll still need to do memory tweaking and figure out IRQ and DMA settings.
Sometimes the game you are trying to run works fine except for a lack of sound. If this is the case, you can try VDMSound. It emulates some legacy soundcards and other hardware that will help you get your game working again.
If you don't want to mess around with old hardware and the headaches of memory managers and boot disks then emulation is probably what you are looking for. I'll go over a few of the available emulators and you can choose one that suits your needs. The first two, VMware and Virtual PC, are commercial applications that are both free to download and install. The main benefit of these are easy setup and configuration. Two other emulators, qemu and bochs, are Open Source. They are more difficult to configure, but have most of the featurs of the commercial emulators. These emulators will require you to create a virtual hard drive image, install an OS onto it, and install your games. The last emulator I'll talk about, and the most easy to use, is DOSBox. Unlike the other emulators, you will not need to create a virtual hard drive because it will read directly from your file system. It has a wide range of options that will let you tweak settings to your liking. It is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux, and it is Open Source. This is the preferred way of running old games and applications on modern systems.