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Rediscovering your DOS drivers

by Alan Zisman (c) 1997. First published in Computer Player, June 1997

When Microsoft designers were designing Windows 95, they realized that most consumers weren't ready for a complete break with DOS; many users still have DOS programs they want to run... this is especially true of game players. In the past few months, in this column, we've looked at ways to make your DOS programs and games cooperate with Windows 95. (Warning?this month?s column is kind of techie? but be brave and read on!)

But some of your DOS programs simply won't run properly under Win95...  to maximize performance, they want control of the hardware in ways that Win95 just doesn't allow.

MS-DOS Mode is the Win95 equivalent of a customized boot disk... with it, you can remove Windows from memory, and give your program the drivers it needs to access your CD-ROM, mouse, and sound card from DOS.

But there's a catch for many users. If you upgraded an older system to Win95, you probably have the DOS driver disks for your CD-ROM and sound card, and Win95 saved your old setup files, with the settings for running those devices in DOS... you'll need them for MS-DOS Mode. But if you purchased a new system, with Win95 pre-installed, you may not have those DOS driver disks-if that's the case, go back to your vendor and demand them right now!

You can get to MS-DOS Mode like this... go to Start Menu's Shut Down dialogue box and pick Restart the Computer in MS-DOS Mode. But don?t be surprised if when you do that, you can't access your CD-ROM or sound card. In fact, you'll probably get an error message, when MSCDEX, the DOS CD-ROM software doesn't load properly, because it's driver wasn't loaded.

What?s happening is that Win95 doesn't know about your system's DOS drivers for CD-ROM or sound... each model is different; unlike common files like MSCDEX, each brand uses different filenames and settings, and these haven?t been loaded. So your standard MS-DOS Mode setup never quite works right!

If you upgraded an older system and the DOS drivers are still on your system, restart in MS-DOS Mode, and open the files CONFIG.SYS and CONFIG.DOS in DOS Edit. In the CONFIG.DOS window, look for a line something like this one:
 Device=C:\Util\TeacCD\TEAC_CDI.SYS /d:teac_cd
It may start Devicehigh=, and it will probably load a different driver, but most will include the letters "CD"; this is your CD-ROM driver... copy that line exactly into your CONFIG.SYS file.

Similarly, find and copy lines loading the driver for your sound card. For my SoundBlaster 16, I need:
 Devicehigh=C:\Creative\CTSB16.SYS /Unit=0 /Blaster=A:220 I:5 D:1 H:5

Save Config.Sys, and similarly, open AUTOEXEC.BAT and AUTOEXEC.DOS. Find the MSCDEX line in AUTOEXEC.BAT and change the /d: setting to match the one in CONFIG.SYS. Check in the AUTOEXEC.DOS file for lines that seem to refer to the sound card, and copy them to the other file. For my SoundBlaster 16, I need:
 SET SOUND=C:\Creative
 SET MIDI=Synth:1 Map:E
 Set BLASTER= A220 I5 D1 H5 P330 T6
(your mileage may vary).

Reboot, and see if the CD-ROM and sound card work in your DOS programs.

If you don't have the DOS files to use as examples, if you have your DOS driver disks, when you're in MSDOS Mode, you can run their installation programs-if these are DOS programs. If they are Windows 3.1 programs, don't run them... look in the documentation; in most cases, this will tell you how to manually adjust your CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT files.


One more trick with MSDOS Mode? if your game requires MSDOS Mode, you can use the Shutdown/Restart in MSDOS Mode option, then type the commands to start your program? or you can give your program an icon that will do all that automatically. (Much handier!) You may need to create an icon for your program (if so, dig out that copy of last month?s column). Then, right-click on the Start button, and choose Open from the popup menu. Navigate until you find your game?s icon. Right-click on it, and choose Properties from the popup menu. Switch to the Program page in the dialogue box, then click on the Advanced button. Click the MS-DOS Mode and the Specify a new MSDOS configuration options, and copy the Config.sys and Autoexec.bat from your previous MSDOS Mode attempt. (You did print them out last time, didn?t you?)

After clicking OK a couple of times, and closing all the left-over windows, you?ll find yourself with an icon that will neatly restart your computer, load the appropriate DOS drivers, and start your game. When you quit your game, the computer will restart again, this time reloading Windows 95. Smooth and very slick.

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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan