Running old DOS games in Windows 95

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

Last month, we started looking at how we can make Windows 95 work better for running DOS programs... which for most of us, means games. Most newer games, even if they're still DOS programs, are much more cooperative with Win95. But you may want to run some of the old classics-either your old favorites, or new purchases, maybe from the stores' budget racks.

Such games may run happily in a Win95 DOS session... but far too many make special demands before they will run. It can  be done, however!

* Where's the icon?

Windows programs typically include a Setup or Install program that, among other things, adds an icon to Win 3.1's Program Manager or Win 95's Start Menu. Newer DOS games may do the same... but while older DOS programs may have some kind of install program to copy files to your hard drive and choose a sound card, they usually don't add an icon to Windows-leaving you with the need to go to DOS (or the Windows RUN command), and type some peculiar DOS command line phrase to start the program.

It's not too hard, however, to add an icon to the Windows 95 Start Menu for those games. Here's one way to do it...

* Right click on an unused area of the Task Bar-the space to the right of the Start Menu. You'll see a popup menu... click on PROPERTIES. This gets you a typical tabbed dialogue box-click on the START MENU PROGRAMS tab.
* Choose the ADD option by clicking on the button. This starts up a Wizard-asking you questions to automate the process of adding an icon to the Start Menu. First, you'll be asked for a Command Line... the DOS command to start the program. For example, if your game was installed into a C:\MYGAME directory, and you need to type GOGAME to start it, type C:\MYGAME\GOGAME as the command line. (If you're not sure what to type, you can click on the BROWSE button to look at your hard drive). Click NEXT.
* You'll be asked for a folder for the shortcut (Start Menu icons are examples of Win 95 shortcuts), and given a tree-diagram showing the folders that make up the sub-menus of your Start Menu's Program group. You could double-click to add it to the Accessories-Games folder that already exists, add it to another existing folder, or click on the New Folder button.
* Next step-give the icon a name, and pick an icon from the standard icon collection. That's it-you're done... you're DOS program or game now has an icon of its own, in your chosen Start Menu group. Give it a try-it may work... then again, it might not. If not, it may need expanded memory, or need to run in MS-DOS Mode.

* What if your DOS programs want expanded memory?

Some DOS programs need so-called expanded or EMS memory. This was an workaround that let older DOS computers access more memory than the 640 kb conventional memory limit. On original 8088 and 80286 processors, EMS memory could only be obtained with a special hardware board, but 386 or later computers (including anything that can run Win95) can make it from its store of more normal, extended memory.

If you're trying to run software that specifically demands EMS memory (Masters of Orion, or Star Trek-the 25th Anniversary, for only a few among many examples), you need to open the C:\Config.sys file in Notepad. Find the lines reading Device=C:\Windows\Himem.sys and Device=C:\Windows\Emm386.exe noems . (If you don't have those lines, add them! And find last month's column for more details). Change the EMM386 line to read:

Device=C:\Windows\Emm386.exe ram 1024 This will provide one meg of EMS memory. If your program insists on more EMS ram, change the number at the end to the amount your software needs.

Only set up Emm386 to provide EMS memory if you have software that demands it-doing so takes away from the pool of memory that's available to your other programs.

Next month, we're going to try to finish off this series, and look at the mysteries of MS-DOS Mode. And you thought Windows 95 was going to make things easier? (Actually, it does-if you think <italics> this <italics> is complex-you should have tried it before! Now do you understand why some people bought Macs?)

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