An earlier post, Install & Configure MS-DOS 6.22 & Windows 3.1 using Oracle VirtualBox has proven to be relatively popular since it was published. The intention was to create a similar guide using VMWare’s free Workstation Player 12.5.6 but alas usability wasn’t satisfactory enough that I felt creating one was warranted. Nevertheless here’s how the installation experience went. Cue the 1978 Split Enz song ‘I See Red’.
Many of those that used MS-DOS in its heyday, would remember spending time on these two files – AUTOEXEC.BAT and CONFIG.SYS to optimise and configure their PC as needed. Sometimes careful placement of commands were needed to maximise the 640 KB of conventional memory to avoid “out of memory” errors for Windows applications and games. When you knew you had overall 8 or 16 of MB RAM in those days thinking you had plenty, let’s just say it had its moments of frustration due to TSR (Terminate and Stay Resident) programs and so forth.
Fortunately we don’t need to worry about now, but I think the flip side to that was that it felt like an accomplishment when you had your PC well configured at a time when using a computer wasn’t common knowledge like it is today and with ever increasing automation.
For those running MS-DOS in some form, this is a quick reference guide to both of these files, and what many of the more common commands meant. Usually on Drive C or boot floppy disks, both of these files are located on your start up disk at the root directory (i.e. at A:\> or C:\>).
“The Windows 95 kernel team got kind of jealous of all the attention the shell team has been getting from its PowerToys, so they decided to polish off their own personal toys and make their own web page.
Mind you, the kernel folks aren’t experts at intuitive user interfaces, so don’t expect to see jumping icons and friendly things to click on. (These are the people who do their taxes in hexadecimal.)”
That’s from the README.TXT file that comes with Kernel PowerToys, with a good dose of humour.
Similar to PowerToys, the Kernel PowerToys was the smaller sibling adding a few other enhancements to your Windows 95 system. This pack however was aimed at power users.
Installing DOS and Windows 3.x is relatively straightforward, though configuring both to perform the best they can can be a little more tricky. For this guide I’m using Oracle VirtualBox 5.1.4 (the latest at the time) on a Windows 10 machine. VirtualBox isn’t my first preference for emulation, however it’s free to obtain.
Windows 3.1 wasn’t technically an operating system in itself, though common perception is that it was. Unlike newer versions, Windows up to version 3.x would typically sit on top of some variation of DOS such as MS-DOS or PC-DOS which was the operating system.