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Microsoft Windows Installation Guide

While DOSBox-X, as the name implies primarily targets DOS applications and games, early Windows versions where in fact little more than glorified DOS applications, and as such can also be run.

From Windows 1.0 up to Windows 3.11, you can typically run Windows directly from the integrated DOS provided by DOSBox-X. Instructions can be found below for the different major versions.

Later Windows 95, 98 and ME however require that you run the underlying DOS they came with, and as such instead of using the integrated emulated DOS that DOSBox-X provides, you will need to boot them inside DOSBox-X. Again, instructions are provided below.

Some external links with useful information:

Where to get Windows?

These pages assume that you have Windows diskette or CD-ROM images. Getting these image files is outside the scope of this guide.


If you’re running Linux on an x86 or x86-64 PC, you can also try running Windows games and applications using Wine. Especially 32-bit Windows games and applications, typically work quite well, and this may be an easier and faster solution and provide better integration with your desktop environment. 16-bit or mixed 16/32-bit Windows games and applications are more problematic with Wine as modern 64-bit Linux distributions typically have the required kernel functionality for running 16-bit code (e.g., X86_16BIT and MODIFY_LDT_SYSCALL) disabled at kernel compile time.

Windows version highlights

Windows versions 1.0-3.11

For these versions you often have the choice to run them directly in DOSBox-X itself, using the emulated integrated DOS, or if you install a real DOS first and run Windows on top of that.

There are various limitations that Windows imposes that are dependent on the version. A few milestones:

  • MS Windows 1.01 (released Nov 20, 1985)

    • Initial release

  • MS Windows 1.02 (released May 1986)

    • International release

  • MS Windows 1.03 (released Aug 1986)

    • Additional screen and printer drivers

  • MS Windows 1.04 (released Apr 1987)

    • Adds limited support for the IBM PS/2

  • MS Windows/386 2.01 (released Sep 1987)

    • Compaq OEM release with limited drivers

    • Adds support for protected mode

    • Adds EMS emulation

  • MS Windows 2.03 and MS Windows/386 2.03 (released Dec 8, 1987)

    • Adds overlapping windows

    • Adds 16 colour VGA support

  • MS Windows/286 2.10 and MS Windows/386 2.10 (released May 27, 1988)

    • Adds HIMEM.SYS

  • MS Windows/286 2.11 and MS Windows/386 2.11 (released Mar 13, 1989)

    • Minor changes to memory management

    • Adds AppleTalk support

    • Adds updated printer drivers

  • MS Windows 3.0 (released May 22, 1990)

    • Revamped UI

    • Can support up to 16MB RAM

    • Virtual memory support (swap)

  • MS Windows 3.0a with Multimedia Extensions (released Oct, 1991)

    • OEM releases only

    • Adds audio and video playback support

    • Adds CD-ROM support

    • Adds Joystick support

  • MS Windows 3.1 (released Apr 6, 1992)

    • Real (8086) mode support dropped

    • Can support up to 256MB RAM

    • Adds TrueType

    • Adds 32-bit disk access

  • MS Windows for Workgroups 3.1 (released Oct, 1992)

    • Adds support for SMB file and printer sharing

  • MS Windows 3.11 (released Nov 8, 1993)

    • Bug fix release

  • MS Windows for Workgroups 3.11 (released Nov 8, 1993)

    • Standard (286) mode support dropped

Microsoft Windows 95+

These versions must be installed in a virtual HDD image.

  • MS Windows 95 (released Aug 24, 1995)

    • Major redesign of the UI

    • Adds MS-DOS 7.0

  • MS Windows 95 OSR1 (aka 95A) (released Dec 29, 1995)

    • Adds IE 2.0

    • Adds Infrared support

  • MS Windows 95 OSR2 (aka 95B) (released Aug 22, 1996)

    • Updates IE to 3.0

    • Adds Firewire, UDMA and IRQ steering support

    • Adds support for FAT32

    • Updates MS-DOS to 7.1

    • Adds support for DirectX 2.0a

  • MS Windows 95 OSR2.1 (aka 95B) (released Aug 27, 1997)

    • Adds (limited) USB and AGP support

  • MS Windows 95 OSR2.5 (aka 95C) (released Nov 26, 1997)

    • Updates IE to 4.0

    • Adds Active Desktop

    • Updates DirectX to 5.0

  • MS Windows 98 (released Jun 25, 1998)

    • Add Windows Driver Model (WDM) support

    • Adds Disk Cleanup, Windows Update, Multi-monitor and Internet Connection sharing

    • Updates IE to 4.01

    • Adds Outlook Express, Windows Address Book, FrontPage Express, Microsoft Chat, Personal Web Server and NetShow

    • Adds support for DVD (UDF 1.02 read support)

    • Updates DirectX to 5.2

    • Includes a FAT16 to FAT32 migration utility

    • Includes RealPlayer 4.01, Flash Player and Shockwave Player

    • Adds support for the Euro currency symbol

  • MS Windows 98SE (released May 5, 1999)

    • Updates IE to 5.0

    • Updates DirectX to 6.1

    • Removes RealPlayer and WinG

  • MS Windows ME (released Sep 14, 2000)

    • Updates MS-DOS to 8.0

    • Adds support for USB Mass Storage

Guides to installing Windows