Installing Microsoft Windows 2.x in DOSBox-X

Overview

Editions this applies to

  • Windows/386 2.01 (OEM release)

    • Only meant for Compaq 386 computers.

    • Introduces 386 extensions (protected mode).

    • LIM EMS 4.0 support.

    • Supplies EMS emulation.

    • Support for overlapping windows.

  • Windows 2.03 and Windows/386 2.03

    • Adds support for non-Compaq computers.

  • Windows/286 2.10 and Windows/386 2.10

    • Adds HIMEM.SYS support for HMA (High Memory Area).

  • Windows/286 2.11 and Windows/386 2.11

    • minor update to memory management.

    • AppleTalk Support.

    • Faster printing and updated printer drivers.

Windows 2.x available as both Retail and OEM editions. A runtime edition was also included with some applications.

Naming

Naming of Windows 2.x versions can be confusing. Versions ending in /386 are meant for 386 class computers, while the Windows 2.03 release could also run on 8086/8088 and 286 class computers.

But with 2.10 they appended /286 to this version because HIMEM.SYS was included which requires at least a 286 class computer.

Despite the /286 or /386 suffixes, all versions could be run on older computers. For the /286 editions this meant not using HIMEM.SYS, while for the /386 versions it meant starting windows with win86.com instead of win386.exe.

Limitations

Edition Official Min. CPU Actual Min. CPU Min. DOS HMA driver

Windows/386 2.01

386

8086/8088

3.10

No

Windows 2.03

8086/8088

8086/8088

2.0

No

Windows/386 2.03

386

8086/8088

3.10

No

Windows/286 2.10

286

8086/8088

3.00

Yes

Windows/386 2.10

386

8086/8088

3.10

Yes

Windows/286 2.11

286

8086/8088

3.00

Yes

Windows/386 2.11

386

8086/8088

3.10

Yes

  • At least 512KB RAM was required

  • Officially requires a HDD

Windows 2.x has problems starting if the reported DOS version is 5.0 or higher. Therefore, it is necessary to set the reported DOS version to something like 4.0.

As Windows/386 2.01 was the first Windows 2.x release and meant only for Compaq 386 computers, it has a very small selection of drivers, and for instance no driver for a PS/2 mouse. Therefore, if you want to run this version in DOSBox-X, you should enable serial1=serialmouse support.

If given the option during installation, do not select the "IBM Personal Systems/2 Mouse", as it seems to cause Windows to hang at the title screen. Instead select the "Microsoft Mouse connected to PS/2 Mouse Port".

Windows 2.1x will complain if the High Memory Area (HMA) is used. This can be resolved by setting DOS=LOW in the [config] section of the DOSBox-X config file.

The Windows/386 editions install by default into C:\WIN386 instead of C:\WINDOWS as all other Windows versions normally do. And the command to start Windows/386 is win386.exe, instead of the typical win.com of most other Windows versions at the time. Windows/386 also has a win86.com executable, which is effectively a renamed win.com, and this makes it possible to run Windows/386 on 8086 and 286 computers.

Important
Unfortunately, at this moment only Windows 2.03 works in the integrated DOS that DOSBox-X provides. All other Windows/286 and Windows/386 editions need to be run from a real DOS in DOSBox-X.

DOSBox-X config file

It is recommended that you create a custom DOSBox-X config file for running Windows 2.x

[sdl]
autolock=true

[dosbox]
title=Windows 2.x

[dos]
ver=4.0

[serial]
#uncomment if using Windows/386 2.01 which lacks PS/2 mouse support
#serial1=serialmouse

[parallel]
parallel1=printer

[printer]
multipage=true
timeout=5000

[render]
scaler=none

[config]
# this prevents Windows 2.1x from complaining that HMA is in use
dos=low

[autoexec]

Copy the above config and save it as win2x.conf

Method 1 - Installing Windows 2.03 into a mounted folder

This method will only work for Windows 2.03. It will not work for any other Windows 2.x version, including Windows/386 2.03.

For other Windows versions, please see Method 2 below.

Preparing for installation

The installation will be into a mounted folder, and Windows 2.03 will run from the integrated DOS that DOSBox-X provides. You can optionally install real DOS into DOSBox-X and install Windows 2.03 in that, but there is no known advantage to doing so.

Start by creating a directory on your system that you’re going to use (mount) as your Windows 2.03 C: drive. Valid examples:

  • For Windows hosts

    • C:\winroot

    • C:\users\myuser\win2x

  • For Linux hosts

    • /home/myuser/winroot

    • /home/myuser/windows/win2x

Note: For Windows users, do NOT mount the root of your C: drive as the DOSBox-X C: drive! (e.g., MOUNT C C:\ should NOT be done)

Windows 2.x versions were shipped on floppies, requiring anywhere between 4 and 10 disks, depending on media-type and windows version. And while it is possible to install Windows 2.x from floppy images in DOSBox-X, the disk-swap process for this is rather tedious for substantial number of disks. As such it is highly recommended to make a directory such as "INSTALL" and copy the contents of ALL the diskettes into this directory. This way there is no need to swap disks during the installation process.

Example of extracting files from disk images

There are several ways to extract the contents of disk images, such as 7zip on Windows or "Disk Image Mounter" on Linux. In this example, DOSBox-X itself is used to mount a disk image, copy its contents into a folder, unmount the disk image and do the next.

MOUNT C /home/myuser/winroot
C:
MD INSTALL
IMGMOUNT A DISK01.IMG -U
XCOPY A:\. C:\INSTALL /S /Y
IMGMOUNT A DISK02.IMG -U
XCOPY A:\. C:\INSTALL /S /Y
IMGMOUNT A DISK03.IMG -U
XCOPY A:\. C:\INSTALL /S /Y
IMGMOUNT A DISK04.IMG -U
XCOPY A:\. C:\INSTALL /S /Y
IMGMOUNT A DISK05.IMG -U
XCOPY A:\. C:\INSTALL /S /Y
IMGMOUNT A -U

Your new INSTALL directory now holds the contents of all 5 disks in this example.

Installing in a mounted folder

You’re now ready to start DOSBox-X from the command-line, using the newly created win2x.conf config file. This assumes that the dosbox-x program is in your path and win2x.conf is in your current directory.

dosbox-x -conf win2x.conf

You now need to mount your new folder as the C: drive in DOSBox-X and start the installation.

MOUNT C /home/myuser/winroot
C:
CD INSTALL
SETUP

Adjust the path for mounting the C: drive as needed.

Note
If your path has spaces in it, you need to enclose it in quotes. e.g., MOUNT C "C:\Users\John Doe\winroot"

The Windows installation will now take place. See the Windows 2.x setup program section below.

Method 2 - Installing in real DOS

This method is needed for most Windows 2.x versions and requires that you create a DOS HDD image.

But it brings with it a bit of added inconvenience. For instance, you will need to do your own DOS memory management and load DOS drivers for CD-ROM access. You can also not mount a host directory in DOSBox-X when you boot a disk image. Even host directories that you mounted prior to booting the disk image will become unavailable. Everything needs to be done using IMAGE files.

The first step is to create a DOS HDD image, for which you can follow the PC DOS and MS-DOS Installation Guide. It is recommended to use at least DOS 3.1, as it is compatible with all Windows 2.x releases. When using DOS 5.0 or higher however, it will be necessary to use SETVER to make Windows 2.x think your using and older DOS version like 4.0.

Once you have a DOS HDD image, temporarily mount it in DOSBox-X to transfer your INSTALL folder into your DOS HDD image, together with any drivers and add-ons you might need (preferably already unzipped, such that you don’t need to do that in DOS or Windows 3.x, as they lack support for that by default).

Something like:

IMGMOUNT C hdd.img
MOUNT D .
XCOPY D:\INSTALL C:\INSTALL /I /S
XCOPY D:\DRIVERS C:\DRIVERS /I /S
XCOPY D:\ADDONS C:\ADDONS /I /S
EXIT

Adjust paths in the above example as needed.

Now edit your win2x.conf config file and in the [autoexec] section at the end, add the following lines:

IMGMOUNT C hdd.img
BOOT C:

Now start DOSBox-X with your win2x.conf config file from the command-line:

dosbox-x -conf win2x.conf

It should boot to the C: prompt, and you can start the installation process.

CD INSTALL
SETUP

After the installation is finished, you can install your drivers and add-ons.

Windows 2.x setup program

The setup program will ask several question relating to mouse, display, keyboard, region and printer.

Note: the below screenshots are from the retail Windows 2.03 release, other releases can vary. In particular, OEM or Runtime versions may have a different number of disks and present other options.


Simply press Enter to continue as prompted.

Windows 2.03 SETUP

Installation drive

This screen is only shown on Windows 2.03. Later versions require a harddisk.

Confirm you want to install onto the hard disk (H) by pressing Enter.

Windows 2.03 SETUP drive

Installation directory

You can optionally specify a different directory to install into.

  • Windows 2.03 and Windows/286 2.1x will propose to install into C:\WINDOWS.

  • Windows/386 2.x will propose to install into C:\WIN386.

Simply press Enter when ready to use the default.

Windows 2.03 SETUP directory

Computer Type

The options offered on this screen will vary depending on the version, and edition (retail, OEM).

  • For Windows 2.03 select the "IBM Personal System/2 Model 50, 60 or 80" option or alternatively "IBM PC, XT, AT (or 100% compatible)".

  • For Windows/286 2.1x select the "IBM Personal System/2 Model 50, 60 or 80" option or alternatively "IBM AT (or 100% compatible)".

  • For Windows/386 2.x select the "IBM Personal System/2 Model 80".

It does not seem to matter which you choose; the only difference appears to be the order that video and mouse options are presented on the following screens.

Windows 2.03 SETUP machine type

Graphics Adapter selection

Select "IBM (or 100% compatible) VGA (Video Graphics Array)" and press Enter.

Note: depending on the edition, this choice may be labelled slightly differently.

Windows 2.03 SETUP GRAPHICS

Keyboard selection

Select your desired keyboard layout, and press Enter.

Windows 2.03 SETUP Keyboard

Mouse selection

Select "Microsoft Mouse connected to PS/2 Mouse Port" and press Enter to continue.

Note
Do not use the IBM Personal Systems/2 Mouse option, as it seems to cause Windows to hang at the title screen.
Note
If installing Windows/386 2.01, you will need to select the Microsoft serial mouse instead and activate serial mouse support in your dosbox-x config file.
Windows 2.03 SETUP MOUSE

Installation confirmation

Confirm that the settings are correct by selecting "No Change", and pressing Enter, and windows will start the first part of the installation process.

Windows 2.03 CONFIRM

Extended Memory Setting

Starting with Windows 2.10 the following screen will be presented.

Simply confirm by pressing Enter that you want EMS to be available.

Windows 2.03 SETUP EMS

Printer setup

SETUP now asks if you want to setup a printer. You can press enter to confirm, or select Continue Setup to bypass printer setup.

Windows 2.03 SETUP printer

Printer setup - select model

If you indicated wanting to setup a printer, SETUP now asks you which model.

For this guide, scroll to the "Epson LQ-850 [Epson LQ 2]" (or Epson LQ-1050 for wide formats), and press Enter.

Later releases may have more options, such as a "Generic / Text Only" printer which can also be used.

Windows 2.03 SETUP printer

Printer setup - port select

If you indicated wanting to setup a printer, SETUP now asks you which port the printer is connected to.

Select the "LPT1:" port and press Enter.

Windows 2.03 SETUP printer port

Printer setup - another printer

SETUP now asks if you want to setup another printer.

Select the "Continue Setup" option by pressing Enter to continue without setting up another printer.

You can always change the installed printers afterwards by running CONTROL.EXE from within Windows.

Windows 2.03 SETUP another printer

Country selection You will be asked for a country for regional settings.

Select a country from the list, and press Enter.

Windows 2.03 SETUP country

View Readme files

You can now optionally view the README files. Select "F" and press Enter when ready.

  • If your following Method 1, you can simply press Enter.

  • If your using disk images to install Windows, you must now swap the disk using the menu item "DOS" followed by "Swap floppy". And then press enter.

Windows 2.03 SETUP View readme files

SETUP completed

Windows 2.03 SETUP finished

The setup program is now finished, and you’re ready to start Windows 2.x.

But first type EXIT to close DOSBox-X.

And then edit your win2x.conf config file and add the following lines into the [autoexec] section at the end of the file:

@ECHO OFF
MOUNT C /home/myuser/winroot
C:
IF EXIST C:\WINDOWS\WIN.COM GOTO WINDOWS
IF EXIST C:\WIN386\WIN386.EXE GOTO WIN386
GOTO END

:WINDOWS
ECHO Starting Windows 2.x
SET PATH=%PATH%;C:\WINDOWS;
C:\WINDOWS\WIN.COM
GOTO END

:WIN386
ECHO Starting Windows/386 2.x
SET PATH=%PATH%;C:\WIN386
C:\WIN386\WIN386.EXE
GOTO END

:END
EXIT

Adjust the path for mounting the C: drive as needed. If you don’t want DOSBox-X to close when exiting Windows 2.x, remove the EXIT command.

Starting Windows 2.x after installation

After the installation is finished, you can start Windows 2.x from the command-prompt with the below command:

Note
You can optionally create a shortcut on your desktop to start Windows 2.x directly.
dosbox-x -conf win2x.conf
Windows 2.03 MS-DOS Executive