Installing Microsoft Windows 95 in DOSBox-X

Overview

This guide will give a general description of installing Windows 95 in DOSBox-X, in addition to addressing some common issues.

Windows CD-ROM editions this guide applies to

  • Windows 95 (RTM; Original release) - Retail Full

  • Windows 95 (RTM; Original release) - OEM Full

  • Windows 95 OSR1 (aka 95A) - OEM Full

  • Windows 95 OSR2 (aka 95B) - OEM Full

  • Windows 95 OSR2.1 (aka 95B) - OEM Full

  • Windows 95 OSR2.5 (aka 95C) - OEM Full

Note
This guide is not meant for the Windows 95 diskette edition, as that uses a special format (DMF) which is not supported by DOSBox-X.
Note
Windows 95 Upgrade editions have additional requirements and are not covered by this guide.

If you don’t know which Windows 9x version to install, we recommend that you install Windows 98SE. If you want to stick with Windows 95, we recommend to use Windows 95 OSR2 or later.

There are other guides to installing Windows 95 in DOSBox that may be more or less applicable to DOSBox-X:

DOSBox-X config file

You first need to create a DOSBox-X config file.

[sdl]
autolock=true

[dosbox]
title=Windows 95
memsize=64

[video]
vmemsize=8
vesa modelist width limit=0
vesa modelist height limit=0

[dos]
# Set 'ver=7.1' if using Win95 OSR2 (95B) or later
ver=7.0
hard drive data rate limit=0

[cpu]
cputype=pentium_mmx
core=normal

[sblaster]
sbtype=sb16vibra

[fdc, primary]
int13fakev86io=true

[ide, primary]
int13fakeio=true
int13fakev86io=true

[ide, secondary]
int13fakeio=true
int13fakev86io=true
cd-rom insertion delay=4000

[render]
scaler=none

[autoexec]

Copy the above config and save it as win95.conf

Note
If using Windows 95 OSR2 (or later) with FAT32 volumes, be sure to change the DOS version to 7.1 (ver=7.1 or from the DOSBox-X prompt: ver set 7.1) or else you will get errors mounting the FAT32 volume.
Note
You can increase the allocated RAM up to the Windows 95 maximum of 480MB by setting memsize=480. Larger values may be possible with tweaks but are not covered here.

General installation Notes

  • Some parts of the installation can take a considerable amount of time. You can speed this up somewhat by using the DOSBox-X Turbo mode. From the drop-down menu select "CPU" followed by "Turbo (Fast Forward)". But if you decide to use this, be sure to disable Turbo mode whenever you need to enter data or make choices, as it can cause spurious keypresses to be registered causing undesirable effects. It can also cause problems with double click with the mouse not working and audio will also not sound properly, so be sure to disable it when using Windows in DOSBox-X.

  • When creating your HDD image with IMGMAKE, instead of specifying a custom size, you can choose a pre-defined template. The pre-defined HDD templates can be seen by running IMGMAKE without arguments.

  • If you get a prompt stating that C:\WINDOWS already exists, ignore it, and continue the installation.

  • During the installation it may ask you if you have a CD-ROM, Network card or sound card that you want it to scan for. If you have NE2000 enabled in your DOSBox-X config file, you may want to check the Network adapter check box. Your DOSBox-X CD-ROM and Sound Card will be detected regardless if you check its box or not.

  • In case you installed Windows 95 OSR2.5 you may have noticed that you did not get IE4 and the Active Desktop features. This is because this is an optional install. On the CD, simply run \WIN95\IE4SETUP.EXE to install it. While there is no real advantage to either feature, installing it does bring some new and updated libraries such as MSVCRT.DLL and COMCTL32.DLL that some programs need.

Dynamic vs Normal core

Starting with DOSBox-X 0.83.10 the dynamic_x86 core, which should perform much better, has been sufficiently enhanced that it can now be used for most use-cases with Windows 95.

However, for now we still recommend that you do the installation of Windows 95 using core=normal until issue #2215 is resolved.

But after the installation is finished you should be able to change to core=dynamic_x86.

Should you run into problems such as application crashes or a Windows 95 blue-screen that cannot be reproduced with core=normal, please report the problem on the DOSBox-X Git issues page.

One known issue is that opening a DOS window in Windows 95 will cause a crash when not using core=normal.

Creating a Harddisk image

Note
In addition to the below DOSBox-X command line utility, starting with DOSBox-X 0.83.9 it is possible to create harddisk images from the DOSBox-X menu. Go to the "DOS" menu and select "Create blank disk image…​". This option allows for various common harddisk types to be created, for less common types you need to use the command line utility.

Some quick rules about IMGMAKE (for more detail, see: Guide: Managing image files in DOSBox-X):

  • Diskette (floppy) images are always created as FAT12.

  • If your reported DOS version is 7.0 or lower, then harddisk images up to 2GB will use FAT16 by default.

  • If your reported DOS version is 7.1 or higher, then harddisk images up to 512MB will use FAT16 by default.

  • Larger size harddisk images will use FAT32 by default (larger than 2GB can only be created as FAT32).

Alternatively, you can use the -fat option to instruct IMGMAKE to create a certain FAT type (assuming that is possible for the harddisk size).

Note
Only Windows 95 OSR2 or later supports FAT32, for older Windows 95 releases you can only use FAT16 up to 2GB.

First you need to start DOSBox-X from the command-line, using your newly created win95.conf. This assumes that dosbox-x is in your path and win95.conf is in your current directory.

dosbox-x -conf win95.conf

Then in DOSBox-X you need to create a new harddisk image file with IMGMAKE.

This example uses an 2GB hard disk image with a single FAT16 formatted partition. This is the maximum size for FAT16 and supported by all Windows 95 releases.

IMGMAKE hdd.img -t hd_2gig -fat 16

Or if your using Windows 95 OSR2 or later, you can create a FAT32 volume. Technically the FAT32 filesystem is capable of supporting partitions up to 2TB, but the generic IDE driver in Windows 95 cannot handle volumes greater than 32GB. Larger partition sizes may be possible with 3rd party drivers but are not covered here.

In later Windows versions, starting with Windows 2000, Microsoft won’t let you format a volume bigger than 32GB with FAT32 using its built-in formatting tool, this was presumably to push migrations to NTFS and later exFAT.

IMGMAKE hdd.img -t hd_8gig

Or if you want to create a larger disk, you can create a custom type. This is an example of a 16GB (16*1024=16384 MB) disk, which due to its size, will be formatted as FAT32.

IMGMAKE hdd.img -t hd -size 16384

Installation Method

Other installation methods are possible than the one described below. This method is however considered to be the quickest one with the least number of steps.

Requirements

  • DOSBox-X 0.83.10 or later, these instructions will NOT work with other DOSBox forks.

  • Windows 95 CD-ROM image (named "Win95.iso" in the example below).

Getting this image file is outside the scope of this guide.

Starting the installation

This assumes you have already started DOSBox-X with the win95.conf config file and created your harddisk image.

First mount the harddisk image you created earlier:

IMGMOUNT C hdd.img
Note
If you get an error saying that "This operation requires DOS version 7.10 or higher", than you’re trying to mount a FAT32 volume, and have not set your reported DOS version in your DOSBox-X config to 7.1. FAT32 volumes are only supported if your installing Windows 95 OSR2 or later.

You will also need to mount the Windows 95 CD-ROM. There are a few ways of doing so, but this guide assumes you have a ISO image.

If you have a copy of the Windows 95 CD-ROM as an ISO (or a cue/bin pair), you can mount it as follows:

IMGMOUNT D Win95.iso

Copying the contents of the CD-ROM

While not strictly necessary, as it is possible to run SETUP.EXE directly from the CD-ROM (if you have the CD-ROM automatically mounted in your [autoexec] section of the config file). It is recommended to copy the installation files (contents of the WIN95 directory on the CD-ROM) to your HDD image, as it will prevent Windows 95 from asking for the CD-ROM when it needs additional files later.

XCOPY D:\WIN95 C:\WIN95 /I /E

The files in the above example are copied to the C:\WIN95 directory.

Note
You may want to use "C:\WINDOWS\OPTIONS\CABS" instead, as that is the directory that OEM installs normally use. But if you do, be aware that the installer will complain that C:\WINDOWS already exists. When you get the warning below, select "Other directory" and click "Next >" to continue. On the screen afterwards, change the directory to "C:\WINDOWS" and continue the installation.
Windows 95 SETUP.EXE Select Directory

Running SETUP.EXE

You can now run SETUP.EXE.

C:
CD \WIN95
SETUP

Now run through the install process. The actual steps will not be covered in this guide but are pretty self-explanatory and detailed guides on the Windows 95 install process can be found online such as youtube.

When the installer reboots DOSBox-X, and your back at the DOSBox-X Z:\ prompt, type EXIT.

Now edit your win98.conf config file. At the end of the file, in the [autoexec] section, add the following two lines:

IMGMOUNT C hdd.img
BOOT C:

Save the config file, and at the command-prompt of your host PC you can type the below command to continue with the next phase of the installation process. This is also the command you use, after the installation is finished, to start Windows 95 in DOSBox-X.

dosbox-x -conf win95.conf

Booting Windows 95 after installation

After the installation is finished, you can start Windows 95 from the command-prompt of your host PC, with the following command:

dosbox-x -conf win95.conf

You can optionally create a shortcut on your desktop to start Windows 95 directly.

Steps to take after installation

Once Windows 95 is installed, here is some additional software you may want to install or update:

  • Install Microsoft .NET framework version 1.0 and 1.1 (includes Visual C++ 2003 runtime)

  • Install Unofficial Windows 95 OSR2 Service Pack 1.05

  • Install/Update to Internet Explorer 5.5SP2 (rarely needed)

  • Install WinG 1.0 (needed by just a few games, and those games typically include it)

  • Install/Update to DirectX 8.0a (this will also update your video and audio drivers)

  • Install/Update to Windows Media Player 6.4

  • Install/Update to Adobe Flash Player 8.0.24.0

  • Install Apple Quicktime 5.0.5

  • Install the 3dfx Voodoo 3.01.00 reference drivers

Mounting CD or Diskette images

DOSBox-X supports mounting CD and diskette (floppy) images, and making those available to a OS booted in DOSBox-X. But only if the image files are specified before starting real DOS or Windows 9x. The option to load image files from the menu bar becomes unavailable the moment you boot DOS or Win9x in DOSBox-X.

This is a known limitation that hopefully will be resolved in the near future.

For now, you can work around it, by specifying multiple image files with the IMGMOUNT command as such:

IMGMOUNT A disk1.img disk2.img disk3.img
IMGMOUNT D cd1.iso cd2.iso cd3.iso

You can then swap between disk images with the swap option from the menu.

Enabling networking

To enable networking, you first need to enable NE2000 adapter emulation in your win95.conf config file and select an appropriate back-end for the NE2000 emulation.

Enabling NE2000 in your DOSBox-X config file

Starting with DOSBox-X 0.83.12 there are two different back-ends to the NE2000 adapter emulation. The default is backend=auto, which implies backend=slirp if SLIRP support is available, otherwise backend=pcap is implied if PCAP support is available.

backend=pcap

The PCAP back-end uses something called "Promiscuous mode". This has the advantage that DOSBox-X can support various legacy network protocols, such as IPX and NetBIOS Frames (aka NetBEUI) in addition to TCP/IP. This mode not only allows communication between DOSBox-X instances on the same network, but also with legacy PCs on the same network.

However, for this to work DOSBox-X needs to have very low-level access to your real network adapter. In some cases, this is not possible, such as:

  • Network Adapter or Driver not supporting Promiscuous mode (most WIFI, WAN and BT adapters fall into this category).

  • Your Ethernet switch not allowing multiple MAC addresses on a single port or doing any kind of MAC address whitelisting.

  • Sandboxed versions of DOSBox-X (e.g., Flatpak) not allowing the required low-level access.

To enable NE2000 emulation with the pcap back-end, add the following to your win95.conf config file:

[ne2000]
ne2000=true
nicirq=10
backend=pcap

[ethernet, pcap]
realnic=list

The list value for realnic= will need to be replaced by a value representing your actual network adapter. See Guide: Setting up networking in DOSBox-X for more information.

backend=slirp

Unlike the PCAP back-end, the SLIRP back-end does not require Promiscuous mode. As such it will work with WIFI, WAN and BT adapters, and it will work in most sandboxed environments.

But obviously, it has its own limitations.

  • It is not supported in all platforms, such as Windows Visual Studio builds.

  • It only supports the TCP/IP protocol (other protocols must be TCP/IP encapsulated).

  • It is effectively behind a NAT (Network Address Translation) gateway, meaning that you can communicate outbound, but no systems on the LAN can instantiate a new connection to it. Which means that two DOSBox-X instances on the same LAN using backend=slirp cannot communicate with each other.

To enable NE2000 emulation with the slirp back-end, add the following to your win95.conf config file:

[ne2000]
ne2000=true
nicirq=10
backend=slirp

Setting up NE2000 networking

Detection during installation

Windows 95 setup wizard will ask if you want to detect additional hardware during installation. The exact options presented may vary depending on the Windows 95 edition. You can tick the "Network adapter" checkbox, and it should continue and find the emulated NE2000 adapter.

Windows 95 SETUP.EXE Network Adapter

It will however, not give you the possibility to set the resources at this point, and you will need to do so in device manager afterwards.

Windows 95 SETUP.EXE Network Adapter Resources

Once the Windows 95 installation is finished, right click on "My Computer" on the desktop and select "Properties". Now in the "System Properties" dialogue, select the "Device Manager" tab.

Windows 95 Device Manager - Select NE2000

Highlight the "NE2000 Compatible" entry and click on the "Properties" tab and then click the "Set Configuration Manually" button.

Windows 95 Device Manager - NE2000 Resources

Now you need to highlight the "Interrupt Request" entry and click the "Change Setting…​" button. You can now change the IRQ to 10 to match the nicirq= value in your DOSBox-X config file.

Next, highlight the "Input/Output Range" entry, and again click the "Change Setting…​" button. Now change the value to "0300 - 031F".

Once you’re finished adjusting the resources, click the "OK" button, and Windows 95 will prompt you to shutdown to apply the settings, after which you need to restart Windows 95 in DOSBox-X.

Note
By default, Windows 95 only enables Novell’s IPX/SPX protocol. Most Windows 95 applications expect TCP/IP which you will need to manually enable in the Network settings.

Detection after installation

If you enabled NE2000 support in your DOSBox-X config file after Windows 95 installation, go to "Start", "Settings" and "Control Panel" and double-click on "Add New Hardware".

Windows 95 - Add New Hardware Wizard

In the "Add New Hardware Wizard" dialogue, click the "Next >" button to continue.

Windows 95 - Add New Hardware Wizard

Now select "Yes (Recommended)" and click the "Next >" button to continue. It will ask for another confirmation. Again, simply click the "Next >" button.

If it detected new hardware, you should get this dialogue. You can click the "Details…​" button to see what it found, after which you can click on "Finish".

Windows 95 - Add New Hardware Wizard

It will now want you to provide some details, click on "OK".

Windows 95 - Add New Hardware Wizard

You must at a minimum enter a value in the "Workgroup" field. If you don’t know what to type, just type "WORKGROUP".

You may also want to provide a more descriptive "Computer Name".

Don’t close the dialogue just yet though, click on the "Configuration" tab instead.

Windows 95 - Network settings

Highlight the "NE2000 Compatible" entry and click the "Properties" button.

Windows 95 - Network settings

On the "NE2000 Compatible Properties" dialogue, select the "Resources" tab, and adjust the IRQ to 10 to match the nicirq= value in your DOSBox-X config file. Then click "OK" to finish.

Windows 95 - Network settings

Lastly, while you’re in the Network settings dialogue, you may also want to add the TCP/IP protocol, which is not enabled by default on Windows 95.

On the Configuration tab, click on "Add", then select "Protocol" and click again "Add…​"

You will now be presented with the "Select Network Protocol" dialogue. Select manufacturer: "Microsoft", and for Network Protocols: "TCP/IP", and click the "OK" button.

Note
In the Network settings, you can optionally remove the "IPX/SPX-compatible Protocol" that was automatically installed, as few Windows programs need it.
Note
By default, TCP/IP will try to get its network configuration over DHCP, which should work in most cases. If you need to manually specify the settings, highlight "TCP/IP", and click the "Properties" button.

Once you’re finished, Click OK to close the Network settings window, and the TCP/IP driver will be installed, and Windows will prompt you to restart your computer. Confirm, and Windows 95 will reboot. After the reboot you should have working TCP/IP networking.

If networking does not work, see: Guide: Setting up networking in DOSBox-X

Emulated video adapter and video mode

The default video adapter that DOSBox-X emulates is the S3 Trio64, which is the best emulated video adapter that DOSBox-X offers, with the widest range of resolutions and colour depths.

If you installed Windows 95 RTM (original release), or Windows 95 OSR1 (aka Win95A), there is a newer S3 video driver with additional supported resolutions. This video driver is v2.02.04 and dated April 18, 1996. It can typically be found online as w9520204.zip. This update however does not add support for 8MB video RAM, or wide-screen video modes. If you installed Windows 95 OSR2 or later, you already have the latest video driver installed.

The available video modes with the S3 Trio64 driver are:

  • 4-bit colour (16): 640x480

  • 8-bit colour (256): 640x480, 800x600, 1024x768, 1152x864, 1280x1024 and 1600x1200

  • 16-bit colour (65536): 640x480, 800x600 and 1024x768

  • 32-bit colour (16.7M): 640x480 and 800x600

A few enhancements have been made to the emulated S3 Trio64, compared to a real S3 Trio64:

  • No real S3 Trio64 was ever produced with more than 4MB video memory, under DOSBox-X you can optionally configure 8MB.

  • The real cards never supported wide-screen resolutions, wide-screen VESA modes can optionally be enabled in DOSBox-X.

However, these enhancements cannot be used in Windows 95 with the S3 video driver due to driver limitations. As such you will be limited to the above video modes with this driver.

VESA driver

These restrictions can be overcome by switching to the Universal VESA/VBE Video Display Driver (VBEMP).

First add the following lines to your DOSBox-X config file in the [video] section:

allow high definition vesa modes=true
allow unusual vesa modes=true
allow low resolution vesa modes=false

Download and extract the latest VBEMP driver package and install the driver from the 032MB directory.

With these settings modes up to 1920x1080 in 32bit colour, or 1920x1440 in 16bit colour are possible.

Note
Using the VBEMP driver does have a negative graphics performance impact, which when measured in WinBench96 Graphics WinMark, can be a reduction of up to 59%.

Emulated sound card

The emulated sound card used in this guide is the SB16 Vibra, instead of the default SB16. This is simply because the SB16 Vibra is an ISA PnP card, and therefore automatically detected by Windows. There is no other real advantage of using the emulated SB16 Vibra over the SB16.

Note
One often heard complaint of the real SB16 Vibra is its CQM synthesis, which was used as a low-cost replacement of the OPL3 chip found on earlier cards. However, DOSBox-X does not really emulate the CQM, instead if uses the same OPL3 emulation as for the regular SB16 model. Therefore, the CQM sound quality issues with the real SB16 Vibra do not apply to DOSBox-X.

An optional driver update to 4.38.14 is available on the VOGONS Vintage Driver Library (ignore that the download claims it is for Windows 98, the update is for both Windows 95 and 98).

Enabling General MIDI

If you have a working DOSBox-X General MIDI setup, either emulated or real, you can use that in Windows 95.

Go to "Start", "Settings" and open "Control Panel", and then double-click on "Multimedia".

Now on the "MIDI" tab, change the "Single instrument" option to "MPU-401 Compatible", and click OK to close the window.

Windows 95 MIDI setup

For more information about setting up MIDI support, see: Guide: Setting up MIDI in DOSBox-X

Enabling printing

To enable printing support in Windows 95, see: Guide: Setting up printing in DOSBox-X

3dfx Voodoo

The emulated 3dfx Voodoo PCI device is enabled by default in DOSBox-X, but Windows 95 lacks drivers for it by default. As such a "PCI Multimedia Video Device" will show in Device Manager with a yellow exclamation mark.

A driver package is available here (v3.01.00) to enable support.

If for some reason you do not want 3dfx Voodoo emulation, it can be disabled by adding the following lines to your DOSBox-X config:

[voodoo]
voodoo_card=false

Glide pass-through

Starting with DOSBox-X 0.83.10 it is possible to use glide pass-through with Windows 95. There are however a few points you need to be aware of.

  • The DOSBox-X and glide-wrapper installed on the host need to be the same architecture. So, if you’re using a 64bit DOSBox-X, you need to use a 64-bit glide-wrapper.

  • The Linux SDL2 DOSBox-X does not work with OpenGlide, this is a limitation of OpenGlide (see OpenGlide issue #20). The work-around is to use the SDL1 DOSBox-X instead.

You need to set the following DOSBox-X config option:

[voodoo]
glide=true

You will also need a specially patched GLIDE2X.DLL which you can place in either the C:\Windows\System directory of Windows 95, or in the game directory. But be aware that some games come with their own GLIDE2X.DLL, which typically gets installed in the game directory. If so, you will have to remove this DLL file for glide pass-through to work.

For more detail on 3dfx Voodoo emulation, see the Guide: Setting up 3dfx Voodoo in DOSBox-X

Hard Disk Read-ahead optimization

In "System Properties", select the "Performance" tab, and click the "File System…​" button. A separate "File System Properties" window will open. On the "Hard Disk" tab you can specify the Read-ahead optimization.

Based on benchmark results (WinBench 96), it seems that setting this to "None" gives the best performance in combination with DOSBox-X, although the difference is marginal. This is no doubt because the host system is better at caching then the Windows 98 cache function.

Outstanding issues

  • Resolve "Drive A is using MS-DOS compatibility mode file system"