A free MS-DOS Intel x86 emulator
DOSBox is a free, open-source DOS emulator of the legacy computer, Intel x86. DOSBox was initially released in 2002 when DOS began its decline as a disregarded operating system. By today's technology standards, DOS is considered obsolete, but many people still wish to run old programs and games on this old operating system.
Only with an emulator like DOSBox or FreeDOS installed on your Windows computer can you fully recreate the MS-DOS experience with the same sounds, graphics, and inputs. But take note, DOSBox isn't targeted towards novice users. To use all of DOSBox's features, you need first to understand essential concepts surrounding the MS-DOS environment, or at least be comfortable reading technical documentation.
Windows no longer support DOS
Up until around 2001, all of Microsoft's operating systems were based on MS-DOS, which meant users could still run DOS applications. That changed with Windows XP. Although it could still emulate DOS to an extent, you couldn't run DOS applications using the computer's hardware as the built-in security prevented it from doing so.
To combat this, DOSBox was created by two Dutch programmers and released for beta testing in 2002. Since then, it's become wildly popular among people who wish to run DOS programs and play DOS games. DOSBox is a command-line program which means you need to enter commands the old-fashioned way of typing them out, although some users in the community have created a graphical front-end to make using DOSBox easier.
DOSBox is compatible with most DOS programs and games and does an excellent job of recreating the original experience, going so far as only to support the 8.3 naming convention. This practice only allows 8 characters before the full stop and another three characters afterward for the file extension.
Once installed on your Windows computer, you can run old programs and games which aren't compatible with modern operating systems, although the emphasis is on running games. DOSBox can also run classic CD-based games. If you don't have a CD drive or a physical CD, you can open CD images with the virtual machine.
Because DOSBox is not an actual DOS operating system, you don't need to install drivers or change your BIOS settings. Instead, this virtual software runs in real-time to emulate legacy hardware for DOS games and programs. If this weren't the case, you would need to partition your hard drive or use an external hard drive. Installing and running DOSBox is a painless experience.
Is DOSBox legal?
DOSBox is perfectly legal to download and install. It doesn't include any games or programs that breach copyright laws. To play games, you must supply them yourself, which you can purchase, or take advantage of a large number of freeware games and demos available. DOSBox itself is free to use and was released under the GNU General Public License.
Is DOSBox safe to install?
DOSBox is safe to download and install. The program itself doesn't let anyone control your machine or make any changes to your system's settings.
How do I play old DOS games on Windows 10?
Follow these steps to run old DOS games on your Windows PC:
- Download and install DOSBox
- Move your games folder inside the DOSBox directory
- Launch DOSBox and point it towards the location of your game
- Install the game you want to play
- Run the game
Are there any alternatives?
FreeDos is an alternative program, but it's an actual DOS operating system that you need to install on an old, legacy computer. Once installed, you can play games and run programs that aren't compatible with DOSBox.
With DOSBox, you can experience old DOS programs and games like Wolfenstein 3D, Commander Keen, Star Wars: Dark Forces, and many more. Many gaming companies like id Software, Valve's Steam, Electronic Arts' Origin, and GOG.com use DOSBox to re-release old games and allow customers to play them on their computers.
Should you download it
If you want to operate and run a DOS OS environment without the need to partition your hard drive or find a legacy computer to install FreeDos on, then DOSBox is an excellent choice. It's relatively easy to install and set up, and there's a thriving community willing to help, with up-to-date documentation to get you started.
- Virtual DOS machine
- No legacy drivers required
- Supports CDs, CD Images, and Floppy disks
- Requires knowledge of command-line