Virtualisation And A Peek In The Dustbin

In the last virtualisation article you may have noticed that I was too lazy to install my own OSes and just downloaded images. Well, that offered enough challenges so lets see how I got on with various old OS versions which I still have spare media and licences for. These all had to be installed from scratch.


  • Windows 98
  • Windows 95
  • MS-DOS 6
  • Windows 3.11 for Workgroups
  • DR-DOS 6
  • OS/2 Warp (unsuccessful)

Note: Filed under silly and sensible because trying to resurrect these old OSes is a bit silly but learning about VMWare is sensible. That said, who knows. I would like to think that one day some poor sod urgently tasked with resurrecting the 16 bit DOS or Windows application-of-the-damned might find this article and find it useful.

Windows 98

Installing Windows 98

This was the easiest of the lot and went very smoothly despite not being the Second Edition.

  • Install Windows 98 from CDROM. Windows will format the virtual hard disk as if it was real. Just install as normal.
  • Install VMWare tools. Set screen resolution to something sensible. VMWare tools will keep on saying that it needs to be updated. It doesn’t, so just ignore that.
  • Download and install Internet Explorer 6 SP1.
  • Run Windows Update and load all required updates.
  • The end result

  • Flash update won’t load so get it direct from Adobe instead.
  • Install ClamWin (free Anti-Virus engine) and Clam Sentinel (free Virus scanner).
  • Install Opera and make it the default browser as Internet Explorer 6 is no longer updated.

While nobody in their right mind would actually use Windows 98 for surfing, the fact that it can still run an up-to-date browser (Opera) and anti-virus package (Clam) is quite impressive.

Windows 95

Installing Windows 95

You would think that this would be the same as Windows 98, but it isn’t. Windows 95 (first edition) is very primitive. The big problem is that my PC doesn’t have a floppy disk drive and the Windows 95 CDROM is not bootable. Leaving out very many false steps and redos, here is the process.

  • Download a Windows 95 boot floppy image.
  • Map the floppy image to the virtual machine and boot it.
  • Use fdisk to make a single primary partition on the virtual hard disk. Make sure it is set “active”.
  • Format the partition. Reboot and verify that it is possible to DIR it.
  • Run setup from the Windows 95 CDROM.
  • Coblers! That's not IE 4!

  • Install Windows 95 and avoid adding any optional features at all. After the first reboot continue installing. It may complain that it can’t find the CDROM from time to time. Just skip those files making a note of what they are.
  • After installation Windows 95 will probably complain about bits missing when it boots. Just keep going. It will start eventually.
  • Go back and deal with the missing stuff. This means uninstalling Netware support and reinstalling TCP/IP and the Client for Microsoft Networks. Don’t expect the network to work yet. Just get it to boot without complaining any more.
  • Install VMWare tools. This will crash when it autoruns. Manually install Windows Installer from the virtual CDROM. Then run the MSI. The tools will install but may complain that the SVGA driver did not load. Just make sure that the rest of the install is OK. As with Windows 98, VMWare tools will keep on saying that it needs to be updated. It doesn’t, so just ignore that.
  • The network may not work yet or it may but Internet Explorer is unusable. Fortunately VMWare tools lets you drag and drop files in.
  • Get Windows 95 SP1. Drop it in and install it.
  • Get Internet Explorer 5.5 SP2. Drop it in and install it. Network should now be working and IE should be usable.
  • Do Windows Update. Load all necessary patches.
  • The VMWare SVGA driver is in VMWare’s Program Files. Find the Inf file.
  • Change the video settings from Standard VGA to the VMWare SVGA. Use the Have Disk option.
  • The end result

  • If that doesn’t work you will get errors saying that the hardware is wrong. This won’t stop the VGA from working so don’t worry. In Device Manager look for a second video adaptor which is listed under unknown. Set that to use the VMWare SVGA driver and remove the other VGA device. That is what finally fixed it for me.
  • Once SVGA is working you can set a decent resolution and finally get more than 16 colours. Hooray!

Having got this far it now becomes clear that Windows 95 isn’t really any good for anything apart from playing Minesweeper. You can’t get any working anti-virus for it, not even Clam.


Installing MS-DOS is a real pain. I have a copy on CDROM but it insists on being invoked from the installation floppy. I downloaded the boot floppy image but that is still not the floppy the setup program wants to be invoked from.

  • Download a MSDOS 6.22 boot floppy image.
  • Map the floppy image to the virtual machine and boot it.
  • Use fdisk to make a single primary partition on the virtual hard disk. Make sure it is set “active”.
  • Format the partition. Reboot and verify that it is possible to DIR it.
  • Run “sys c:” to copy the DOS kernel and shell to the C drive. Verify that this now boots without help from the floppy.
  • Make a folder called MSDOS and copy everything from the boot floppy into it.
  • Move autoexec.bat and config.sys up to the root directory.
  • The MS-DOS editor

    Edit autoexec.bat to turn on command line editing and UK keyboard (“doskey /insert” and “keyb uk” respectively). Also add “mouse” to load a mouse driver. This makes it easier to use the editor (“edit”).

  • Edit autoexec.bat and config.sys to add all the old memory tweaks to free up space usable by DOS programs. Remember “640KB is enough for anybody”. Right…

That provides a working, but very minimal even by DOS standards, DOS install. To get the rest of DOS you would have to use the “expand” command to unpack each of the other DOS programs and put them in C:\MSDOS. I got bored with that and moved on to Windows 3.11.

Windows 3.11 for Workgroups

Installing Windows 3.11

I have a rather unusual, but perfectly legitimate, copy of Windows 3.11 supplied on CDROM. Installing Windows 3.11 into the MSDOS install was easy enough, even though much of MSDOS was missing. I just ran setup from the CDROM with Windows 3.11 on it and went through without selecting any extras.

There are no VMWare tools for Windows 3.11 and the screen resolution is locked to VGA. There is a nice package containing DOSIDLE and network drivers for it on Tony’s VMWare Site. I downloaded that, unpacked the ZIP. Renamed all the folders to be FAT 16 compatible. Added the Y2K fix for the file manager and an old version of Opera (Netscape’s FTP site seems to be long dead). The easiest way to get it all into the VM was by making an ISO and mounting it as the VM’s CDROM. Making an ISO using CDBurnerXP was painless. Installing the network required a bit of switching back and forth between the real CDROM (with Windows 3.11 on it) and the ISO. Fortunately VMWare is good at this stuff.

Opera 3 in Windows 3.11

Amazingly it all worked and surfing was just about possible in Opera. Installing DOSIDLE was of limited use though. It cut the CPU load in MSDOS quite well but Windows 3.11 went to full CPU after I installed TCP/IP and Microsoft Networking. Presumably running the network protocol in the background prevents it idling.


Installing DR-DOS

I gave in and bought my self a USB floppy disk drive so now I can install from floppies. The first thing I installed was DR-DOS 6.0. This is a version of DOS made by Digital Research which evolved out of CP/M. Its copyright message dates back to 1976! DR-DOS was later sold by Novel but then passed into the hands of various idiots and chancers (including Caldera, who later became SCO) who semi-open sourced it, closed sourced it again (huh?), sued Microsoft and then got in a fight with FreeDOS over copyrights, which they lost. It is a sad end for a venerable old line of code.


Installing DR-DOS 6.0 is simple enough. The only catch is that you need to disconnect and reconnect the floppy from the VM each time you change the disk to make it notice the change. DR-DOS comes with a GUI called ViewMAX which is clearly a cut down version of GEM where you can’t reposition the Windows. It also has a multitasking system called TaskMAX which enables you to switch between concurrent DOS processes. It also has a Netware client in there somewhere, although I can’t find anything at all on networking in the manual.

OS/2 Warp (unsuccessful)

Installation starts OK

The next thing I tried was OS/2 Warp V3. OS/2 was to be IBM and Microsoft’s combined step up from DOS. Windows was never meant to be more than a GUI for DOS, and maybe OS/2. IBM and Microsoft fell out. IBM continued with OS/2 while Microsoft’s gradually turned Windows into the Windows 95 line of OSes and the prototype for OS/2 NT eventually became Windows NT.

This is as far as it gets

I bought OS/2, back in 1994. I got it cheap from a colleague with IBM connections. It came on 38 floppies! It was actually my main OS from 1994 to about 1998, when I moved to Linux. I would have loved to get OS/2 running in VMWare but sadly it was not to be. OS/2 is notoriously hard to virtualise as it runs in rings 0, 2 and 3, whereas most OSes only run in rings 0 and 3. I made several attempts to install OS/2 using the generic “other” type of VM. All hanged at the second floppy disk. I tried smaller hard drives and using virtual SCSI instead of IDE devices. All was futile.

Ah. That will be the problem.

There is a dedicated “os2” type of VM, which you can only make by manually editing the VM config files as it is not officially supported in VMWare. This refused even to start, giving an error message saying that OS/2 requires full virtualisation and that my CPU does not support this. Up until then, I had no idea I was running VMWare in a half-arsed way. It makes the success of all the OSes above rather more impressive. I hope to revisit OS/2 at some point in the future. Maybe in Bochs, which is a 386 emulator, rather than a virtualisation system. If not, maybe on a new PC with virtualisation support in its CPU at some time in the future.

[Note: The screenshots are all mine but some of the logos and icons are no doubt various vendors copyrights or trade marks. Windows, Opera, OS/2 and VMWare are doubtless registered trademarks of their respective owners.]


April 25, 2010. IT, Sensible, Silly, Virtualisation.

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