How to play abandonware games
New to abandonware? Start with this guide to play DOS games on Windows 7 or 8, or on your Mac. Most games works fine with fine tunning, but some are very hard to install properly.
Why is this not working?
Most abandonware games on PC were created for the MS-DOS operating system. Today's computers no longer offer the same environment for the programs. Hopefully, some people were unhappy with that and created free software to mimic the old computers operating system!
What program should I use?
Depending of you operating system, you have different options.
For every operating system
DOSBox is the master DOS emulator, it works with almost every OS, and will be enough for a quick play of most games. Check the DOSBox website for more information
Windows (XP, Vista, Seven, 8)
Most people are using Microsoft's Windows and an easy solution is available : D-fend Reloaded. With a graphical interface, a lot of things are done for you behind the scene
Mac OS X
Boxer is clearly the best DOSBox frontend on Mac, I use it everyday.
On Linux, you should use one of the cross-platform frontends like DGBL. Check the complete list on the DOSBox wiki
I need help this is not working!
DOSBox drag and drop (Windows)
Many of the standard DOS games can be played immediately with a drag and drop, after a standard DOSBox setup :
- download the game archive and unzip it ;
- drag and drop the game folder on the desktop icon of DOSBox ;
- the game folder will be mounted as C:\ just choose the right .exe file ;
- tips : use DIR command in DOSBox to list game files, and use the TAB key to autocomplete the .exe file name.
If you don't have the DOSBox shortcut on your desktop, the drag and drop works on the DOSBox executable file located in C:\Program Files\DOSBox-0.xx\.
D-Fend Reloaded Setup
As a start, download the latest setup of D-Fend.
Once installed, you shall follow the following steps (click on the pictures for full size). Screenshots taken in Windows 8.1, may 2014.
Starting with a fresh D-Fend install, you should see this screen after launching the program. You can already launch DOSDox DOS to bring an operational MS-DOS system. Guess you want to play a GAME, so not much to do here.
First, unzip the downloaded game somewhere. Then click on Extras > Open game folder... This is where you will put the game files.
The game folder is the virtual drive used by the default D-Fend setup. For this tutorial, I unzipped the Sid Meier's Civilization in the Downloads folder, then moved the game folder to the VirtualHD of D-Fend. The name of the folder itself is not important, but you should avoid spaces or special characters.
Now that the game files are on the virtual drive, we must add the game to D-Fend. Click on Add > Add manually... > Add DOSBox Profile. A new window will appear, as shown on the screenshot, the "Profile editor". We must set the program file by clicking on the folder icon at the right end of "Program file".
The explorer will show you the contents of the virtual drive. Navigate through the game folder until you see program files. Some game only have one file listed here, Civilization has several, usually the right file to select is named after the game. This time, it's "CIV", select the file and click Open.
Coming back to the Profile editor, we can see the executable file in the Program file field. The last thing to do is setting the name of the game in the Profile name field. Once this is done, click on Ok. The game appears in the list, double click to run it and have fun!
D-Fend Reloaded Wizard
You may also use the game wizard in D-Fend Reloaded, it's simpler to add a game.
After downloading and unzipping the game files somewhere, launch D-Fend, click Add > Add with wizard... A (wild) window appears, "Create new profile", Emulation type should be set to DOSBox. Click on Next.
Clic on the folder on the right side on the "Program to be starded". Navigate in your folders to the game folder and find the proper executable file (see Step 5 in the other tutorial). Click on Open.
D-Fend will auto detect the game sometimes, you may also select one in the list as shown on the screenshot. By clicking Next, you get some additional information on the game, anyway you can click Ok, the game will listed in the main windows and ready to be played!
Additional steps and troubleshooting
Amongst different problems we have run into, here are some additional tips.
Games running too fast or too slow
Many old games were made to run as fast as the computer could get, those may be too fast with DOSBox default CPU cycles. You have to reduce the CPU cycles with CTRL-F11 in DOSBox. Other frontend programs may use different shortcuts.
On the opposite, the default CPU cycles may be too low for "recent" DOS games, you will have to rise the CPU cycles with CTRL-F12 in Dosbox. Other frontend programs may use different shortcuts. You can also skip frames in DOSBox to get better performances, use CTRL-F8 to increase the number of frames skipped. You can read more about performances in DOSBox on the official wiki.
You all remember the setup.exe for having sound, better graphics or even mouse support. You should add the setup program to the Setup section below the Program section and launch it before playing the game.
DOSBox can emulate several sound cards, check out the wiki about sound setup.
Some games require you to emulate a floppy drive and have the game content mounted in it. To add this floppy drive, edit the game profile, click on Drives and add a new drive. You may use a folder or a real floppy image (.img) for the floppy content. Same goes for CD games.
We have some PC-Booter games, theses games have to be booted to work. DOSBox can handle this fine, but these steps are not so clear.
Chuck Cartia gave us a nice walkthrough, using SpitFire Ace as an example:
1 - Create a folder to put your .img files in, for this example, on the C:\ drive make a folder named DriveImg.
2 - Now put the file spitfire.img in this folder. Add a line to the dosbox.conf file in the [autoexec] section:
boot c:\DriveImg\spitfire.img -l a
That's dash ell (for letter) and the drive letter you want to assign.
3 - Make sure you have any other references to this drive letter remmed out with the # like this:
#mount a a:\ -t floppy
#mount a s:\install.
4 - That's it... Save the dosbx.conf file and when you start DOSBOX, the game should boot and start automatically just like the good old days when you shoved the disk in and turned on the (Atari) computer.
After reading this, the explanation in the DOSBOX readme.txt file should make sense and you can figure out how to add more drives for multiple disk games.
Note: You don't need to use the IMGMOUNT command when you use the BOOT command. Don't forget to rem out the boot line and unrem your other line(s) when you want to use DOSBOX normally.
Some games have memory problems at startup, like error message telling you "Not enough memory". You should try several combinations of options in the "Memory" part of the profile, enabling loadfix first.
Windows 3.1 Games
Windows 95 Games
As we continue to release more and more recent games on My Abandonware, some games we publish were made for Windows 95. Many of these won't run on recent Windows versions, but you can install Win 95 in DOSBox. The procedure is a bit complicated, hopefully dada_ and some folks over Vogons and #dosbox@freenode set up a guide to do this, check it out in the Google doc.
Windows 98 Games
Some of the earlier abandonware games were made for Windows 98. You can still get Win 98 working on your computer using VirtualBox. You will find a guide to the installation here, then a second guide to setup properly Windows. You should read BOTH of them before installing Windows 98.
About 1000 Mac games are available on MyAbandonware, from 1980 to 2005. You will need one of these softwares to play them :
- SheepShaver : games from mid 90s to 2005 (MacOS 8.1 to 9.0.4), follow the download links to the precompiled binaries, made available on E-Maculation forums ;
- Basilisk II : games from 1991 to 1996 (MacOS 7 to 8.1), follow the download links to the precompiled binaries, made available on E-Maculation forums ;
- Mini vMac : games from the 80s, although some games were still made for the emulated Mac in th early 90s.
Many old games will work fine in a SheepShaver or Basilisk II, you should only install and configure one emulator first and to run the game in it.
Complete guides for Mac emulation
Making Mac games work is quite complicated compared to DOS games. You'll have to find a Mac computer ROM to emulate a Mac computer. These ROM files are quite annoying to get, you can extract one from a working Mac, or get some one for vMac here, or several one with this guide at Redundant Robot. You should then follow these guides :
- SheepShaver : setup guide on Windows, Mac or Linux ;
- Basilisk II : setup guide on Windows, Mac or Linux ;
- Mini vMac : setup guide on Windows.
Mac emulation is more complicated than DOS emulation, but the E-Maculation community is very helful, with tons of guides and tutorials in english. You should also read this page from Macintosh Garden.