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Where can I obtain electronic copies of these classic games?

The beauty of digital distribution is it allows a direct link between publishers and consumers, without the associated costs of sitting on a store shelf.  Not only are prices insanely cheap if you keep a watchful eye on promotions, but these digital releases are generally compatible with current operating systems.  Selections may vary between the various online services, but this is the easiest way to get into classic gaming.  Some of the more common vendors are Steam, GOG, and Amazon.

Where can I obtain games which have not had a digital release?

If you are stuck looking for a hard copy of a game, the best places to turn are EBay and the Amazon Marketplace.  Unless the title is extremely rare and has a cult following, prices are fairly inexpensive.  Make sure to do your homework though, before making a purchase.  If the game you are interested in predates CD keys and authentication codes, you may as well look at used offerings first since that will save you some cash. 

How do I make this old Windows game run on my new Windows operating system?

The newer versions of Windows have some nice compatibility features, which generally allow older Windows games to run without issue.  To enable these, navigate to the directory where you installed the game and look for the executable file (these file types will generally have “.exe” as the extension and “Application” as the descriptor).  You want to right-click the file, select “Properties”, and navigate to the “Compatibility” tab that is presented.  From there, you want to check the boxes that say “Run this program as an administrator” and “Run this program in compatibility mode for:” before selecting the old Windows system your game was designed to run in. 

My old Windows game runs now, but how do I fix the crazy colors?

Some older games can run fine in newer versions of Windows, but they have graphical conflicts with Windows Explorer (the graphical user interface you use to interact with your PC).  Fortunately, many of these issues go away if you temporarily disable Windows Explorer.  To do this, press Control, Alt, and Delete at the same time and select “Start Task Manager” when prompted.  Then go to the “Processes” tab and highlight “explorer.exe” before hitting the “End Process” button.  

Now that Windows Explorer is turned off, go to “File” and click “New Task (Run…)” to begin the process of starting your game.  Click the “Browse…” button, navigate to the location of your game’s executable file, then select “Open” button before hitting “OK”.  Your game should now launch without incident. 

When you are finished gaming, repeat the process above to launch a program from the Task Manager.  This time though, simply type “explorer.exe” (make sure to include the quotations) instead of browsing for an executable.  Click “OK” and Windows will turn Explorer back on for your use.

What is keeping this old Windows game from installing or running, even with compatibility settings turned on?

Generally this problem arises because of the bit size of modern operating systems.  Most old games are 32-bit, which work fine on many of today’s 64-bit systems.  Unfortunately, some games come packaged with a 16-bit installer or DRM (security) package, which are incompatible with 64-bit systems.  This means even though your computer can technically run the program, you cannot access it. 

The best workaround to this is to seek out a digital copy of the game in question.  Services like GOG build their own installers and pride themselves on removing DRM from the software they sell, which ultimately means the game will play without issue on new systems.  If the title you are interested in is only available on physical media, your options are more limited.  My solution is to keep a separate hard drive in my system, with a 32-bit copy of Windows XP installed on it.   Then, when I want to run one of these problematic games, I can simply boot off of that other drive until I am done with my gaming session.

How do I play games that require DOS to run?

DOSBox is the solution to your problem here.  Although it requires some knowledge of DOS commands to run (given the name, that should not come as a surprise), it is an excellent emulator that will get you gaming in no time.

How do I use DOSBox?

The myriad of forums out there should have answers to nearly all of your questions.  To get you started though, some basic command lines and their functions will be laid below:

mount c e:\games\

The “mount” command tells DOSBox how to use your system drives.  In this example, I keep all of my game installs on the E:\ drive in a subdirectory named Games.  By including the “c” between mount and the directory where my games are located, I am telling DOSBox to read my game directory as the emulator’s C:\ (system) drive.

mount d g:\ -t cdrom ioctl_dx

Here is another mount command.  In this instance though, I am telling DOSBox to use my computer’s Blu-Ray drive (G:\) as the emulator’s CD drive (D:\).  The additional text instructs DOSBox to use this as a media drive instead of as a hard drive.

c:

Simply typing the emulator’s drive letter and a colon will make DOSBox look at the designated drive.  In this example, we are telling DOSBox to look at the C:\ drive that we have mounted.

cd Rayman

Once you are within the drive you want, typing “cd” and the name of a subfolder will move you to that subfolder (cd stands for change directory).  I have an install directory for Rayman at E:\Games\Rayman.  My game directory has already been mounted as the DOSBox C:\ drive in the examples above.  Now, we are simply navigating to that Rayman folder.

From there, you just need to type the name of the executable file you want to use.  For launching a game, this is the application file located within the game directory.  For installing a game, this will be the setup file located on your disk.

How do I fix bad sound in DOSBox?

This is a tricky one, and is a result of modern media drives being much faster than the CD drives of old.  As an example, if I were to try to play Rayman in DOSBox off of a CD, my drive would read it much faster than it is supposed to, stop spinning, and then start spinning again when it needs to read the next portion of the disk.  This creates an intermittent hiccup in the music.

To bypass this, we need to create a virtual disk for Rayman to run off of.  PowerISO is my program of choice for this type of thing, because it allows you to create and run images of multimedia disks.  Once you have created your disk image and mounted it to your PC’s new virtual drive, you will mount that virtual drive in DOSBox as the emulator’s D:\ drive.  Since the music will no longer be read from a physical disk, there is no mechanical spinning process to create these sound hiccups.