Running Win95 programs on Vista/Win7

Started Mar 26, 2014 | Questions thread
Chris Contributing Member • Posts: 945
Re: wine tricks, play on linux

The trouble with Win95/98/Me is that it is in fact a hybrid OS. There's bits that are handled by 16-bit realmode (like DOS), bits that are 16-bits protected mode (like Win 3.1) and then there's a 32bit part. At the time documentation on this was easy to get (I remember reading Andrew Shulman's book Unoffical Windows 95). This has a profound effect on how software reaches hardware. Loads of games of that day were actually DOS programs with a DOS extender, not clean windows API compliant stuff. NT4 + (which includes XP) have a much cleaner architecture, hence the increased stability, compared to Win95 it is like stepping into a tank from a tightrope). In fact initially NT was so strict, Microsoft came up with the DirectX trick to allow controlled high speed access to hardware. Also, from NT 3.51 to NT 4, MS moved the graphics drivers closer to the core, as a result, still, bad video drivers can destabilize the whole OS (anyone using ATI cards in the day will remember this, they didn't have a great rep)

Wine is simply a set of libraries that put a Windows API on top of Linux libraries, but this a pure 32 bits (or 64/32 bits) environment, so I would guess it would struggle with some software that was popular on Windows 95. Even when you run 95 programs on XP, it invokes a emulation process WOWEXEC, WOW here is short for Windows on Windows, not World of Warcraft. Anyway, it does a reasonable job, supporting some of the tricks in the config.sys, autoexec.bat, win.ini and system.ini, even then I ran into loads that didn't work properly.

The advantage of virtualisation is that it shows up as hardware, so you can handle more of the tricks.

If you have a pure 32 bit Win95 program, yes, WINE might work well, Winetricks is almost an essential extra. Even then, I've seen programs run much and much better on Virtualbox than on WINE, but as always, this is not a given, so why not try both? I have wine and virtualbox both installed, no problems whatsoever. Although virtualbox will also move to Windows 7/8 64bit, so once setup, it moves across platforms should you like that.

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