Monday, February 2, 2015

Useful Software for Running Windows 3.1x in Virtual PC

Several months back, I decided to try out old versions of Windows. I've finally finished playing around with both Windows 3.1 and Windows for Workgroups 3.11, both running on top of MS-DOS 6.22. You can use any PC virtualization software or even an old PC, but I decided to choose Microsoft Virtual PC 2007 (download it here) (This will probably work better in Virtual PC 2004 since it also includes Virtual Machine Additions for DOS, which the 2007 version does not. If you do decide to use the later version, read this blog entry to learn how to gain the missing functionality).

I won't be covering the installation of DOS or Windows here since that's already on numerous websites elsewhere. I can tell you that I do have the floppy disks to MS-DOS 6.22 and Windows 3.1. However, I couldn't boot from DOS disk 1 and I'm missing disk 6 (of 7) from the Windows set, so if you don't have the disks, just download the appropriate disk images off the Internet, which you can "insert" into your virtual machine.

I chose Virtual PC mainly because I had heard of it several years ago and finally chose to try it out now. Sure there's VMware and VirtualBox, but Virtual PC is a Microsoft product, so I thought it should run Windows best (I haven't tried the others out yet, so I'm not sure about that statement). One advantage of using Virtual PC is that it emulates real life hardware such as the video card, which is the S3 Trio 64 PCI, unlike VirtualBox's custom VESA system. However, Virtual PC also lacks some flexibility and features, such as USB redirection (into the virtual machine) and network cards; Virtual PC is limited to the DEC/Intel 21140 card, while VirtualBox allows the user to select from such cards as the popular AMD PCNet and Intel PRO series. Anyway, here are links to the drivers for the hardware that Virtual PC emulates:
In order to use the goodies you just downloaded, you should have set up the Virtual Machine Additions and configured folder sharing (I recommend sharing the downloads folder). Don't forget to unzip them first if needed! Here's a great article to help you set up Windows for Workgroups 3.11.  There's also a step-by-step walkthrough of the installation process (you can use it for the video and sound driver installations in Windows 3.1 as the process is almost identical). There's another blog post that details installation of the network drivers and Internet Explorer 5.01 (the best browser to install for Windows 3.1x; don't forget to grab the 128-bit encryption upgrade!). However, for networking to work, I had to set up just one network adapter to the real one I use to connect to the Internet since shared networking wouldn't work. Doing so would knock my current version of Windows off the Internet, so when I was done going online in Windows for Workgroups, I had to open up an MS-DOS prompt and type the command ipconfig /release. To reconnect, I'd type ipconfig /renew (this technically controls whether or not the network card has an IP address or not).

Setting up the network in Windows 3.1 is harder. Luckily, Trumpet Winsock's help file provides the instructions you'll need. Keep in mind that the packet driver is named DC.COM. All you need to type for the packet driver is the path to DC.COM and vector 0x60, i.e.
c:\trumpet\dc21x4\ 0x60

Also, Trumpet Winsock is shareware, so it'll taunt you with a nag screen and a software time bomb. You can defuse it by using any of a handful of registration keys that some kind folks have posted on the Internet.

You may run across some programs that require you to install an additional program called Win32s in order to run. This software package adds some 32-bit functionality to the 16-bit Windows 3.1x series. The latest version is 1.30c, which you can download for free from Microsoft's FTP site. However, version 1.30 doesn't behave with Windows for Workgroups, so for those versions, you'll have to use version 1.25 instead. This means that some later versions of programs will not be able to run.

Also, you may encounter some programs (such as Netscape) that will cause Windows to crash and burn when try to start them (in Windows for Workgroups, that may be a sign that Win32s version 1.30 is installed). This may be because they are trying to access floating point unit (FPU) functions. The WINFLOAT package provides a program called HIDE87 that solves that problem by hiding the presence of the FPU. To reverse it, you run its opposite, SHOW87. You can download WINFLOAT here.

One more useful bundle of software is the Windows 3.1 Resource Kit. It includes a System Resource Monitor so you can see how much RAM and system resources you have remaining, which is great if you run programs that consume a lot of those, resulting in frequent "Insufficient memory" errors. You also get a network utility and a virtual desktop manager called TopDesk, years before that feature became popular. The Resource Kit can be obtained from Microsoft's FTP site.

There are many sites out there that host Windows 3.1 software, so you can continue to experience what computing was like back in the early to mid-'90s.

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