I've got an old DOS (read: abandonware) machine running my old DOS games (as referenced here). I'm finding that over time, my floppies are starting to die and become completely unreadable.

So recently i've been finding abandonware binaries of games i currently own and have downloaded them to my Vista box.

Vista machine has no floppy drives but has a CD/DVD-R. Vista machine has no serial or parallel ports. DOS machine has floppy drives but no CD/DVD drive. (it does have a 100mb HDD though) Amazingly, both machines have USB and ethernet. DOS machine has some ancient 3Com 10BT card.

I can't seem to figure out how to get FTP much less a TCP/IP stack up and running on the DOS machine, and no forms of USB storage have been readable on both machines.

Whats the best way to get these binaries over to the DOS machine?

(I know this is starting to sound like that age old question of how to move the fox, baby, and bag of grain across the river on a boat that only seats two)

  • 3
    No spare CD-ROM drive? Post details on your DOS ethernet card. BTW, I don't think babies eat bags of grain.
    – hyperslug
    Commented Jul 28, 2009 at 17:04
  • A very hungry baby, maybe?
    – Joey
    Commented Jul 28, 2009 at 17:41

14 Answers 14


For a permanent solution your best bet is getting the NIC working. You'll need DOS drivers for the NIC. Check 3com's website to see if they still have them for your model.

If you're connecting directly to your Vista machine, you'll need a crossover cable (pins 1,2,4 and 6 are swapped). You can buy one or make one. If your using a hub or switch, a standard cat5 cable will do.

The various ways of adding networking to a DOS machine are too numerous to discuss here but here are a few links that will get you started:




If you succeed in getting TCP/IP running you'll have the benefit of being able to run a TUI web browser such as Lynx so you can download files directly to your DOS machine.

  • 1
    Isn't it a chicken and egg case? You need the DOS drives on the machine that has no access. So how do you get them there?
    – WireGuy
    Commented Jul 28, 2009 at 18:41
  • He said his floppies are wearing out. He didn't say his floppy drive was broken. Commented Jul 28, 2009 at 18:49

If you want to keep that DOS machine going indefinitely, this might be a good thing to have:

alt text

You can buy it here: Tiger Direct - ($19.99) Sabrent 1.44MB External USB 2X Floppy Disk Drive

...and hook it up to your Vista system (or any other system, too).

Then you can create new floppies, move files back and forth easily, keep backups (on your Vista system), and get more DOS files/games from the Internet (via your Vista system).


If this is a one-time need (i.e. you do not add games ofter), then the easiest way may be to remove the hard drive from the dos box and attach it to your Vista machine via a USB adapter (assuming your Vista machine does not have a free IDE connector). Dump the files down the line then return it to your Dos machine.

Be careful not to format the drive when Vista sees it for the first time.

  • You could do this any number of times - it's just potentially awkward. Though doing it every 6 months needn't be a chore.
    – ChrisF
    Commented Jul 28, 2009 at 17:25
  • Transferring the drive seems to make sense. You could also visit support.3com.com/infodeli/tools/nic/3c509b/docs/ugb/index.htm and see if you can grab some files to get the nic working
    – WireGuy
    Commented Jul 28, 2009 at 17:38

One way of moving files to old machines that I have found useful is to use ZModem. It's not just for dialup connections. If you setup a RS-232 cable from a reasonably new computer, you can use HyperTerminal on Windows to send files by ZModem or similar serial transfer protocol to the old computer, which can surely run Minicom. The only problem is getting minicom to the computer - you'll still have to do that via floppys.

If your newer computer doesn't have a serial port, you can find one (we use these ones) pretty cheap.

  • I forgot to add. Vista machine has NO serial ports
    – NoCarrier
    Commented Jul 28, 2009 at 17:05
  • 1
    edited to add usb to serial which I have used and works well with hyperterminal
    – jamuraa
    Commented Jul 28, 2009 at 17:07
  • From following that link it looks like Minicom is a unix/linux program. Wouldn't a DOS version be needed? Recommend one?
    – Will M
    Commented Jul 28, 2009 at 22:38

If your machine is a 386 or better a 486 with 4MB RAM or more, you should be able to boot it with a very small Linux distro on floppies like Tom's rtbt which will allow you to do some basic networking (FTP) and will recognize your FAT hard drive.

Another option is to add networking to your DOS system. See this nice list on the FreeDOS website. BTW you could give a try to FreeDOS, it has some newer and better features than the old DOS (command line completion, some support for USB drives, etc).


Wouldn't the best idea be to run the games in a DOS emulator on your Windows machine? For example DOSBox.


  • 6
    There's nostalgic value playing on old hardware. I like booting into DOS. I like the blinky lights on the Roland MT-32 MIDI module. Call me crazy, but i also like when stuff doesn't load instantly.
    – NoCarrier
    Commented Jul 28, 2009 at 17:08
  • @NoCarrier "but i also like when stuff doesn't load instantly" yeah, no rush in the toilet. Old Wordperfect rocked
    – barlop
    Commented Oct 8, 2011 at 5:11
  • @NoCarrier Indeed. People either "get" the retro experience, or they don't, and constantly ask "why would you want to do that?" Emulators have their place, they're great for assembling disk images for use on real, retro hardware :).
    – Bogatyr
    Commented Feb 16 at 6:05

Here's a collection of solutions by weight I prefer:

  1. Format your USB sticks as FAT16 and turn on the legacy USB mode in your BIOS (if it exists) to present these as drive letters when you boot. Then DOS can read them.
  2. Create a bootable USB disk for a small version of linux or NetBSD with no X11. This will likely support your network interface card AND be able to mount your DOS drive. You can then periodically ftp, or SMB over files you want. This does require a reboot every so often.
  3. Use a cross over serial cable and an X Y or Z-Modem program like dsz or fdsz from the BBS days. Or with a terminal program that supports these, there were so many. I used Qmodem, which may still not be free.
  4. Get the DOS drivers for the NIC and use it with a program like Arachne.
  5. Ditch DOS in favor of FreeDOS or DR-DOS. But you're basically still doing the above, except that you might get better NIC and USB support.
  6. EMULATE. DosBox is so much easier to work with than a PC AT.
  7. Periodically move the drive. This is much easier if you just use the drive in USB mode and set your BIOS to support USB drives in legacy mode. Otherwise it's very annoying to have to open stuff and remove the 40 pin IDE and 4 pin power molex.
  8. Get a super new-fangled bios, or install grub. NetBoot this machine off of a tftp server that hosts a mini-linux system that only runs dosBox or freeDOS with drives mapped to an nfs server. Now any time you turn off your dos machine you can mount and work with the image file and other files on your main machine or server. This is actually a lot of work, but you'll feel like some kind of DOS genius.

See if you have any connections in Vista box for the DOS hard drive. If not, you should be able to scavenge or get one really cheap.

Move the hard drive into your Vista box and move the files onto that drive. Then re-mount the drive back in your DOS box.


Simple, silly question, but are you sure those thumb drives are formatted with a DOS readable filesystem?

NTFS won't fly there. FAT32 won't fly on pre-6.22 DOS.

  • I thought all USB drives were FAT. (And they even have DOS drivers for reading NTFS, too)
    – hyperslug
    Commented Jul 28, 2009 at 18:13
  • Not all drives are FAT formatted, formatting can be whatever you like. And yes, there are DOS drivers for NTFS. And yet, there is a definitive difference between FAT16 and FAT32. If he's running vanilla DOS pre-6.22, then he won't be able to read NTFS or (modern)FAT32. Drivers exist and could be a solution. It might not solve his problem, but it is certainly one of those "gotchas" when dealing with file transfers and these types of systems. Especially the incompatibilities between FAT16 and FAT32 are easy to overlook.
    – Keck
    Commented Jul 28, 2009 at 18:39
  • hyperslug: Mine is NTFS, with even a second small partition. Most newer ones are FAT32 by default. Commented Jul 29, 2009 at 19:15

Does Vista have support for IPX? If yes, you could possibly use that over Ethernet.

*goes to look for the IPX stack in his archive*

These tools worked for me on Micros~1 Virtual PC, but I guess you will need to Google for a replacement of DC21X4...

(In case you're still going to try them, the load order is LSL; DC21X4 (or equivalent network card driver); IPXODI.)


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Just get a CD-ROM drive for the DOS box, $20 tops, probably right down the road. Burn a CD whenever you want to transfer, media's like 0.25 a piece.

You don't want to mess with the whole IPX network thing unless you're going to play Doom. Your time is worth more than $20.

  • And how exactly are you planning to get cdrom.sys to the DOS box? Commented Jul 29, 2009 at 19:16
  • An exact DOS bootable CD.
    – hyperslug
    Commented Jul 29, 2009 at 21:04
  • Check local classifieds like Kijiji or eBay classifieds and you are almost guaranteed to find someone selling old CD-ROM/DVD-ROM drives for next to nothing (<=$5), maybe even for free. In fact, post an ad yourself asking for one; unless you live in a small hamlet, you should have one in no time. And a pack of CD+RW discs can be had for cheap as well (again, try the classifieds). As for the driers, make/download a DOS boot disk/Bart's PE floppy, or use a Windows 95/98/ME CD. (Of course, this is inconvenient if you want to transfer files back and forth frequently, but for one-off's, it's fine.
    – Synetech
    Commented Jun 13, 2012 at 17:30

Did this once with DOS, get the Crynwyr packet drivers for your NIC, set them up and then get the KA9Q network operating system KA9Q NOS, or its modern variant JNOS to give DOS TCP/IP networking functions. While it was created for ham radio, it also works with network cards and allows you to have several different servers running, one of which is FTP. I used it with an ftp client on the Windows systems to transfer files back and forth pretty efficiently.

My vote is for the USB floppy drive for the Windows system. Works great and will allow you to create nice new fresh disks for the DOS system. It's what I've been using, and have actually used it as the A/B drive in both DOSBox and on Virtual PC virtual DOS machines as well.

  1. Connect to internet, see Network setup in DOS using Microsoft Network Client 3.0
  2. Install an FTP client for DOS
  3. Set up a hosting account you can download files to and from.
  4. Use the tools talked about above.

Could you use a removable USB storage device, colloquially known as a 'thumb' drive or a 'pen' drive?

  • they aren't readable in DOS 6.22.
    – NoCarrier
    Commented Jul 28, 2009 at 18:21
  • hmmm. I seem to recall differently. However, you might need a special driver, which then poses the question of how to get that to your box. One option would be to create a USB bootdisk, load up your system and copy the files over, update your config.sys, and you should be good to go.
    – akf
    Commented Jul 28, 2009 at 18:37
  • 1
    They're probably readable in FreeDOS though. FreeDOS works great, it's way better than DOS 6.22 and compatibility is excellent.
    – wazoox
    Commented Jul 28, 2009 at 21:08
  • NoCarrier: Many BIOSes have a "Legacy USB" option which, IIRC, presents USB removable storage as ordinary disk drives. Commented Jul 29, 2009 at 19:04
  • Pretty doubtful that his DOS machine has USB and therefore a "Legacy USB" option. Commented Oct 8, 2011 at 6:03

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