I've been tasked with creating a VM with Windows 3.0 and Office 3.0 on it. I have the install disks for Windows and Office but not for DOS. Do I need to have DOS installed first to install Windows 3.1?

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    ...so is it Windows 3.0 or 3.1? (Or even 3.11?) – user1686 Nov 9 '11 at 0:07
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    RECOMMENDATION: It is highly recommended that you upgrade to Windows 3.11 (a.k.a., "Windows for Workgroups"). – Randolf Richardson Nov 9 '11 at 0:07
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    Glad to see nothing has changed since I went into a coma in 1994. Are the Oilers still in Houston? – Patrick Seymour Nov 9 '11 at 0:36
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    I'm curious - why would someone need to run a win 3.x system, and whether the need for 3.0 is related to running real mode applications – Journeyman Geek Nov 9 '11 at 0:58
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    Law firm that is looking for prior art – blsub6 Nov 11 '11 at 22:44

Windows up till before windows 95 is an operating environment - it runs on top of dos of some flavour (95 and 98 ran with dos, but once they were started, they took over a lot of functionality, and were much closer to a proper operating system. Unlike windows 3.x they were closely coupled to specific versions of dos, so no one ever thinks about it.).

You can run windows 3.x with pretty much any version of dos (except DR dos, iirc - windows actually checked for, and refused to run on it) - supposedly even freedos - see the bottom, dosbox or the ms dos start up floppy disks you can create from windows i believe. You can presumably also get access to dos with a technet subscription, assuming you need a licenced copy.

  • Windows checked for PC DOS and refused to run? I know the story about Windows development versions checking for DR-DOS (and why it was necessary to check), but I never heard about a PC DOS check. Wasn't PC DOS pretty much identical to MS-DOS until version 6? – Andrew J. Brehm Jan 24 '12 at 10:46
  • Apparently my memory was faulty - it was indeed dr dos en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_3.1x#DR-DOS_compatibility. Editing my answer to reflect this – Journeyman Geek Jan 24 '12 at 11:39
  • You didn’t answer the question. Do you have to install DOS or not? – Synetech Sep 1 '12 at 22:00
  • Oh, I did. You need dos, but not necessarily the microsoft variant of it - and listed alternatives. – Journeyman Geek Sep 2 '12 at 0:09

Windows 3.0 requires DOS to be installed as it's only an user interface or system extension, depending on point of view.

You will not require DOS 6.22, DOS 3.1 is fine, too.

  • I had Windows 3.11 running under MS-DOS 7 once (MS-DOS 7 was included with Windows 95). – Randolf Richardson Nov 9 '11 at 0:09
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    it would run under dos 8 too. – Journeyman Geek Nov 9 '11 at 0:31
  • @Jens, wouldn’t installing it on an older version of DOS impose limitations for any part of Windows that uses DOS? For example, if Windows uses DOS to perform some function and that function was updated from 3 to 6, then wouldn’t running Windows on DOS 3 be inherently less desirable than running it on DOS 6? – Synetech Sep 1 '12 at 22:02
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    @JourneymanGeek, DOS 8? The last version I saw was 7.2 (or something like that; basically the version that came with—and was hidden in—Windows ME). – Synetech Sep 1 '12 at 22:03
  • Its the version that came with windows ME, and on the bootable dos disks generated by XP iirc. – Journeyman Geek Sep 2 '12 at 0:05

Yes you do as Windows 3.1 is an application that runs under DOS

  • Really? Windows doesn’t include it’s own copy of the DOS files it relies on? (I’ll have to pull out my old Windows disk and play around to refresh my memory…) – Synetech Sep 1 '12 at 22:04
  • @Synetech even if Windows did bring in some system files to replace DOS ones (I don't think it does), Windows 3.1 is not something you can boot. You boot dos, then run Windows. – Paul Sep 2 '12 at 7:06
  • Yes, but it should/could easily have been designed to include the necessary system and boot files. But then I guess calling it a DOS application makes it clear why they didn’t (plus they wanted to keep selling DOS itself). – Synetech Sep 4 '12 at 0:35
  • @Synetech They didn't call it a DOS application, it just was one. The reasons for not integrating the boot and system stuff into Windows 1.x 2.x or 3.x were significant and many. This was resolved with Windows 95 and Office when the Windows operating environment had enough traction to stand on its own. Prior to this there were many legacy applications unable to run effectively inside windows. – Paul Sep 4 '12 at 1:35
  • I didn’t say they called it a DOS application. You called it one and looking at it in those terms makes sense. (I’m starting to feel nostalgic and getting the urge to pull out my copies of Inside Windows 95 and Inside Windows NT.) – Synetech Sep 4 '12 at 1:59

Not necessarily. You could install OS/2 and run Windows 3.0 from it's DOS box.

  • Why is it like that? – Simon Sheehan Nov 9 '11 at 23:52
  • Running an obscure, obsolete OS from an even more obscure obsolete OS? makes sense though - since OS/2 is the bizzaro world NT, where dos never went obsolete. – Journeyman Geek Nov 10 '11 at 0:31
  • For those who remember the day, seeing Windows boot up in an OS/2 DOS box was amazing. I'm sure that it inspired the creators of VMWare as few people knew at that time that it was possible to virtualise the OS on an Intel processor. – Stuart Woodward Nov 10 '11 at 15:07

Windows 3.11 for Workgroups is your best choice, if available.

Yes, install MS-DOS [6.22] first, as it is required.

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