I'm trying to install IBM PC DOS 4.0 onto a VMWare virtual machine. The machine keeps rebooting, gets to a blank cursor, then reboots again.

I've booted a Windows 98 boot disk just fine so it's not the drive. I then fdisked the drive, so I know it's not a partition problem

I got the installation disks today from a brand new, sealed box so I don't think there's anything wrong with the disks

Is there some sort of setting that I need to change in the BIOS that enables me to boot a PC DOS 4.0 installation disk?

I'm trying to get PC DOS 4.0 installed as a prerequisite for Windows 3.0. I work for an IP law firm that needs a version of Office running on a system that's running similar to how it would be running prior to 1991 for prior art. I'm not sure if FreeDOS would work for something like this

  • 3
    Which DOS 4.0? PC-DOS 4? MS-DOS 4? Concurrent DOS 4? One of the OEM-branded versions of MS-DOS 4 that one could get, such as Compaq DOS 4 or Tandon DOS 4? They're all different. Name your operating system, and tag your question, properly. – JdeBP Dec 10 '11 at 12:14
  • sorry, it's IBM DOS 4.0 – blsub6 Dec 12 '11 at 2:40
  • @Dennis, why? Existing [dos] tag is perfect. Disk Operating System is OS which System/360 ran. – user539484 Jun 10 '12 at 1:32
  • @user539484: DOS is just an acronym for "Disk Operating System", and PC-DOS is part of the "Disk Operating System" family. The problem with [dos] is that DoS is an acronym for "denial-of-service", so the DOS tag is ambiguous. – Dennis Jun 10 '12 at 1:42
  • @Dennis, i dont think what DoS (network attack and more likely a serverfault subject) prevails over DOS (operating system and source of various suoeruser problems). – user539484 Jun 10 '12 at 2:08

There could be a problem with the disks, floppy disks can loose their magnetic charge over time.

As per your update here is my new recommended list of options in order of recommendation:

  1. FreeDos is compatible with windows versions 1.0 to 3.xx
  2. Try changing the configuration of your VM.
  3. DosBox will run Windows 3.1 inside of it, it does not mention 3.0 so it may or may not work.
  4. Try to find another copy of DOS.
  5. Buy a disc recovery utility that works with floppies.

Without more details of what your final goal is (are you just trying to play old DOS games or is there a specific reason you need DOS 4.0?) these are some generic suggestions.

  1. Use a DOS emulator if it suites your needs, DosBox is very compatible with lots of software, you can even run windows 3.1 (and I think even 98 but I have never tested it) inside of it.
  2. Use a DOS compatible alternative like FreeDOS if it suits your needs (again without details of what you are trying to do I don't know if this will be helpful)
  3. Try to find another set of DOS disks.
  4. If you already own it, as I would not recommend spending this much money to get DOS working, SpinRite works on floppy disks too, quite well in fact. I brought old floppy disk games back from the dead after using it.

If you post more details in your original question I may be able to give you more suggestions or tell you which of the existing suggestion will work best for you.


Make sure when you create the VM that:

  • the hard disk is under 8GBytes (should really be under 2Gbytes - DOS does not recognize partitions past 2Gbytes)
  • remove all virtual USB controllers, sound cards, and SCSI devices.
  • make sure the first hard disk is connected via a virtual IDE adapter.
  • make sure the CD ROM is connected via a virtual IDE adapter.
  • no more than a combination of 4 virtual hard drives/CD-ROMs.
  • no more than 2 virtual floppies.
  • the RAM is set at something low like 16MB or 32MB.
  • no network adapters.
  • no printers.
  • no more than 4 virtual serial ports and 3 virtual paralell ports.

I'd simplify it as much as possible during initial install and create 2Gbyte virtual IDE hard disk, an IDE CD-ROM, 16MB of RAM, and nothing else. You can add other stuff later.

This would create as close to a DOS-era machine as possible.

Even if your disks are pristine, if they are floppies, the trouble might be with your 10-20 year old drive.

I don't know how well VMWare's BIOS performs the legacy BIOS functions that DOS relies on to function. You may have better luck with a true "x86 emulator" rather than virtualization platform, such as Bochs or QEMU.

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