I have an old hard disc running MS-DOS and some very old programs for which I miss the installation discs.

Now I want to move the complete content of this hard disc to a VmWare hosted by Windows XP.

Is there a way to do this?

All that I've found by now is a VmWare image of FreeDos, but I don't know how to transfer the old system inside the FreeDos image.

  • VMware Cold boot converter 4.0 this works great. – BillA Mar 26 '14 at 18:50

Have you tried Dosbox yet? Might be a lot easier than fussing with VMWare. You should be able to just drop your non-system files in the C:\ you setup and be all set.

  • 2
    just copy the contents of the hard drive into a folder and mount this folder as C:\ in DOSBox, it's the easiest way. – Molly7244 Nov 16 '09 at 10:39

With MS-DOS, all you basically need is a boot-disk and the ability to copy files. It never really used very complex installations, although sometimes the MS-DOS startup files are altered by installation scripts. (autoexec.bat and config.sys) You should be able to just XCopy the application (except the MS-DOS system itself) and modify the startup to reflect the old situation and you should be done.

However, before you start using your old MS-DOS application with modern hardware, do be aware that old MS-DOS applications might not be able to handle current hardware any more. Modern CPU's are way too fast for most, the graphic cards support far more complex modes than they used to and best of all, hard disks have become huge, compared to what was common for MS-DOS.

In 1990 I had a pinball game for MS-DOS, which was real fast back then. In 2000 I played the same game a few times, although you couldn't really call it playing anymore. I would start the game and I'd immediately hear a beep telling me the game was over. But at least I did see the ball move over the screen. On my current system, I tried it again and this time I did not even see the ball any more. Still amazing that an application that old would still run after 20 years, but unfortunately it's one of the few that can handle modern hardware. Many other MS-DOS applications will refuse to run on my system, complaining that I have a negative amount of disk space or memory. (I have a 1 TB disk and 12 GB of RAM...) These applications were written in a time when 16-bits applications ruled the world and memory could be addressed by just 20 bits. Nowadays, they generate all kinds of overflows and underflows and some even make some invalid processor calls, that might make your (virtual) system crash over and over again.

While it's possible to run those old MS-DOS applications, it won't be easy.

  • 2
    SleighBoy solves the speed problem with Dosbox. – harrymc Nov 16 '09 at 9:34
  • there was a program called AT-SLOW and maybe others that could slow it down. – barlop Oct 18 '11 at 16:00

According to this page, MS-DOS is supported by VMWare (Workstation 6.5.3):

VMware Workstation supports the following formats:

In the current version, the following operating systems run in a virtual machine: Windows, Linux, MS-DOS, and FreeBSD.

So it looks like you can just install DOS inside the VM (by mounting an installation floppy/cdrom or an image thereof) and then transfer your files to the VM installation.

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