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Gaming/Virtual Box vs. Virtual PC


I use XP home and I want to try to get some games for Windows 95/98 working.  When I tried to install Virtual Box, I got warning messages saying not to install it.  Should I install Virtual PC instead?  Which one have you had success with?  Even if you haven't tried these to play old games I would appreciate any advice.

Scott S.

ANSWER: Neither would really be appropriate - virtualization software does not (generally) provide hardware acceleration, which will result in very poor performance and (in many cases) break the game altogether. Emulation of a high performance Windows 9x machine is also not currently a reality - it exists for DOS and some older game consoles, and that alone is usually demanding enough for modern computers.

Many Windows 9x games will, however, work in Windows XP either "out of the box" (e.g. StarCraft) or with the help of XP's built-in compatibility settings (e.g. Star Wars Dark Forces II). My advice would be to try the games you're interested in as-is, and if you encounter problems first check compatibility settings, then look for patches or work-arounds (usually a quick search for "[game name] windows xp compatibility" or something similar is helpful - YouTube contains a surprising number of tutorials/walkthroughs for compatibility as well), before resigning the game to requiring Windows 9x. If you have applications that do require Windows 9x, depending on your computer's hardware you could dual-boot 9x alongside Windows XP, or you could build another machine that will support 9x.

Also note that if the game is actually a DOS title, and not a Windows 9x title (back in the 1990s this distinction usually was not extremely clear, because Windows 9x can boot into a DOS environment), you can use DOSbox if your computer is powerful enough (the system requirements for a game running within DOSbox will be much higher than for the game itself). If you have a modern computer, this is probably the best (easiest) way to handle DOS games.

If you have further questions, feel free to ask.


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

Thanks for getting back to me.  Would I be able to dual boot on any computer or does it have to be an older one?  Wouldn't I have to get drivers for Windows 98 that work with the newer hardware?  I thought Windows 98 could only be installed on old computers because there's no drivers for 98 for more recent hardware. I'm not at all sure about that though.

thanks for your help,
Scott S.

ANSWER: Yes, you would need drivers for Windows 98. Depending on the specifications of your computer, it may or may not be possible - do you know the specifications of your current computer; from that, I can give you a general idea if it would work or not. If you don't know the specifications, I can help you figure them out.  


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

I have a Dell P4 3.0 Ghz (Prescott core 2 MB L2 cache), 1 GB ram, ATI X300SE video card (128 MB)and a Soundblaster Live 24 bit. XP Home with service pack 3.  I think it was bought in 2005. It was my father's.

Scott S.

It may actually support Windows 9x - the Intel 800-series chipsets, and some VIA chipsets, (which support Pentium 4) have Windows 98/ME drivers, and the Radeon X series is unofficially supported by the latest Catalyst release for Windows 9x. The Sound Blaster Live! should be no problem whatsoever. You would need to determine what chipset the machine has though - the easiest way to do this is with CPU-Z ( - if you just download the Zip version you can unpack it and run the executable), there will be a tab that provides information about your system's chipset (under the Mainboard tab). With that information (or provide a screenshot - supports questioner-uploaded images) we can determine if this machine is even a candidate for running Windows 9x.



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I have nearly two decades of experience in IT, computer repair, and related fields and will attempt to provide the most solid, brand-agnostic advice when it comes time to purchase a new computer, or upgrade an existing machine. I can answer anything from the seemingly basic to the downright complicated - and will do my best to provide this information in a clear and concise manner. I have a personal interest in PC gaming, and can apply my experience to such an end. Questions related to 3D games on OS X or other platforms are less likely to get answered.


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