Running old DOS games, like SimCity 2000, under Vista

NOTE: see end of post for an alternative method.

My son loves to play games.  He has since he was able to understand what a game is…needless to say, that covers pretty much his whole life.  There really isn’t any one type of game that he prefers over another, but he does seem to lean toward the simulation genre more than any other type. Over the years, he has gone through various phases…rollercoaster games, RPG’s of the Nintendo flavor, sports games, back to rollercoaster sims and, lately, city building.  Yep, he has discovered Sim City.    So now he is on a quest to play all Sim City games.  He is on a roll having played the original (courtesy the web and the Nintendo Virtual Console) and the more recent entries including Sim City 3000, Sim City 4 and Societies.  He even has the abomination called Sim City Snap City and the older Sim Town.  But, the one version he had not played happens to be my favorite:  Sim City 2000.

Well, I remembered that I had an old copy of it, from like 1996 or so.  The game is OLD.  I finally found and proceeded to install…er, attempt to install the game on my Vista 64 bit machine.  Well, the installer choked.  I tried all of the tricks I knew to get it to run, but it just refused.  I even tried to install it in my Windows 95 virtual machine, but, as often happened back then, the installation died a very dishonorable death.  Well, the edition I have happens to have a DOS version, a Windows 3.1 version and the Windows 95 version.  Of course, none of the would install.  So…I turn to the web.  I rediscovered a nifty little emulator called DOSBOX.  I knew it existed and had even used it, but it had not occurred to me to try it for this particular game.

sc2kVista I downloaded the most recent version of DOSBOX and installed it.  It runs just fine under Vista 64, so I got really encouraged that this might work.  Unfortunately, I had problems reading the cd.  So, I just copied the whole disk to my hard drive and mounted that directory under DOSBOX.  Not only did that work, it worked very, very well.  I got the game installed and was able to play.  There are, however, a few things that worked a little goofy.  For instance, you cannot start the game in full screen.  You have to start it windowed, then, once the game is running-that is, once you seen the terrain-you can ALT-TAB to go full screen.  So…the game works just fine. Now, to install it on my son’s laptop.

Now, his laptop is an HP 17 inch entertainment laptop.  It has Vista Home Premium 64 bit, 4gb ram, pretty decent ATI graphics, etc.  I expected everything to run as it did on my machine-also an HP.  Well, for reasons I don’t understand, his keyboard maps differently under DOSBOX.  Bringing up the key mapper fixed that problem, but it was a goofy issue nonetheless.  So, I copied the SC2000 directory from my computer to his computer and then gave it a try.  Of course, the game ran just fine.  However, starting DOSBOX, mapping a drive and the starting the game was more than I wanted him to have to remember.  He is, after all, only eleven years old-and, yes, it is a fancy laptop for him, but it will have to last several years so we went a bit overboard.  Anyway, you can create an ‘autoexec.bat’ type of script for DOSBOX.  It goes in the config file under the Autoexec section.  After setting that up, I put an icon on his desktop and explained how to switch to full screen once the game starts.  He can remember ALT-TAB, he has used it on other things.

Here’s the [Autoexec] section I put in his config file for DOSBOX:

# Lines in this section will be run at startup.
mount c c:sc2000
cd sc2000
cs sc2000

The config file can be found in the C:Program Files (x86)DOSBox-0.72 if you are running 64 bit Windows, or in C:Program FilesDOSBox-0.72  if you are running 32 bit Windows.  The file name is dosbox.conf.  Remember to change ‘sc2000’ to the directory where you installed the game.

While Vista’s compatibility with older software is excellent, there are apps that it just will not handle.  Most old DOS games have various problems and DOSBOX seems to do the trick.  I have a small collection of older games that I want to try now.

And for those of you who do not use Windows, DOSBOX is available for Linux and Mac OS X.  It is a great way to play those old gems.

Download DOSBOX here.

UPDATE: Since I originally posted this, GOG.COM is now selling a version of SimCity 2000 that will work with Windows XP, Vista, 7 and Windows 8. Go here to read about it.

12 thoughts on “Running old DOS games, like SimCity 2000, under Vista

  1. Alt-Enter wasn’t the issue here. The problem was with the way Sim City was initializing. One the terrain screen was up, you could go full screen.

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