There is a lot of confusion over whether Windows 8 and 7, can run DOS programs. The question matters a bunch, since most CNC machines, and almost all of the financial sector and most local governments plus the Federal Government, still use DOS in the US. Overseas, the usage is even higher. DOS emulation company Taos Computing (exdos.com) estimates that 25-35 million users worldwide, need to be able to run DOS on a 64-bit architecture, so developed its emulator for that purpose. The problem is in the 64-bit architecture, irrespective of the OS. However, you can still run DOS with a 32-bit OS, for most functions. Most, not all.
Problem is, most computers sold through retail outlets today are on 64-bit OS; it's very difficult to find 32-bit. So your office's DOS word processing and spreadsheet programs won't run, and their files maybe can't be read (lack of backwards-compatibility varies by vendor, product). Kids under age 30 -- except maybe ardent vintage gamers -- understimate or don't know, the importance of DOS for their parents and grandparents. But anyone over age 40 has been struggling with the problem of Windows' successive abandonment of DOS code, in NT hybridization (which is how Windows got started, and still some DOS is used in its code).
So it becomes important to keep older machines in good repair. Happily, there are a number of forums and websites and even kids, who like the older hardware and software, so you can usually find parts. And of course, those parts are now more expensive.
Solving DOS compatibility
The most important thing you can do, is KEEP any XP or prior, machine. Some but not all DOS programs can run well, but need to be tweaked by means of right-clicking on the program name in Windows (including Win7), and setting parameters per the tabs you'll see there for screen, font, compatibility, layout. These settings vastly change the utility of the program, and in some cases make it operate faster and better, than it did under say a 486 DOS VI machine. Of course, the wrong settings will make the program inoperative, so you need to experiment.
So, just like XP, Windows 7 comes in two architectures, 64-bit and 32-bit. In the former, most DOS programs cannot run unless you buy a DOS emulator from Taos Computing (which is cheap, only $100 per machine), or (maybe) use the free DOSBOX, which was designed for 16-bit vintage DOS games. MS claims you can run XP Mode in 64-bit Windows: but if you query on the internet you'll find a lot of complaints that XP Mode won't work.
So that leaves 32-bit. Windows 8 is 32-bit. Windows 8 Pro is 64-bit. So if you bought a cheap netbook or laptop from Walmart, you likely have 64-bit, and DOS won't run on it, unless you buy or get the emulators above.
If you're still on Windows 7 32-bit, or are on XP 32-bit and are thinking of upgrading to Win7 32-bit, chances are your DOS programs will run. But there are some limitations.
Test case here illustrating them, is DOS Lotus 1-2-3, version 2.01, with the Funk Software add-in Worksheet Utilities. Both programs make hardware calls which require a high degree of DOS compatibility, and both programs date back to the 1980's, so we're talking real DOS. Here's the lowdown, based on live testing with my own Dell Optiplex 780 with 32-bit Win7 Pro, Core 2 Duo, 3.0 Ghz, 2.99 GHz:
* Can't go fullscreen in Win7 (can go fullscreen, in XP). That suggests you can't use Win8 either, if you want fullscreen. So at least the GRAPH function of Lotus 1-2-3, won't work.
* you have to create a batch file to run Lotus 1-2-3, and (so far as I can tell) you have to run the program from your root drive, because the program makes its calls TO the root drive. Here's the batch program you create in Notepad or other plain-text editor:
* Delete the 'exit' if you want the window to stay open as a DOS window, after you're done with the program. Save the file with a '.bat' extension. (Note: unlike XP, you can close the window with your mouse, afterwards.)
* After creating that file, you have to right click on the file name, select 'Properties (in Win7, Vista, XP) and do some more tweaking. The Properties dialogue box SHOULD show the following tabs: General, Shortcut, Options, Font, Layout, Colors, Compatibility. Each of these needs editing.
For Raster fonts, 12 x 16 is the optimal setting. ON some (i.e., Dell Ultrasharp) monitors, Raster fonts look best. On my Toshiba 19L4200U TV monitor, the Lucida Consule setting is clearest.
COLORS tab: Lotus 1-2-3 makes hardware calls on the screen, so whatever you put in this tab, it will ignore. But other DOS programs might 'obey' the colors you set here. If you remember the old Norton Utilities days of setting Mode, etc., that's what this is.
COMPATIBILITY tab: You can't set resolution to override at 640x480. The setting is either ignored, or your monitor will freak out. For Lotus 1-2-3, in Win 7 Pro I didn't need to turn on the 'compatibility mode'. It made no difference in the results. (You dn't need it in XP, either.)
Will return and edit more later, when the PC World post editor is working again. It's been glitchy all day.
This post has been edited by brainout: 10 November 2012 - 06:23 PM