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Thread: Which versions of Windows can run nearly all games from specific older versions of Windows? (Natively)

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    Default Which versions of Windows can run nearly all games from specific older versions of Windows? (Natively)

    I didn't see a thread about this so I am curious about which classic OS I should look for to run the majority of old games natively without emulating in DOSbox or a similar program. I plan to collect an old machine or two for as cheaply as I can locally. Maybe even free.

    For example, I know that practically all DOS games run on machines up through Windows 98 for sure. (Except I think I heard they don't run on 3.x?) A
    few select .exe files can even run in Windows XP, such as the fan-made DOS versions of Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man. I'm not sure how that works as it has been many years since I did it. Do digital copies of DOS games work on any systems natively in between Windows 98 and XP, such as 2000 or ME?

    Next question, games on CD-Rom or floppy disk that were made for Windows 3.x systems. Which systems do almost all of these run on? Can they run natively on a Windows 95 or 98 machine? Which was the first system that could not run these games natively? Will they play on Windows 2000 or ME? Are any of them natively compatible with XP at all, or is this where they totally become duds?

    Windows 95 games: Do almost all Windows 95 games work in Windows 98? Do any versions of Windows in between 98 and XP run just about all of them? I know my stepdad had a copy of Windows ME and it ran Sonic CD just fine with sound and all. Sonic CD will not run in Windows XP from my experience. However, Sonic 3D Blast will.

    Windows 98 games: Will all of them run in Windows 2000 or ME? I am pretty sure I have some that can't even run on XP, but some do.

    I don't know anything about there being any games that will only run in 2000 or ME. Are there any that don't work in XP?

    Then XP games sometimes have problems in Vista/7/8. But from this point it is no longer a problem. I already have XP machines and XP is easy to get.

    From the looks of it, I don't think Vista, 7 or 8 can run anything older than XP natively, except that cockroach fluke that is Sonic 3D Blast. Why this game runs on every machine type produced after it while the many other games do not is beyond me. Perhaps someone has an explanation for this and knows of other ancient games like this which continue to run natively no matter which system you throw it at?(without any graphical errors i.e. Diablo's problem)
    Last edited by Rickstilwell1; 01-10-2014 at 01:10 AM.
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    I can only speak from my own experience, but my experience has been thus:

    I have a machine that runs Windows 98 Second Edition (you should try to get SE if you can because its more stable), and it has been able to play every game I have thrown at it.

    Now, you may have to do some tweaking--I personally configured mine to have a boot menu, and I had at least one Windows 3.X game (Outpost) which, in its original release, required you to tweak some windows files so the install would work. But its not hard to do.

    Also, I recently discovered that some games can have weird issues that don't seem to be related to the Operating System. For example, some Sierra adventure adventure games (on my setup) only had sound if I claimed my soundcard was a Thunderboard (its really a Soundblaster 16)... and then, doing that caused them to start locking up if I used a ps/2 mouse instead of an old serial mouse. The only cure I've found for this is either to use an older mouse (which I don't wanna do) or use Dosbox.

    I'm not gonna lie: Even if you have an old comp, Dosbox may turn out to be an indispensible tool, so keep a copy around regardless.

    But, long story short:

    Windows 98 SE will run any DOS, Win 3.x, or Win95 game you throw at it. Sometimes with a little effort, but they WILL run.

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    Pac-Man (Level 10) Rickstilwell1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Edmond Dantes View Post
    I can only speak from my own experience, but my experience has been thus:

    I have a machine that runs Windows 98 Second Edition (you should try to get SE if you can because its more stable), and it has been able to play every game I have thrown at it.

    Now, you may have to do some tweaking--I personally configured mine to have a boot menu, and I had at least one Windows 3.X game (Outpost) which, in its original release, required you to tweak some windows files so the install would work. But its not hard to do.

    Also, I recently discovered that some games can have weird issues that don't seem to be related to the Operating System. For example, some Sierra adventure adventure games (on my setup) only had sound if I claimed my soundcard was a Thunderboard (its really a Soundblaster 16)... and then, doing that caused them to start locking up if I used a ps/2 mouse instead of an old serial mouse. The only cure I've found for this is either to use an older mouse (which I don't wanna do) or use Dosbox.

    I'm not gonna lie: Even if you have an old comp, Dosbox may turn out to be an indispensible tool, so keep a copy around regardless.

    But, long story short:

    Windows 98 SE will run any DOS, Win 3.x, or Win95 game you throw at it. Sometimes with a little effort, but they WILL run.
    That is good to know that I won't need to get an older system to run 3.x games or '95 games in general as I do have a Windows 98 laptop, but I am not sure if it is SE or the original. (all I knew it could do so far was DOS). And this ISO I found of a pretty obscure 3.x title that is now abandonware might work on it. I wanted to make sure I had a compatible machine before I potentially wasted a CD-R or went and bought a real copy.

    Also I have heard that Windows ME does run Sonic CD with no tweaking so it's my guess that ME is closer in performance to 98 while 2000 is supposed to be more like a prototype of XP. Whether or not ME can do more than 98 games wise is still a question that is up in the air.

    Now all I need to do is somehow find an old PC joystick that will work with the old Windows games that support one. I have never successfully installed one that wasn't USB on my former windows 95 machines. Then again maybe the drivers for the game controller ports were not installed. While my old laptop has 1 USB port, I believe it is a 1.0 so it will not recognize anything I have plugged into it either.

    Also on another note - I can't seem to find the DOS version of Tetris I had on my old Compaq windows '95 computer anywhere. It was a bit more colorful than the older widely distributed version I found. I wonder if anyone knows the version I'm talking about.
    Last edited by Rickstilwell1; 01-10-2014 at 02:46 AM.
    [quote name='Shidou Mariya' date='Nov 17 2010, 10:05 PM' post='4889940']
    I'm a collector, but only to a certain extent.
    Not as extreme as Rickstilwell though.[/quote]


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    I need to point out something else from my personal experience:

    While Windows 98 does supposedly support USB... in my experience, the support is limited (I have a USB keyboard, but you have to remember to enable Legacy USB in the BIOS or it won't work in DOS, and I still prefer to just use an adapter to plug it into a ps/2 port). You're really better off using a classic gameport controller (gameports were often on the sound cards, for some reason).

    My favorite Windows 98 controller was the Hammerhead FX, my only bummer being that it won't work with DOS games (unless there's a secret way I haven't discovered yet). I have a Microsoft Sidewinder that has the opposite problem: it will do Dos and nothing else. The Gravis Gamepad could do both OSes, but... well, it's the Gravis Gamepad. It's a jack-of-all-trades, but not ideal for specific genres (personally, I find everything except flight sims plays just fine with mouse and keyboard).

    I've never used Windows ME or 2000, so I can't help there. I do believe tho, that most games that run in 2000 or ME will almost always also work in either 98SE, or else XP (sometimes both).

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    Technically even some versions of Windows 95 can support USB, they're just very limited in functionality. Almost to the point of being useless.

    Windows 95 games usually work just fine in Windows 98 as they're basically the same OS, they're Windows 4.0 and Windows 4.1. If any games don't work they would have to be really buggy or poorly written. I don't know if there's any games that only work with ME or 2000, as already mentioned most of these would be also compatible with 95 or 98, or XP. I would stay away from using ME if possible, it's really not a good OS, and plenty of software isn't compatible with it.

    As for Windows 3.1 titles, there are a few that supposedly need 3.1 exclusively to work. I can't remember any titles off hand but you might still encounter some. Do your research beforehand, these problems would be encountered by several people so it would be mentioned online on various forums. It's still a very rare problem to encounter.

    For that ISO, you could use a CD-RW or even a DVD-RW if you wanted to try it out without wasting a disc.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rickstilwell1 View Post
    For example, I know that practically all DOS games run on machines up through Windows 98 for sure. (Except I think I heard they don't run on 3.x?)
    There are some DOS games which run better if you "restart in MS-DOS mode" in Windows 98, just like most DOS games used to require you to exit Windows 3.x before you tried to run them. But the hardware that is most suitable for Windows 98 isn't necessarily the best hardware for old DOS games, especially if you plan to run ancient programs meant for a much slower CPU.

    Do digital copies of DOS games work on any systems natively in between Windows 98 and XP, such as 2000 or ME?
    Windows ME isn't necessarily all that different from Windows 98, and the DOS compatibility of Windows 2000 isn't all that different from that of XP (i.e. it isn't great).

    Next question, games on CD-Rom or floppy disk that were made for Windows 3.x systems. Which systems do almost all of these run on?
    There really aren't a lot of good Windows 3.x games and unless you have something specific in mind you should stop worrying about them.

    In theory, you can still run a 16-bit Windows program on the 32-bit version of Windows 8.1, for it is only the 64-bit versions of Vista/7/8 that absolutely cannot run 16-bit Windows programs (or DOS programs).

    I know my stepdad had a copy of Windows ME and it ran Sonic CD just fine with sound and all. Sonic CD will not run in Windows XP from my experience.
    Patches for Sonic CD to fix its XP problems abound; the required changes are relatively trivial. In fact, patches for a lot of popular games are already out there in one form or another.
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    Windows 98 SE is hands down going to be the best OS out there. It will run just about anything you can throw at it and if it doesn't then all it needs is some tweaking and they'll run. The one exception to this is for games that are time sensitive (meaning that they'll only run properly on a slower speed processor and nothing else. For those you'll need some kind of CPU slowdown utility but I don't know if they exist for 98 but it probably does.

    Here are several things that you'll want to have on your PC if you go for a Windows 98 setup.

    To start I'd recommend a Late model Pentium II or a mid range P3 as you'll want something with some power for later games as Windows 98 will support games generally through 2005-06.

    Put two hard drives in your PC. Put a bigger one like a 20GB for most games and then put any hard drive in that's 1.97GB or less for any of the games that won't recognize a larger hard drive size. There are ways around that without the second hard drive with patches and such but the second hard drive option is just simpler to configure.

    Make sure the PC you use has at least one ISA slot. Many of the games from the 80's will run just fine on Windows 98 but many of those games were developed before Sound Blaster cards became the standard and are not compatible with them and will have severe sound issues or no sound at all or even won't boot up right without a sound card that that game recognizes. This way you can always choose to buy one of those sound cards if you so choose.

    There are always emulation like ways around all of the above mentioned stuff but if you're like me and a purist then that's the best way to go.
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    USB support began with Windows 95c.

    For retro-gaming on a PC, I've had great success with Windows 98se.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Neb6 View Post
    USB support began with Windows 95c.
    Yes, but there are still a lot of issues with USB in 98, it wasn't fully supported until 98SE. Mouses and keyboards shouldn't be a problem, other stuff, it was still pretty hit or miss for a while there.

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    I will agree hands down Win 98SE is the best "jack of all trades" OS for playing windows and DOS stuff but I certainly wouldn't go out and say it will play every DOS game you throw at it though I do agree with effort you can get the large bulk of them running.

    Jorpho though hit the nail on the head when he said "But the hardware that is most suitable for Windows 98 isn't necessarily the best hardware for old DOS games, especially if you plan to run ancient programs meant for a much slower CPU" sure a really fast PIII is great for late Windows game but your going to start having speed/timing issues with DOS games. sure there are patches and moslow utilities that should fix the majority of issues but that may be some effort. sound is the biggest issue. DOS tends to dislike PCI sound cards and Windows likes them so be ready to deal with that.

    as for Win95 and Win 98 incompatibilities. they are few and far between but I can think of one, Silent ThunderA-10 tank killer II for whatever reason the installer will not work with win98 but installs fine on win95. i heard people mention this but didn't believe it so i tested it myself and its true. I'm sure there's a fix for this but I didn't care enough to investigate further.

    I never had USB issues in win98SE. its always handled keyboard/mouse and USB drives fine for me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by vintagegamecrazy View Post
    Windows 98 SE is hands down going to be the best OS out there. It will run just about anything you can throw at it and if it doesn't then all it needs is some tweaking and they'll run. The one exception to this is for games that are time sensitive (meaning that they'll only run properly on a slower speed processor and nothing else. For those you'll need some kind of CPU slowdown utility but I don't know if they exist for 98 but it probably does.
    They do. Slowdown by Bret Johnson (works in MS-DOS mode which any game with timer issues is likely a DOS game anyway), Moslo, I think I saw a Windows-specific one called Turbo... and also, Dosbox works just fine in Windows 98, although keep in mind that the speed of Dosbox is gonna be somewhat proportional to the speed of your computer, so if you already have a kinda-old system to begin with your Dosbox usage is gonna be limited to games that ran on 486s or earlier.

    From personal experience with my 700mhz machine:

    -Space Quest IV runs fine inside Dosbox, and in fact I need to use this to get around some of the game's weird issues.
    -Wolfenstein 3D however played like shit, even when I set the cycles to max.

    So it seems to be a factor of

    A) when the game was made
    B) what genre its in
    C) the severity of the timing issues (games that have huge issues with fast computers tend to behave better in Dosbox)

    Here are several things that you'll want to have on your PC if you go for a Windows 98 setup.

    To start I'd recommend a Late model Pentium II or a mid range P3 as you'll want something with some power for later games as Windows 98 will support games generally through 2005-06.

    Put two hard drives in your PC. Put a bigger one like a 20GB for most games and then put any hard drive in that's 1.97GB or less for any of the games that won't recognize a larger hard drive size. There are ways around that without the second hard drive with patches and such but the second hard drive option is just simpler to configure.

    Make sure the PC you use has at least one ISA slot. Many of the games from the 80's will run just fine on Windows 98 but many of those games were developed before Sound Blaster cards became the standard and are not compatible with them and will have severe sound issues or no sound at all or even won't boot up right without a sound card that that game recognizes. This way you can always choose to buy one of those sound cards if you so choose.

    There are always emulation like ways around all of the above mentioned stuff but if you're like me and a purist then that's the best way to go.
    The rest of this is good advice, although I personally have only one hard drive.

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    Quote Originally Posted by vintagegamecrazy View Post
    Many of the games from the 80's will run just fine on Windows 98 but many of those games were developed before Sound Blaster cards became the standard and are not compatible with them and will have severe sound issues or no sound at all or even won't boot up right without a sound card that that game recognizes. This way you can always choose to buy one of those sound cards if you so choose.
    What sound cards are you thinking of, specifically?

    Before the Sound Blaster, there was pretty much nothing but the primitive built-in PC speaker, and the slightly less primitive Tandy/PC Jr 3-voice sound, which was never duplicated in a standalone sound card and wasn't supported too widely anyway.
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    On top of what Jorpho just said, any game so old that it predates Sound Blaster should probably be played in Dosbox (set to Tandy mode so you can benefit from the 3-voice, if the game supports it).

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    Jorpho, old Adlib and Roland cards come to mind as having a lot of support from games pre Sound Blaster era. Old Sound Blaster ISA cards also seem to handle some of those old games easier as well. It's not necessary to have these as they're expensive most of the time. But just having an ISA slot is really helpful if you decide to go that route.

    I know the whole hard drive issue isn't a major one but there are several games (Crystal Caves comes to mind) that will install effortlessly to a smaller hard drive as opposed to configuring them to run on a larger one. Just ease of use for me.
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    what about just having the old computers them selves?

    I've got an 80-88 for super old dos, 286 for windows 3.x (it struggles), 486/Pentium for windows 9x. bases covered
    its getting to the point where I should throw together an old socket a Athlon system with agp for a XP machine now

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    Quote Originally Posted by vintagegamecrazy View Post
    Jorpho, old Adlib and Roland cards come to mind as having a lot of support from games pre Sound Blaster era. Old Sound Blaster ISA cards also seem to handle some of those old games easier as well. It's not necessary to have these as they're expensive most of the time.
    I'd say the Roland was more contemporary with the Sound Blaster rather than pre Sound Blaster. Either way I understand that even at the time it was a luxury item, and I've certainly never heard of a game that would have "severe sound issues or no sound at all or even won't boot up right" without a Roland being present. And as per http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_Lib,_Inc. , the Sound Blaster was fully compatible with AdLib's hardware.
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    Jorpho tell that to Castlevania and the 3.5 inch floppy version of King's Quest that I have.
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    Meaning... those games will only run on a computer with an authentic Ad Lib card? And you've tested this?

    Certainly, I wouldn't expect the old PCjr/Tandy version of King's Quest to behave nicely on anything other than a PCjr/Tandy, but King's Quest was singularly exceptional that way.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Niku-Sama View Post
    what about just having the old computers them selves?

    I've got an 80-88 for super old dos, 286 for windows 3.x (it struggles), 486/Pentium for windows 9x. bases covered
    its getting to the point where I should throw together an old socket a Athlon system with agp for a XP machine now
    That's what I was talking about doing. I just want to get the least amount of old computers as possible by getting the ones that have maximum native backward compatibility without needing to use any emulators whatsoever.
    [quote name='Shidou Mariya' date='Nov 17 2010, 10:05 PM' post='4889940']
    I'm a collector, but only to a certain extent.
    Not as extreme as Rickstilwell though.[/quote]


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    you know thinking about it, you could probably get an old pemtium 4 or socket a system with a decent agp card and ddr to work well for windows 98/xp
    i'd probably use socket a seeing how the Pentium 4's got super hot and used a bit more power. as far as video cards go try and hunt down something agp 8x

    I had a NVidia 5700 and it was a decent card, it bridged the gap for me to pci express.

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