FreeDOS 1.2

  • In honor of FreeDOS turning 25 years old I figured I would revisit the project and play around with DOS.

Installation Source: USB Full Installer

Convert VMDK to VirtualBox VDI

  • The USB disk image provided by the FreeDOS project is provided in the VMDK format.
  • For this test I’m using VirtualBox, so I will convert the image to a VDI.

VBoxManage clonehd \
  --format VDI FD12FULL.vmdk \

Add the disk image to the VM.

  • For the purpose of installation, set the USB disk as the Primary IDE Master.
  • Set the target disk as the Primary IDE Slave.
  • FD12FULL.vdi will be the C: drive during install.
  • The target disk will be the D: drive during install.
  • Once the installation is complete, remove the FD12FULL.vdi image and set the target disk as the Primary IDE Master.



Re-Installing packages

  • If a package has been previously installed, an error will popup that the package installation failed. FreeDOS Install failure if package previously installed

  • Installation is done by \FDSETUP\SETUP\fdins600.bat
  • In fdipkg.bat, if a package already exists, fdinst returns an errorlevel 1 with no option available to force overwriting the existing files.
  • This functionality can be tested using the command:
  • To get around this issue, and the endless prompting about packages already installed, I comment out the if errorlevel 1 goto PkgError line in fdins600.bat
:if errorlevel 1 goto PkgError
vfdutil /c/p %FINSP%\

Additional packages like games and development tools

  • The packages that provide development tools and games are not available from the standard installer, the advanced installer must be invoked to use them.

  • Run the base installer, which should start automatically on the first boot.
  • You will be prompted to format the disk.
  • Re-run the installer in advanced mode to get things like games and devel tools.
setup adv

Install DOSShell from the MS-DOS 6.22 supplemental tools disk.

  • DosShell is just a simple file manager.
  • DosShell is not strictly neccesary, in fact FreeDOS comes with their own take on the old DosShell file manager.
  • DosShell was a must-install back when I was setting up DOS-based systems, so I find it both nostalgic and an interesting lightweight compatibility test.
mkdir c:\dosshell
CD dosshell
expand dosshell.ex_ c:dosshell.exe
expand dosshell.co_
expand dosshell.hl_ c:dosshell.hlp

dosshell installation and use

Install Windows 3.1

  • FreeDOS does not support Windows for Workgroups 3.11. Only Windows 3.1 can be installed.
  • A reboot is required between installation and use.

windows installation and use

  • Although Windows 3.1 can be installed directly to FreeDOS 1.2, I found Windows functioned better if I first installed it to MS-DOS 6.22 and then used xcopy to copy the windows directory over to the FreeDOS drive.
xcopy D:\windows C:\windows /E /I /N /R /Y


Use GenISOImage on Linux to create an CD-ROM image that can be mounted on the FreeDOS machine.

mkdir lemmings
cd lemmings
unzip ../


genisoimage -o ../atrain_lemmings.iso .


  • A fantastic game. Along the same vein as SimCity or Transportation Tycoon.
  • Unfortunately, A-Train did not display correctly and it was VERY apparent that the old A-Train code depended on the system clock tick to move the trains around.
  • The mono color version of the game worked a little better, but the timing was still off.



  • There was no sound.
  • The game played perfectly, although there was a small flicker on the map loading screen.
categories: freedos | dos |