Windows 7 and DOS programs

By KathyJ
Jan 16, 2010
  1. I am considering purchasing Windows 7 but before I do, I have a few questions. First of all, I am using an old Dos genealogy program that I can't get an upgrade for. This company has gone out of business. I've tried other genealogy programs but none of them add up to this one. Now, I am using Windows XP Professional and this program works great under the compatibility mode of Windows 98/ME. If I installed Windows 7, would I still be able to use this program? Is there anyone out there using Windows 7 and still using their old Dos programs? How do you like Windows 7? Is it worth it? If you had it to do over, would you? Thanks for your time.
  2. strategic

    strategic TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,020

    I should look into it a little better since I do have a computer which I use Windows 7 PRO.
    You always have the option of the compatibility mode.
    Another option is running it under the command prompt. (START> RUN > COMMAND).
  3. Archean

    Archean TechSpot Paladin Posts: 5,681   +86

    If you want to stick with that old DOS program, i think you'd be much safer with Win7x86 instead of x64; that said its still not a guarantee that it will work but 99.99% chance is it will ...... as I sometime still use a very old database program developed in foxpro in earlier 1990s and it works fine on x86 Win7 machine (haven't bothered about trying it on x64 machine though)
  4. gbhall

    gbhall TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,423   +77

    There are a number of settings that will run everything I have thrown at XP, and hopefully Win7 will be no different. The first and most essential is to ensure that the command processor that is run is COMMAND.COM, not the weak and dumbed-down CMD.EXE

    The way to do this (in XP) is go to control panel, system, advanced and click on the 'environment variables' button. One of the system variables is ComSpec, and you edit it to make it refer to instead of cmd.exe. This then applies to every Dos box or Dos-based command started by any means whatever.

    You will then find that in the .PIF of the Dos-box properties panel there are now many more tabs, including the important memory panel. Frequently, it is necessary in there to experiment with the various types of memory from Dos days, so typically set none for EMS, XMS and only a small amount, say 8Mb for ms-dos protected (DPMI) memory. The reasons for this are that many Dos programs simply lock up when allowed to use more than 64Mb of memory.

    You should test for extended periods, as whilst they may appear to run for a while, they can suffer memory leaks which eventually lock them up as they exceed certain values. Also pulling a window with the mouse can lead to lock-ups in Foxpro for Dos unless in the 'compatible time hardware emulation' is switched on (in program/advanced).

    It can be essential to modify the Config.nt and autoexec.nt which are found in \windows\system32 and contain much helpful text as well as typical settings. One thing required in particular is more than files=40 allowance. At least 140 is a good idea for Dos foxpro for instance.

    You can change the dos-box font usage to fit your screen most suitably. I would not expect x64 to be different to x86 because you are running entirely simulated machine-level code either way. I have never found running in compatibility mode is any use at all, but your experience may be different.

    Finally, depending upon your hardware it seems on older PC's the mouse will frequently not work except in full screen mode (alt-enter to toggle full screen on/off). It may have to do with whether the mouse is ps/2 or usb, and in the latter case, how good the usb driver is.

    I regret I cannot give you precise information about Win7, and if you can gain information, quite a few people would welcome feedback. Obviously Win7 is absolutely determined that nothing can write directly to the hardware, but having said that, the emulation of such activity may well be much better than it was before, so really all you can do is suck it and weep. The experience reported by Archean that Dos Foxpro works in Win7 is very encouraging, as Foxpro always had it's own advanced memory management, and if Win7 lets it get on with it's own thing that is good.

    I have set up Win7 at work and will shortly be testing a Dos Foxpro suite still in use (for a while) and will know more soon. As to the question of 'would I like Win7?' this is very subjective. Everything imaginable is different, which for professionals can be incredibly irritating, but if you are a relatively new user, you may adapt to the new ways of doing things quite well. In fact, most things you may be familiar with are still there, but moved somewhere else, and after a huge amount of work, you will be able to set it up somewhat to your liking.

    Speaking as a professional, I would say the whole thing is probably more reliable than even XP, but as an exercise in interface design it is absolutely a pointless pain in the fundamentum. But remember, to me a computer is an everyday TOOL, not a TOY, something MS does not seem to realise or care about. Alas, we have to live with it.

    You DO have other alternatives. You can keep, or aquire a virtually free gift of an older PC just to run your geneology program on. You could create a dual-boot between Win7 and Win98 (if you can find drivers for Win98 !). You could try running it in Linux using the WINE system, or DOSemu. Finally, you can use virtual PC to run a Dos PC or a Win98 PC inside Windows 7, although there may be limitations on what you can read or write. Again Virtualisation is becoming increasingly important to industry, although it may soon peak as applications are re-written for internet and similar running.

    Did I tell you about the carpenter with 40years experience?. Went to buy a new saw. The assistant says, we don't sell tenon saws any more sir, no call for them. Try this laser cutter, only $50,000. That's when you start to chew the carpet, but then who's right?
  5. JessicaD

    JessicaD TS Rookie Posts: 17


    Prior to migrating to Windows 7 it would be best to download and run the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor.

    The Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor will determine if your current computer configuration will be compatible with Windows 7, for further information as well as a link for download please go here:

    Another resource to verify compatibility is available at the Microsoft Windows 7 Compatibility Center located at the following link:

    Also, please note that when migrating from Windows XP to Windows 7 you will not have an "in place upgrade" option. You will however have the option to select "custom" install when prompted. The Windows 7 install process will then copy all of your data in "My Documents" over to a Windows.old folder within Windows 7 itself. All applications and documents stored in other locations will have to be reinstalled / transferred manually.

    For more information on the Windows 7 Upgrade, please go here:

    For additional assistance with the migration of Windows XP to Windows 7, please go here:

    Also, if the application will not be compatible with Windows 7 you may want to consider XP Mode and Virtual PC. To learn more about XP Mode, please see the following link:

    Microsoft Windows Client Team
  6. Archean

    Archean TechSpot Paladin Posts: 5,681   +86

    Well the biggest issue DOS based old applications are "you don't have to/or need to install them ..... you just go to the folder in which they are located and run the damn thing" ....... hence the windows upgrade adviser is no good, because it simply doesn't know they exist or there, i think.
  7. strategic

    strategic TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,020

    Yes, you're right. It will not detect it.
    I came across this when I purchased mine and the easiest solution is to walk into the store with the program a jumpdrive and test it on a display unit. That is what I did because there was one DOS program I was concerned with and the store associates were very cooperative with me doing that.
  8. SNGX1275

    SNGX1275 TS Forces Special Posts: 10,689   +395

    That. At this point in time there really is no reason to keep an ancient box running just to use old software (or in your case - not upgrading because of old software). Just run the old software in a virtual machine.
  9. Archean

    Archean TechSpot Paladin Posts: 5,681   +86

    SNGX1275 good point and I will tend to agree with that as it being much better alternative than lugging around an old dinosaur
  10. KathyJ

    KathyJ TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 59

    Thanks everyone for your replies. I had ran the Windows Upgrade Advisor before I posted on this forum. It had told me a few problems but the dos program was not mentioned. I was suspicious of this and I didn't know whether to believe it or not. That is why I posted here. I would rather get actual users opinions and experiences rather than take the word of any software program or retailer. Thanks again for your responses.
  11. Archean

    Archean TechSpot Paladin Posts: 5,681   +86

    You are welcome and goodluck, please keep us posted if you have any issues.
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