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FreeDOS 1.2 (freedos.org)
321 points by suprjami on Dec 26, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 140 comments

FreeDOS saved my bacon some years ago. I was working at a college and one day a chemistry prof came in and said their spectrometer (IIRC) was dying. I took a look and found an old 386-based machine with a hard drive on the fritz. It ran some odd version of DOS from a company that no longer existed, there was no budget for a replacement, and classes relying on it were starting soon.

My memory is hazy but I was able to get a compactflash card with FreeDOS on it and used it to boot the system. The special programs that operated the device over the serial or parallel port took a little work to keep from crashing, but eventually all was working as before.

It amazes me that people on HN have anecdotes for everything.

I've had similar experiences with embedded PCs. I keep a copy of FreeDOS handy for just such situations.

For all people wondering why FreeDOS is important, this is it. Education needs Free Software.

Merry Christmas to the FreeDOS project, and congratulations. It's great to see you lot keeping on.

Does anyone here know the plans for the future, now that UEFI is on most new consumer PCs? Will it be considered "done" at some point or will it get adapted into something else?

I'm interested in this too. I'm tempted to install it just to remember old times - play around FreePascal and real mode programming, inline assembly and so on - and I guess supporting UEFI would make it easier to coexist with modern Windows/Linux installs.

Used to like working on DOS. Many of the apps on it were very fast to use, as others have said.

And TSRs (Terminate and Stay Resident programs) [1] were fun to use. I particularly liked Borland Sidekick (a multi-utility tool that could be popped up via a hot-key on top of whatever program you were running). [2] Sidekick sold tons of copies, I read.

Edit: According to the Wikipedia article below, "Sidekick sold more than 1 million copies in its first three years".

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terminate_and_stay_resident_pr...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borland_Sidekick

DOS + Win 3.11 was very fast compared to Windows (9x, XP, 7 and 10), OSX or Linux nowadays and there were lots of good games written for the platform (MOO1, CIV1, Duke Nukem 3D).

I read about the problems with Windows 3.11 protected mode, does FreeDOS 1.2 allow you to run Windows 3.11 in 386enh and protected mode? A certain Jeremy David wrote support for it, and I read that a windows 3 compatible kernel was available in FreeDOS 1.0 under the name Winkernel. It should be used without EMM386 but with Japheth's versions of HIMEMX and SHARE, allocating at most 256 MB of RAM to HIMEMEX. With some tweaking of the Windows config, it is possible to use 1 GB, but not more. Do not use protected mode disk drivers. There is SVGAPatch: a tool to patch svga256.drv to make it VESA compliant so Win 3.11 can be used within Virtualbox. http://web.archive.org/web/20140202233045/http://www.japheth... http://stephan.win31.de/w31mm_en.htm https://www.kirsle.net/blog/entry/nostalgia-for-windows-3-1

Conceivably it could be used to access the internet somewhat with Win32s in combination with Dillo of D+ browser. http://dillo-win.osdn.jp/index.en.html https://sourceforge.net/projects/dplus-browser/

I remember that for DOS semi-multitasking you could use DESQview, does that work with FreeDOS and are there better (more efficient or open source) alternatives?

I am asking as you could make a very lean and fast OS, booting form USB, extracting itself to a ramdisk, allocating 500M (with tools, editors and games) and 500M for windows.

Perhaps HaikuOS, NT 3.51, Windows ME with KernelEx or the new OS/2 5 (ArcaOS), or Win7PE or Win10PE are more capable and similarly faster compared to Ubuntu, Windows7/10 or OSX. https://www.arcanoae.com/current-release-timetable-arcaos-5-... http://theoven.org/index.php?PHPSESSID=4883b8169b752f637e361...

"DOS + Win 3.11 was very fast compared to Windows (9x, XP, 7 and 10), OSX or Linux nowadays"

You either have some seriously rose-colored glasses on, or you need to put an SSD in your current computer because a lot of the slowness of modern machines lies in the increasingly-obsolete hard drive. (Due to the increasing prevalence of cheap SMR [1] drives in consumer-grade gear, I'm not just saying "increasingly-obsolete" for rhetorical purposes; cheap hard drives are actually regressing in performance lately.) I remember multi-minute boot times and multi-minute load times for things like office suites and such, which are now entirely foreign to me.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shingled_magnetic_recording

Jerf, I understand your point. I compare it on functionality, for example compare the load times of for example Windows for Workgroups 3.11 with Word for Windows 6.0 on an old Pentium 1 or 486 with say 8 MB of RAM with Windows10 and the earliest Word version you can get running (or use Wine on Windows). You could say, test them both on SSD drives or HDD drives and allow them 4GB. For a more fair comparison you could use Windows98SE with Office97 and Office97 on Windows10. I think the previous OS's are significantly faster. Once I triplebooted my Mac to Ubuntu, OSX 10.6 en WindowsXP on SSD. WindowsXP was a factor faster to "use", write some office documents, browse the internet etc.

But in a sense you are right, Windows 10 is running very fast on the latest intel proc and SSD here. Still once in a while I get annoying slow downs and it does seem a little bit slower then what I could remember from the speed Win 3.11 was running on HDD on the Pentium I. But the programs were less featured then as well. LibreOffice Writer 5 starts in 7s on SSD here.. I thought Office97 Word was a bit faster on 98 or XP back then... but these are memories from almost 20 years ago, maybe I do see the past as to rose-colored. To test this I have to define what I exactly was comparing to what - general speed of usability or the exact same programs under different OS's with the exact same hardware. On both accounts it might very well be much faster with previous 16/32bit and less featured software.

I recently installed office 97 on my Surface 3 (not pro, so think atom processor) on a lark. It is extremely fast (no waiting for anything at all, ever).

Now, even modern office is surprisingly fast on desktop, despite having lots more features. We can talk about performance on the desktop all day, but if you want to see the real perf regression, look at all these web apps running in the browser - they are absolute nightmares unless you happen to have a very nice machine to use them with.

I can barely scroll a few pages down on Facebook before my X201 starts getting sub-1FPS. This infinite scrolling crap is never done right.

Another fellow x201 user here. The bottleneck of our computers are definitely the CPU. After putting an SSD it felt fast for a while. But now especially whilst browsing I get irritated a lot. I can't decide whether if it's pure psychology or a need for more performance.

I am an avid Debian user for many years, lastly I used FreeBSD for a couple of months on the x201. Now, I'm using ElementaryOS.

With Debian iwlwifi was a problem, did not work reliably. FreeBSD was a lot of hassle to work with -with no network manager being present etc.-, but driver support was excellent. ElementaryOS is currently working like a charm.

Another tip besides installing an SSD is to enable multicore support in Firefox.

> enable multicore support in Firefox

Why isn't this enabled by default on detection of multiple cores?

FF has never been multicore. So many plugins are not thread safe. I think they are slowly rolling out multicore as plugins fix.

Don't worry, many CrapScript sites don't even run properly on a 4 GHz Intel machine.

The best thing i did for staying sane while browsing was to install noscript on firefox. Not sure how it will work now that Mozilla is "reworking (gutting?) Firefox extensions to make room for pr tab processes.

I installed office 2003 on my hp spectre, alongside office 365. Word 365 takes 5-7 seconds to fully load, but word 2003 just appears as soon as you click the icon. The load time is instant. And with the compatibility pack for 2007 / docx files it does everything 365 does

Win98SE took four and a half minutes to boot to usability. It crashed so often, than I timed it to see how much time I was wasting. Unfortunately I can't remember the system specs, but it was a pretty run-of-the-mill pc of the day, neither light- nor heavyweight.

Other versions of windows, I couldn't tell you. Have used everything from 3.11 to 10, skipping 8. Never felt the need to time them.

I've got a Pentium II system on my desk running off a cheap CF card that boots in a minute. What was your setup like hardware wise?

I honestly can't recall. Probably a PII. My 4.5 minutes is 'time to usable desktop', not 'time to login / visible desktop', since W98 was visible long before you could interact with it (that interaction was usually "load up that game again, dammit!"). It also used a hard drive of the day, not flash card. I don't recall having much in the way of shovelware installed that might slow it down, but maybe I did?

Sorry, as anecdatums go, I realise this one is pretty poor quality.

I think the speed of hardware has far outpaced software.

I still use a 3.1 machine for some software that got "upgraded" for more modern computers and became unuseably slow and feature-less compared to the old.

But, that machine has a lot of more modern hardware now. It's little more than a Linux kernel and DOSBox, so no true hardware access.

But it still boots, loads Windows, loads my programs to their last state, in less than 10 seconds.

By comparison, Windows 7's file manager takes longer on double the hardware.

Hi Shakna, if you'd boot FreeDOS and Windows 3.1 directly, perhaps it would even be 4 seconds as you skip Linux booting and the DosBox latency.

I've been watching FreeDOS for this for a little while.

Unfortunately getting the particular program to install requires a little fudging as it tries to detect Win, and underlying DOS, and wants particular numbers to be present in the versions.

That is very interesting, I might try it out to see if it works.


The program tries to verify the integrity of MSDOS.SYS and VER.EXE with some sort of weak hash, as well as get the result of VER.

FreeDOS's VERSION gets me halfway though, now just to generate some dummy files when I work out the right hashing algo to use...

Thanks for the update! What about just copying those files over from MS-DOS?

Unfortunately that's not working right now... Guessing it does something else hacky to check that it truly is running on MSDOS and Win 3.1.

But it is on my list to investigate when I'm back to work.

Windows 7 is literally the last version of Windows without the Hybrid Boot Mode, so you're kind of punching down there. Maybe compare it to 8.1 Pro instead.

File manager, not boot time.

He doesn't has his nostalgia goggles on. There is new software that can be outpaced by very similar software atop a 486 running DOS.

How about decoding a high bitrate MP3 file in realtime?

DOS programs were decoding MP3 in realtime in the mid-90's, on 90's hardware, just at lower bitrates. By 2000 it was trivially solved and filesharing over P2P was in vogue, while video still presented a major bottleneck(and it still does in many respects). The OS boot time, on the other hand, has remained more-or-less constant in all time periods, when running contemporary hardware.

All of which is to say: Windows has an "accumulated cruft" problem that exists independently of what the hardware could do. The search built into Windows 10 is abysmally slow - in fact, almost every interaction with the toolbar or Explorer tends to be slow if you've installed a lot of stuff, because you oftentimes are "paying for what you don't use" when the program adds an Explorer extension, and there's a paucity of diagnostic tools to throw that fact in your face, so it just manifests as "Windows sure is slow lately". DOS doesn't have that problem because DOS does almost nothing, and cannot be extended to do more.

(On that note, Windows 10 did make a major breakthrough in responsiveness: it compresses memory in inactive programs, so you hit disk much less when running and switching between lots of programs.)

> The search built into Windows 10 is abysmally slow - in fact, almost every interaction with the toolbar or Explorer tends to be slow if you've installed a lot of stuff

Not just in Windows 10. The start menu search in W7 was also always absymally slow, completely independent of hardware. Even on an SSD it's unusably slow.

Which I just don't understand. That thing isn't doing shit. I have literally no idea why it's this slow. I've written an equivalent of it for my Linux/i3 setup, which is completely stupid and naive (no caching at all, parses _all_ program definitions every time it's opened) and that is at least a hundred times faster. The latter is instantaneous (<10 ms on this computer), while the W7 start menu takes seconds to find anything -- on the same computer!

Also, the only start menu w/ search that is comparatively slow is the Unity search. Most others are practically instantaneous (eg. KDE), even on weaker hardware...

> DOS programs were decoding MP3 in realtime in the mid-90's, on 90's hardware, just at lower bitrates.

Back "in the day" I built an AMD 5x86 machine with 4mb that ran DOS and could -just barely- decode 128K MP3s using some DOS-based MP3 player I found. On top of that, I ran a custom menu system (wrote it using TurboC iirc) that drove a 16x2 LCD via the parallel port. I had this idea that I would set it up as a car pc, but never actually did.

> DOS does almost nothing, and cannot be extended to do more.

Remember TSRs eating up precious conventional memory?

A 486 would be capable of that... not sure about 386 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WinPlay3 http://web.archive.org/web/20080619002511/www.sonicspot.com/... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WinPlay3

Appearently there is also an mplayer version for dos.. http://mplayerhq.hu/pipermail/mplayer-users/2009-March/07632... and a mpg123 port http://www.fareham.org.uk/music/mpg123/index.shtml

So in theory you could even play small mp4 video's.

Don't forget RealPlayer, it had a very efficient audio encoding for low bitrates http://www.win31.de/esoft.htm - it was later open sourced and called Helix DNA producer.

I think the last version supported for Windows 3.1 was RealAudio 4, even though you might get further along with the win32s setup for 3.11. There is no need though as the low bandwith encoding was the most interesting feature, with Sipro's ACELP perhaps beating even Opus (LPC based SILK or CELT) for very low bitrates < 12 Kbps and for sure beating Speex.

lpcJ, 14_4: IS-54 VSELP (RealAudio 1) 28_8: G.728 LD-CELP (RealAudio 2) dnet: Dolby AC3 (RealAudio 3) sipr: Sipro Lab Telecom ACELP-NET (RealAudio 4/5)

Nope. A 486 simply can not do that. Low bit rate, 22kHz mono is possible however.

> You either have some seriously rose-colored glasses on, or you need to put an SSD in your current computer because a lot of the slowness of modern machines lies in the increasingly-obsolete hard drive.

I have Windows installed on an SSD. I have 16 GB of RAM.

Yet Windows still wants to use a page file, or programs run out of RAM. It's crazy. Programs don't actually USE this much, they just request more than they use.

A page file slows things down compared to doing everything in RAM. Even on an SSD, it's way slower.

While a page file is definitively slower than RAM, it's not a given that simply using one will make the whole system slower. As long as the kernel only sends rarely used pages to the file, the slowdown in writing/reading them can be made up by having more RAM available for the filesystem cache.

I don't know if this was improved in W8 or W10, but in W7 and before the paging algorithm in the NT kernel was definitely subpar, having a pagefile always reduced performance, because applications in the background would be swapped out even if plenty of RAM was available, so going back to an application meant that it was unresponsive until the kernel swapped it back in.

Windows 7 actually pages once you use HALF of your RAM. That's crazy. It's starting to page after I use only 8 GB! 8 GB is free and it's paging!

I ran windows xp without a pagefile for a while, no major issues, programs crashed if they ran out of ram.

Windows 10 has ram compression, but as I have an ssd now, I turned my pagefile back on

When I used windows, I would have a partition just for the page file, at a fixed size to avoid fragmentation.

No idea if this helped.

Try comparing framerates for Doom and Doom95, on then-current mid-spec machines. Installing 9x on a DOS machine made everything so much slower.

> R_Init: Init DOOM refresh daemon - ...

/me goes to make a coffee

I don't recall DOS + Win 3.11 being anywhere near as fast as the setup I use today, which is basically just Ubuntu and xmonad under a Gnome fallback session.

Plus I would say the productivity gains of being fluent with GNU tools, RESTful APIs and any scripting language save more time in the long run than whatever milliseconds get shaved off of a UI response.

I wonder if anyone still have a copy of the Global EMM Import specification.

Took the words right out of my mouth, we just became best friends.

If anybody is interested in some 'current' open source MS-DOS software, I put up my old undergraduate thesis sources from 1997 recently:

Te repo has a full DJGPP (GCC for DOS) toolchain environment included to build the included sources of the project, so you can just clone and build.

Probably a lot easier to understand and build than the Doom sources.

Does it run in DOSBox? If so, capture a video and upload to YouTube, that's the popular thing to do with demos these days, the higher-res the better.

Need that crisp 2048x1080 Second Reality by Future Crew: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rFv7mHTf0nA

Ahh, an OS which never had vendor lock-in, and had multiple independent vendors.

That dream died with Windows.

>"multiple independent vendors"

Unless I'm missing something, there weren't multiple vendors for MS-DOS pre-Windows.

There was MS-DOS, and also Digital Research, later Novell, then Caldera, etc DOS which tended to have features that wouldn't be around until a version or two of MS DOS later. There were also nasty power plays involving the two -- early betas of Windows 3.1 would refuse to run on DR-DOS.

There was also IBM PC DOS, which was essentially a rebranded MS-DOS but later diverged into its own thing, with support for REXX scripting, etc.

Don't forget 4DOS. I loved that OS:


Actually, I looked that up because that's what I remembered using as a "DOS alternative". Seems like it was actually just a shell replacement, leaving the actual OS stuff (such as handling INT 21h requests) to the underlaying OS, whether DOS, Windows or OS/2.

I guess wee me back in the day didn't know the difference :)

Well son of a gun. I assumed it was a full DOS implementation but you're right. Well TIL... 20 years later...


IBM PCs came with PC DOS which you could also buy separately, which was an (essentially identical) licensed version of MS DOS. It was vendor independent, though.

IBM PCs had BASIC built into the ROM (licensed from Microsoft). BASIC.COM and BASICA.COM (advanced BASIC) which came with PC-DOS would call subroutines in the ROM (except for ones that had errata), so you needed a real IBM PC to run it. Clones didn't have BASIC in ROM, so MS-DOS came with GWBASIC.COM which included all the subroutines. Turns out GWBASIC runs faster than BASICA because the RAM had faster access than ROM.

More details at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBM_BASIC

1.2 ships with 4 year old and broken CDRom driver, CD audio and CD detection doesnt work in a bunch of old games(for example Need For Speed).


How is this useful in 2016? I'm genuinely curious.

DOS was and is an absolutely tiny operating system. The job of an OS is to act as an intermediary between you and the hardware.

Sometimes, having stuff between you and the hardware is a problem. DOS lets you basically just use the hardware directly, so it can make sense for some types of control systems or firmware updaters.

It's really not ideal for either purpose, though. Control systems can use a much richer RTOS rather than building on DOS and implementing an RTOS within the application. Firmware updating only happens on DOS because Microsoft isn't interested in accommodating that use case with Windows. It is increasingly common to see firmware update boot images based on Linux, which has no trouble offering access to those low-level interfaces while still having a modern feature set.

There is also a historical significance this and things like DOSbox may prove useful in the future given ever lengthening copyrights.

Perfect is the enemy of good, as the saying goes...

A lot of new PCs in my (highly piratey) country come with FreeDOS pre-installed. You won't see them in retail stores, but they're offered for a significant discount online, even from major brands like Asus and Lenovo.

I have taken advantage of these offers several times to avoid buying a Windows license for a computer I intended to run Linux on, or to install a different version and/or language of Windows than the one the manufacturer offered by default. Sometimes I even buy Windows separately at additional cost, just to avoid the bloatware and spyware.

I have several theories about why manufacturers choose to do this instead of just leaving the disk unformatted or using a proper user-friendly Linux distro. By having another O/S pre-installed, they can claim that they are giving consumers a choice rather than outright encouraging piracy. But since most people who buy these PCs put pirated Windows on it anyway, they don't want to pre-install anything that they might need to support seriously. This means using a minimal O/S that "just works" but one that nobody is actually going to use as a daily driver. FreeDOS fits that bill, whether the developers like it or not. I'm grateful that it exists.

These days you don't need to buy Windows separately just to get rid of bloatware: you can just download a clean image from Microsoft [1].

[1] https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/software-download/

Are they cheaper than the equivalent computers with Windows?

Typically yes, because the price does not include the cost of a windows license. This article has an illustrative screenshot: http://fossforce.com/2016/12/foss-dos-21st-century-hardware/

That's interesting. I remember that back when you could buy a computer without an OS, it cost more than with Windows.

Yes, they've had deals with OEMs like that https://www.cnet.com/news/microsoft-investigated-in-europe/

> Novell complained in 1993 that Microsoft blocked competitors out of the market for operating system software by way of certain anticompetitive practices. It criticized Microsoft's standard agreements for licensing software to PC manufacturers, which required payment of royalties based on the number of computers shipped, regardless of whether the computers contained preinstalled Microsoft software

> After intense negotiations, Microsoft agreed to change some of its license contracts through the year 2000.

It can still cost more, if the OEMs made deals to pre-install crapware (those antivirus trials and such).

I imagine installs in high-piracy nations aren't terribly valuable to crapware peddlers, because they rely on enough people buying something from them to recoup their costs.

Good point!

First off, DOS has very direct hardware access. This means it works very well in more embedded environements. It also means it's just flat-out fun to hack on for some sorts of people, for much the same reasons that, say, ITS was fun to hack on (although no ITS user would ever admit to liking DOS, obviously)

Secondly, FreeDOS is useful for bringing a semi-modern operating system to your 486 or whatever, without it being unbearably slow: breathe some life into the thing.

Finally, legacy software. DOS has a massive library of some of the finest software ever conceived: games in particular. Doom, Quake, Duke3D, Wolf3D, King's Quest, Monkey Island, Myst, Lemmings, Dune II, Descent, various Infocom games, and far more that was less widely ported than the above and hard to play nowadays.

Lemmings originated on the Amiga, iirc.

First level on PC:


First level on Amiga 500:


Anyways, to elaborate a bit on what you stated. It was common back then that games came with driver libraries rather than having them installed on the OS.

Effectively each game took over the PC for the duration of play, and if it crashed you reached for the ever so useful reset button.

Quake for example had multiple versions. The original one that used software rendering. One that was custom built for 3DFX cards (assets now owned by Nvidia), GLquake that used OpenGL, Quakeworld for playing online (different network code to be less sensitive to latency etc), and the list continued on.

Quake 2 had a in-game toggle between 3DFX, PowerVR, OpenGL and software render.

>Lemmings originated on the Amiga, iirc

I think you might be right. I was confused because it was made by DMA Design, who would later rise to prominance on the PC (I know what you're thinking: what could possibly be more prominant than Lemmings? To which I answer that DMA Design is still around: However, they are now known as Rockstar. Yes, that one).

>Anyways, to elaborate a bit on what you stated. It was common back then that games came with driver libraries rather than having them installed on the OS.

True, although my point was merely that there were many excellent DOS games that haevn't been ported to other systems.

until a few years back, my company still owned some old scientific equipment whose software ran on DOS.

we've still got equipment which is controlled by software that runs on XP (and does not work on anything else). i should probably donate a bit to ReactOS, because i expect i'll need it sooner or later.

these sorts of projects can keep perfectly good, old equipment running and useful. (and considering the aversion some physical scientists have to computers, save drastically on training costs.)

You could run XP in a virtual machine. Bonus is that it will portable when and if you upgrade the machine.

Unlikely that this just works. T&M equipment was often not based on standard motherboards, even in the XP-firmware era. For example on some scopes there were parts on the mainboard that interfaces a proprietary interconnect to PCIe of the CPU/NB; the mainboard itself was kind-of-but-not-really µATX.

Some more recent designs seem to be standard µATX with standard PCIe, though, so these should be possible to use with virtualisation and the mandatory IOMMU for the proprietary hardware (Feature locks / DRM might be cranky, tho).

And before the mainstream OS era these were usually 100 % custom jobs, completely unlike a PC. 68k, MIPS, PPC, and even proprietary designs were used.

Older XP supposedly has a real time mode that got dropped in vista. If that's what they're using then a VM won't work.

Are you sure? I don't recall XP being real time of any kind, as it was designed ground up to be general purpose and specifically did not try to incorporate real time.

I do remember some sort of extension that could install drivers that made it behave like a real time OS. However at that point I think seperating the control out to seperate hardware with a real time OS seems like the obvious choice, and then keeping the interface on a genereal purpose PC. Though it wouldn't be the first time a vendor made a stupid choice.

The NT kernel has realtime scheduling priorities. It's not fully guaranteed though, and if a program with realtime priority hogs all the cores, you're screwed.

it was reported to us by the support folks that the software wouldn't even work in windows 7's XP mode, which as i understand it, is VM-based.

but, they said, "don't worry, we'll keep supporting XP!"


They can support it all they want, but unless they want to produce hardware, it's very hard to replace a pc with one that can run XP at all.

What about WINE?

I would assume driver issues, which can be taken care of in ReactOS (which is meant to be a reversed-engineered windows kernel) but not in Wine (userspace)

For me, WINE is preferred because Microsoft Office ran better on WINE last time I check.

It has a lot of uses here and there. A ton of companies use it as the OS for their hardware diagnostic packages, or for things like firmware updates. It claims very little of the hardware for its own, so it makes it a lot easier to do things like low level format a hard drive without having to worry about some other driver/process messing with things.

One interesting exception is Apple, who's Hardware Diagnostics disc runs as an EFI binary (why boot another OS when you have one in ROM already?)

Modern firmwares update via UEFI capsules, which are universal across operating systems.

Or, rather, independent of an OS.

Haven't been to HMV in about 5 years, but all the point-of-sale computers ran DOS at the Montreal locations I'd been too.

Went to a local bookstore recently, seemed they were running a DOS app too.

So unless they are emulating (a distinct possibility), they can use FreeDOS to run natively.

And if not for enterprise-sake, then just for fun :P

They might be OS/2 --- in text mode, it looks just like old fashioned DOS. Apparently lots of ATMs still run OS/2.

I have it on an super old desktop with even older serial adapters so we can maintain an ancient piece of machinery that nobody has a plan how it works.

Additionally, some OEMs will ship PC/Laptops "without OS" which usually means "FreeDOS preinstalled"

I still use it infrequently for firmware updates for certain hardware that's only delivered as DOS executables. I also needed to deploy such an update to a large number of embedded systems and ended up pxe booting freeDOS (not challenging to setup, but pxe booting DOS seems a little humorous). FreeDOS is a lot nicer to deal with than DOS or DRMK.

I'm not sure if this is "the" DOS used[1], but MS forces a contract on vendors saying that they can't sell a server without an operating system, as basically a way to help force out ^nix (vendors don't want to support a full-blown ^nix, so don't want to ship one). However, FreeDOS is an operating system with extremely limited functionality - there's nothing to support. This gives those vendors an 'out', so they don't lose clients who don't want to pay for MS licenses.

[1] I think it's FreeDOS that's an option on servers, but I can't recall. I've been cloud-ey for too long :(

Used to perhaps, but no longer.

I regularly order machines from dell with no OS on them - its just not available retail.

Wasn't that part of the anti-trust lawsuit?

No, i think that was about them bundling IE with Windows and claiming they were joined at the hip.

That said, i think MS since then changed their tactic to offering deep bulk discounts. In particular when the OEMs pre-installed both Windows and Office.

This because the margins pr PC had become so thin that the way the OEMs make a profit is to charge third parties like Symantec a pr PC fee on bloatware bundling.

When I bought my current PC (custom assembled for me from parts I chose) a few years ago, they installed FreeDOS on it. It booted all right from SSD and could DIR onto 37" LED TV.

for running firmware updates for some (older) devices

Or those who run non-vendor-supported OS on their computer, FreeDOS is often their only way to upgrade BIOS/UEFI.

FreeDOS doesn't work on computers with UEFI

FreeDOS doesn't work on computers without a PC BIOS; there's a difference. Look up 'Compatibility Support Module'.

Or not so old devices...

Yes I use FreeDOS on a USB flash drive to run BIOS updates on current hardware.

Gambling machines are one niche that, last find I checked, still used it a lot.

Depends on whether one's utility function definition, includes the nostalgia parameter

install onto a stick or disc for server firmware upgrades.

"but the cloud..."

someone maintains that cloud, every day.

I had to re-install osx on my sister's machine and the osx download and install thing in the firmware can't install osx from the cloud any more and it's only been 5 years or so!

> someone maintains that cloud, every day.

Why i did a double take when i ran into the claim of being "serverless" while checking out a web framework. Holy buzzword bingo, Batman...

But why not Linux in that situation?

(Not to talk the project down, it's great. But I don't think anyone wants to depend on it for system recovery)

Because shockingly the vendors still ship driver updates in dos compatible form and not linux in my experience. Last time I did BOIS/RAID driver updates, I was glad I could boot to DOS using a USB stick and not have to revert to a USB-to-floppy converter + floppy.

this.. I wanted to upgrade an old bios recently and intel only provided an exe

because manufacturers still provide dos .exe's for flash updates.

I occasionally play Dave using it. :-)

An operating system hosted on SourceForge, whose "drivers" directory includes support for a grand total of two devices -- the IBM PC floppy and the PC/AT clock [1]. DOS thinks different!

(Of course counting drivers in DOS is highly misleading, as the BIOS [2] directly offers all the useful calls like "turn on cassette drive motor" and "read joystick" that you will need to build modern microcomputer software.)

[1] https://sourceforge.net/p/freedos/svn/HEAD/tree/kernel/trunk...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BIOS_interrupt_call

This doesn't seem to be a particularly kind or constructive comment.

The linked article opens with:

DOS isn't exactly a moving target anymore, so we don't have to chase new features or shifting compatibility.

Are you making a commentary on the usefulness of DOS or of FreeDOS as a project?

I think they're just making an ironic comment about how times have changed.

Yes, that was it. I was trying to express positive astonishment that a 36-year-old operating system is being maintained largely in its original form.

No disrespect towards FreeDOS intended at all.

Helpful how?

There are problems where access to a DOS command line and ability to run applications is useful.

If anyone is interested in doing TCP/IP networking on DOS (and it may work on FreeDOS [1]), read on:

Reading this thread, I just remembered that I used to have an old IBM PC Jr that ran DOS (years earlier), a great machine hardware-wise (though it was not a marketing success, I've read). And some time back I had written this post about it:

Lissajous hippo, retrocomputing and the IBM PC Jr.:


While looking up info about the PC Jr. for that post, I came across Mike Brutman's PC Jr. page (mentioned in my blog post):


He was an IBM employee for a long time and so had access to good info about the PC Jr. - both hardware and software, and his page above is one he maintains about that machine - a sort of retrocomputing site about the Jr.

We then talked some on email, and he told me he had built a TCP stack for DOS and was running it on his Jr. That page is here:


He says others are also using mTCP, for fun, work and even business.

Here's an excerpt from his overview section about mTCP:


[ mTCP should run on all variants of DOS including IBM PC-DOS, Microsoft MS-DOS, DR-DOS and FreeDOS. All of these applications will run well on the oldest, slowest PC that you can find - I routinely use them on an IBM PCjr made in 1983 because nothing beats the fun of putting a 30+ year old computer on the Internet.

People are using mTCP for goofing off and for real work. If you have a DOS machine that needs to send data across the network mTCP can help you get that done. Besides its utility to vintage computers I have heard of people using it to transfer lab data from dedicated industrial PCs, allowing backups to be run on old machines, and sending sales reports from the branch offices of a retail store to a central server.

Don't have a vintage computer laying around? No problem! mTCP applications will run in a variety of virtual and emulated environments. It has been tested with DOSBox, SwsVpkt, VirtualBox and VMWare. See the documentation for the details. ]

mTCP is pretty sweet; I once ran it (IIRC) to set up an FTP server so I could transfer some files from the base system to a vbox VM running FreeDOS (I think it was to play around with some old QB4.5 code of mine from over a decade ago). To be honest, there was probably an easier way to do it, but I may have been hindered by the "draconian" rules we had on these machines (Win8 boxes, and we didn't have admin access) - or maybe I just wanted to see if it could be done. I don't really recall...


I love the FreeDOS project. While my first computer (a Kaypro II luggable - http://oldcomputers.net/kayproii.html) ran CP/M, my career in software began with PC-DOS on an IBM 5150. Every now and then, I like to run some of my old apps on FreeDOS, just to how far we've come (and how far we haven't, in some respects).

I still keep a FreeDOS install on most of my usb keys I carry around.

Just tried out the new version... nice updated installer. The old one would write out the install really slow. Gratz and thank you.

>I still keep a FreeDOS install on most of my usb keys I carry around.

Ha ha, at one time, as a system engineer, I used to carry many essential free DOS / Windows / Unix software apps (including some small utilities that I wrote - for both DOS and Unix, in Turbo C / Unix C and shell) around with me, burned onto a few CDs, on the theory that you never know when you may need it, on some client's PC (I used to go to solve clients' software problems). And it often did turn out that one of those apps was needed and I used it to solve some of their computer problems.

The "why this exists" part of the home page is pure hacker. Kudos!

I am curious to see functionality development in FreeDOS, for example, in include a capability to run SSH with X11 forwarding. It will be very interesting and useful.

Is there a changelog somewhere ?

It would be tempting to try a DOS web browser in this day and age.

Your best bet is probably Arachne: http://www.glennmcc.org/

GlaDOS, where are you?

Who use DOS this days?

I do, my IBM 5170 is running MS-DOS 5 and I use it for IRC, BBS and the odd bit of distraction free programming.

Multitasking is a distraction.

You use physical manuals?

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