This is the ultimate guide to getting DOSBox up and running on your Windows, Mac, or Linux PC. At the end of this tutorial, your DOSBox gaming client will be set up and ready to play the classic DOS games that you know and love.

So obviously, the first thing you are going to need to do is get DOSBox itself installed on your system. If you've already done this, then you can skip this part. Installing DOSBox is pretty simple, but it differs a bit depending on your operating system of choice. This guide does not cover SVN Builds of DOSBox, which you can dive into yourself. This will be a complete manual installation and setup using the vanilla DOSBox release, which is currently (as of this writing) at v0.74.

For both Windows and macOS operating systems, you can just download the installer right from the DOSBox Website. It installs just like any other program, and you should be able to have a clean bare-bones build up and running within a couple of minutes.

On Linux systems, the ease of installation will largely depend on your distro. For example, on Linux Mint, I was able to simply open a terminal and type:
sudo apt-get install dosbox

As Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu, the exact same may also work there, although I did not try it. I did try Fedora though, and the installation is just as simple on that distro:
sudo dnf install dosbox

From either distro, you can simply type dosbox from the terminal after installation to launch the program. It should also appear in the program listing on whichever desktop environment you happen to be using. If DOSBox is not in your software repos, check the DOSBox Downloads Site or search for installation instructions for your particular distro. Odds are good that if you know how to run Linux, you know how to install DOSBox.

At this point, you have a basic bare-bones DOSBox instance up and running. In theory, you could just stop right now and start playing some games, but in order to get the most out of DOSBox and make things a bit more enjoyable for yourself, there are a few extra steps which you should take to get your fresh DOSBox installation ready to go. The first thing we want to do is get a couple of directories set up on your system that will serve as the virtual "hard drives" for your DOSBox install. If DOSBox is currently running, go ahead and close out of it now.

How you set up your DOSBox directories is up to you, but this is what I usually do, and it works out great for me. Somewhere on your PC, perhaps in your Home or Documents folder, create a dosbox directory, and within that, create a c and a d directory (folder). On Windows, it will look something like this:

Next we want to open the DOSBox configuration file, and set the program up to automatically mount our new folders as virtual hard drives on launch. The location of the configuration file (generally named dosbox.conf) is different based on which operating system you are using.

On Windows, dosbox.conf is nested in the users AppData directory, but luckily you don't have to worry about finding it, since the DOSBox Installer creates a start menu shortcut for you called "DOSBox 0.74 Options." A quick and easy way to bring up the shortcut is to press the Windows key on your keyboard, and then start typing the word dosbox. All of the DOSBox shortcuts will start to pop up, and just click on the Options one to open the config file.

It is important to remember that on macOS (as well as Linux), the configuration file will not be created until the first time you launch DOSBox, so if you haven't opened it yet, open it up and then close it again to create the config file.

On the Mac, the DOSBox configuration file is found within the users' Library folder, although on many Mac systems, this folder is hidden by default. To access it, from your desktop hold down the shift + command + g keys at the same time to open the Go To Folder dialog. From there, type in ~/Library and press Go. From there, open the Preferences folder, and then a file called DOSBox 0.74 Preferences. If you need a text editing application on your mac, I suggest getting Text Wrangler from the Mac App Store.

Like the Mac, the DOSBox configuration file will not be created until you first run DOSBox, so if you haven't opened it yet, open it up and then close it again to create the config file.

The Linux configuration file is easy to find. It is in your Home folder in a hidden directory called .dosbox, and so the file path is ~/.dosbox/dosbox-0.74.conf and you can open the file with any text editing application.

Mounting Your Virtual Drives
Once you have located and opened your DOSBox config file, you will need to add the mount commands for the new directories you created earlier in this guide. If you scroll to the very bottom of the config file, you will see an autoexec section, which is where we want to add our new configuration options. The syntax for the mount command is mount [drive-letter] [directory-path]. For example, consider the Windows screenshot I posted above. I created a dosbox directory in my d:, and I created a c and d directory within that. To mount these folders as virtual drives, I would add this to the bottom of my DOSBox configuration file:
# Lines in this section will be run at startup.
# You can put your MOUNT lines here.
mount c d:\dosbox\c
mount d d:\dosbox\d
The c: on the last line tells DOSBox to change directory to c: on startup, so that everything is up and ready to go like a classic DOS machine when I start the program.

If you are unfamiliar with directory structures on Mac or Linux, the syntax is a little different from Windows. Suppose you created the dosbox/c/d folders in your Home directory. Your mount commands would look like this:
# Lines in this section will be run at startup.
# You can put your MOUNT lines here.
mount c ~/dosbox/c
mount d ~/dosbox/d
After you have made the appropriate config file modifications, save the file and launch DOSBox. It should now automatically mount your system folders as C: and D:, and should launch at the classic C prompt, awaiting your command.

Get Some Games
At this point, you are ready to add some games to DOSBox. Quit out of the program. Whenever you add new files to your DOSBox virtual drives from your host PC, you will have to restart the program in order for it to detect them. If you do not already own a bunch of old DOS games, I suggest heading over to My Abandonware and grabbing a few.

I always place my DOS games in the d directory that I created, especially ones that come with a setup or installer program, and I suggest you do this too. The reason will be more apparent in a later tutorial when I go through getting Windows 3.1 up and running in DOSBox.

One thing to keep in mind when you are populating your d: with DOS Games, is that MS-DOS (and DOSBox) only support file and folder names that are 8 characters long. If you name a folder something longer than 8 characters, you will not be able to easily access it from DOSBox.

Once you have downloaded a game, fire up DOSBox to test it out. For this example, suppose you downloaded Sim City, and saved it to your dosbox\d\simcity folder. When you launch DOSBox, you can change to your virtual d drive by typing d: (and then enter) from the command prompt.

From there, you change to the SIMCITY folder by typing cd simcity

Finally, you would open the Sim City game by typing the name of its executable file, and pressing enter (in this case, probably simcity). If you cannot figure out the name of the executable, you can enter the following command:
This will list all of the executable files in the current directory.

If all goes according to plan, your game will start and you will be good to go!

At this point you have a basic DOSBox install up and running and ready to play basic DOS games. In the next part, we will be installing Microsoft Windows 3.1 along with all necessary drivers, which will unlock a whole host of old Windows games for you to play. Stay tuned!

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