A virtual machine (VM) is a software implementation of a machine (computer) that executes programs like a real machine. a program that creates an environment that mimics that of another machine. Virtual machines usually need to have an Operating System installed within them.

With a virtualizer you create a virtual machine that you can run your old program in, from within the host machine. There are a number of free virtualizers.

  • Bochs - PC emulator that can run many operating systems including DOS from within a different operating system. Open source.
  • Microsoft Virtual PC - Runs on Windows XP, 2000, NT 4.0, and ME. A Mac version is also available. Allows you to run Windows 3.1, 95, 98, ME, 2000, NT, XP, DOS and Linux. Commercial product.
  • QEMU - A generic and open source machine emulator and virtualizer.
  • VMWare - Creates a "virtual PC" inside Windows NT/2000 or Linux which you can run any PC OS on and switch to and from instantly. Commercial product.
  • VirtualBox - A family of powerful x86 virtualization products for enterprise as well as home use.


  1. Because they do not do full emulation, the overhead can be lower than that of an emulator, though this is somewhat offset by the overhead of a second OS.
  2. They fully support 32 bit Operating Systems and in some cases, even 64 bit.
  3. You can install almost any OS that was designed for the architecture of the virtual machine.


  1. Unlike DOSBox, you will also need to own and install the desired Operating System in your virtual machine.
  2. You will not be shielded from all hardware incompatibility issues.
  3. Audio hardware emulation is no where as good as that of DOSBox.
  4. Development goals of these virtualizers are generalized, whereas DOSBox's development goals are old game compatibility. As such, DOSBox can emulate a wider range hardware than the above virtualizers need to or can.
  5. Direct3D is not available on virtual machines.

DOSBox should still be your first solution for DOS and Win 3x games. For Win 9x games, try to run them natively in Windows with "Compatibility Mode" and in some cases various patches, etc. For some games, a virtualizer may be your only answer. Though I view it as a solution of last resort, it is a utility that belongs in every classic gamer's tool kit.

Final notes: There are other uses for VPC. I have successfully used VPC to install games that will not install in XP, but will run in XP. Install it in VPC, transfer the files to the host machine and find any registry entries, "Start Menu" items that need to be made or system files copied, etc. You can also use it to try things that think might be risky before you install it on your real OS. You can easily keep a backup copy of any virtual machine.


by helping to defray some of the costs of hosting this site. If it has been of help to you, please consider contributing to help keep it online.
Thank you.

© 2006 to present The Sierra Help Pages. All rights reserved. All Sierra games, artwork and music © Sierra.