View Full Version : Which class of systems was the best/last for full decent DOS support...

October 9th, 2017, 01:39 PM
Hi Everyone,

I know there are DOS variants that have been modernized, but I'm really talking about MS-DOS 6.22. What class of hardware was the last to fully support DOS? That isn't the same question as what is the last hardware most people ran on DOS as there were a lot of systems that were intended for Windows, but still had hardware and drivers that were compatible with DOS. I guess the systems just before the hardware that was windows only is what I'm asking about! I've got a P3 notebook that still has DOS compatible parallel/serial ports for example...



October 9th, 2017, 02:42 PM
LGR actually just uploaded a video of a brand new AMD Rhyzen system and installing MS DOS.


One negative I could see was that the UEFI couldn't boot it off a hard disk, limited to PC speaker, but it actually ran and played games.
I also have a Core 2 era XP laptop with proper serial, parallel, PS2 ports etc, I imagine that would've run MS DOS but never tried.

October 9th, 2017, 03:14 PM
Technically, any "modern" machine that supports BIOS/MBR booting will still run DOS. (Might even boot CP/M-86 too).

But then the question becomes: how much hardware compatibility is there beyond just booting?

For example, does the video card actually emulate CGA/EGA/VGA/VESA? Does the sound system emulate a Sound Blaster or any system supported by your DOS applications? Does the cheap USB keyboard support all the multi-key combinations DOS programs often used? And so on.

Most "modern" machines are heavily lobotomized and lack devices that were standard for MS-DOS machines. Real Floppy Disk Controller, serial ports, parallel ports, PS/2 connectors, ISA slots, monitors that can do proper 4:3 and sync oddball resolutions, all gone. And that can limit what you can actually DO with DOS.

Personally, I feel PCs became rather DOS unfriendly after about 2005 or so. But there was no absolute drop-off point, and varied depending on the the specific hardware configuration.

October 9th, 2017, 03:17 PM
Just about any PC can still "run" DOS. The real problem is peripherals, floppy support, and things like sound/network cards.

I'm not really sure what you are asking. P3/K6-3 chipsets all supported ISA DMA, so you could build a fully-functional DOS machine. But 99% of people used them for Windows. There are a few industrial P4 ISA motherboards too, but those weren't the norm.

The Pentium/K6 era was the latest people were still using DOS on a regular basis to play games (Quake etc). Once 3D accelerators came out and OpenGL/DirectX matured a bit the games all moved to Windows. Most applications had already moved to Windows since the introduction of Windows 3.1.

October 9th, 2017, 03:59 PM
I run a P4 in DOS mode using Win98SE as a base. Locating drivers takes some work, but it runs fine.

Much more than that and I'll run DOS in a virtual session, where appropriate hardware support can be reasonably emulated.

October 9th, 2017, 04:52 PM
As "full decent DOS support" I understand eg. fully-functional ISA slots.
So, for mainstream boards it would be the Pentium III era, somewhat later for special ones - probably Pentium 4.
Note that for certain types of hardware you needed to be careful even earlier - in the Pentium III era there was already plenty of GDI-only printers and softmodems - no chance to use them in pure DOS.

October 9th, 2017, 05:09 PM
If you want bleeding edge, the border of "practical" is the late PIII era boards. I use an Aopen AX34-U for legacy support purposes. I get all the CPU speed, ram capacity and AGP performance I'd ever need for some reason however between one ISA slot, Onboard Sound Blaster emulation and a decent number of "DOS Mode" options in the BIOS I don't end up screwing myself over because Everything works under DOS...except one thing.

Just get any socket 7 board and you are par for the course. By the time the 133mhz Pentium 1 was on the market the average person was on Windows 9x. Nobody was running MS-DOS in the PII, PIII or P4 days unless it was a special application.

October 10th, 2017, 05:31 AM
Like NeXT said, anything P1 - P3 will make a good DOS utility machine.

Personally, I use an industrial PICMG chassis, usually with a 1 GHz Socket 370 P3 Single-Board Computer plugged in. The backplane determines how many ISA and PCI slots you've got. When I need something older for a specific task, I just pull the SBC and plug in a different one.