Take the 2-minute tour ×
Arqade is a question and answer site for passionate videogamers on all platforms. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I've noticed that a number of people here use DOSBox for playing older titles on modern PC hardware.

I am very familiar with VirtualBox, I use it to virtualize several operating systems. I have also read up on it's current 3d support.

My question is what is the advantage of something like DOSBox over VirtualBox?

Is it essentially for ease of use? With VB I have to install the actual DOS package and manipulate memory management, etc as I did back in the real dos days (presumably). Does DOSBox remove these sorts of configuration issues?

I'm considering running games that would have had requirements in the 100's of Mhz on an i7-2600k, so I'm not terribly concerned about virtualization overhead unless there's some specific gotcha that I don't know about

share|improve this question
6  
DOSBox isn't playing too well with Lion, if you're... that way. –  Abby T. Miller Aug 11 '11 at 14:35
4  
Keep an eye on naclbox.com, DOSBox running in a browser. –  hyperslug Aug 11 '11 at 21:08
    
@Abby Good to know, I read that it's reported to run well on Win7, which is my primary concern. –  Tharius Aug 12 '11 at 21:04
1  
@Abby and Stephen: Check out Boxer if you want DOSBox on Mac. The "official" version is somewhat lacking (as are most non-Mac-specific open source projects), but Boxer tidies everything up nicely. –  Andrew Scagnelli Aug 18 '11 at 1:57
    
@A.Scagnelli Oo. Thanks! –  Abby T. Miller Aug 18 '11 at 2:23
add comment

3 Answers 3

up vote 39 down vote accepted

VirtualBox is a general-purpose desktop virtualization software, and nothing else. It doesn't come with any operating system (you need to install one). The guest operating system is fairly "isolated" from the host. You can only access a host directory from the guest system through SMB sharing (over a virtual network).

DOSBox is a 16/32-bit x86 emulator that already comes with a DOS-like operating system pre-installed. The objective is to run DOS applications as easy as possible. It doesn't require a virtual harddrive image, as it can access host directories directly (after mounting a directory as a virtual drive — this is only possible because DOSBox also emulates the operating system). It also has some features to emulate old networking hardware (such as dial-up modems and IPX network) over TCP/IP.

VirtualBox uses virtualization, which means it requires a host CPU of the same architecture of the guest system.

DOSBox is a full emulator, all CPU instructions have been re-implemented in C, and it can run on any hardware. (there are videos of DOSBox running inside Symbian Nokia phones)

In a nutshell: DOSBox has been designed to run old DOS applications and games in a fairly easy way, in any host system.


Glossary:

  • Host: the system/computer that runs the emulator.
  • Guest: the emulated system/computer that runs inside the emulator
share|improve this answer
2  
plus, it starts faster than having to fire up a virtual machine first (even if it's only running DOS) –  Zommuter Aug 11 '11 at 15:36
    
Nitpick: VirtualBox is not hypervisor; it runs on a host OS. –  hyperslug Aug 11 '11 at 21:07
1  
I didn't understand the one downvote I received. Not that I'm complaining... but I would like to know WHY. –  Denilson Sá Aug 11 '11 at 21:08
    
@hyperslug VirtualBox definitely is a hypervisor. –  user56 Aug 21 '11 at 13:44
add comment

In addition to the other answers, DOSBox allows you to strictly control the speed of the CPU that is being emulated, making it possible to play some games (i.e. Wing Commander) that grab all the CPU cycles available and are, therefore, unplayable on modern hardware.

It also seamlessly interfaces with the host OS for hardware, so that you can use a new Logitech controller to play any old DOS game without any configuration issues, and you can easily get sound out of the games without having to figure out how to configure your sound card to emulate a SoundBlaster 16.

share|improve this answer
    
These are very important points, thanks! –  Tharius Aug 12 '11 at 12:16
add comment

It is essentially for ease of use.

Together with something like DosShell, launching a game becomes incredibly easy/fast.

enter image description here

DOSBox does not remove installation issues, but it does remove memory issues.

But once the game is installed (you install it in a DOS like screen), launching goes as above.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.