Make 16-bit code work in WinXP or Vista (or alternately how to find Win98 retail licenses?)

| | August 4, 2015

We have thousands of DOS programs that were all written in the 80s using 16-bit C, comprising over 1,000,000 lines of code. Many of these programs utilize libraries that directly access the screen, drive, etc. (and we don’t have the sources for these libraries). Whenever we try to run them in Win2000 or above, even in compatibility mode, we get access violations and blue screens.

Our solution so far has been purchasing Win98SE Retail Boxes and running Win98 in a VMWare session. The problem now is that we can’t find enough non-OEM licenses (we last purchased in 2006 and need another 20 or so copies). Our company is extremely careful about licensing, so they have no interest in buying the OEM copies (since we are not a system builder).

Our new 32-bit software won’t be ready for 3 years, so unless someone knows where we can buy lots of Win98 retail boxes, I’m stuck trying to figure out how to get 16-bit software with direct system access to run in 2000/XP. Any ideas?

8 Responses to “Make 16-bit code work in WinXP or Vista (or alternately how to find Win98 retail licenses?)”

  1. You could see if they run in DosBox ?

    Some versions of DosBox actually supports printing.

  2. Andrew J. Brehm on November 30, -0001 @ 12:00 AM

    I know this is very late, but maybe someone will find this question and use this answer.

    OS/2 supports 16 bit Windows and still sells under the “eComStation” name.

    It’s possible that eComStation can run those 16 bit applications.

    It won’t run in VMware but it does run in Virtual Box.

  3. Maybe you can make it run in linux with wine inside VMware?
    Should be quite simple to try without awaiting procurement processes and other bureaucratic overhead.

  4. Would it be possible to run the apps remote instead? i.e. have a bunch of PCs with Win98 that are shared among users?

  5. Many Microsoft licenses (including OEM and enterprise licenses; actually pretty much everything except full boxed product EULAs) allow you to ‘downgrade’ to an earlier version of the product. Vista Business and XP may both be downgraded to Win98.

    customers licensed for use of Windows Vista Enterprise are licensed for Windows Vista Business, and it can be downgraded to the Windows XP Professional, Windows 2000 Professional, Windows NT® 4.0, Windows NT 3.51, Windows 98, or Windows 95 operating system.

    General info. Talk to MS, if you want ‘lots’, I’m sure they will be happy to sell you a bunch of licenses you can use for downgrades.

    I like the FreeDOS idea too, that could save you a packet if it works.

  6. I don’t know if this would work… I believe that through our MSDN subscription we have access to all sorts of “fun” things like Windows 3.11 and, yes, even Windows 98. At least I saw that such files existed, not sure if they ere actually downloadable… something to check into perhaps.

  7. What about a system like freedos which you could also run inside of VMWare?

  8. Have you tried asking for Win98 on Ebay?

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