How to Use DOSBox

Play classic video games you thought were lost to time

There are hundreds of classic video games out there, and while they don’t run on Windows, Mac, or Linux, you can actually still play them. Many are even free. These games came out in a time when DOS was still a dominant operating system. That’s where using DOSBox comes in. DOSBox is a free emulator that works across operating systems and lets you play your favorite classic MS-DOS games. Here's how to use it.

You can now find some classic MS-DOS games for sale on GOG.com. These can be played without an emulator like DOSBox.

How to Install DOSBox

Before you can start playing games, you’re going to need DOSBox. You can easily get the software for free, regardless of your operating system. Then, follow these instructions to download and install it.

It may be helpful to create a folder for all of the old games you want to play. You can label it something like C:\OLDGAMES.

How to Install DOSBox for Windows

Follow these steps if you have a Windows PC to download and install DOSBox:

  1.  Open your browser and head to the DOSBox download page.  

  2.  Locate the latest Windows installer download, and select it.

  3.  After the download completes, run the installer.  

  4. Follow the on-screen directions. It's fairly simple, and the default options should suffice in most situations.

 How to Install DOSBox for Ubuntu/Debian Linux

Open a terminal window, then run the following command to install DOSBox on Ubuntu:

$ sudo apt install dosbox

How to Install DOSBox for macOS

Follow these directions to install DOSBox on a Mac computer:

  1.  Open your browser and go to the DOSBox download page.

  2.  Locate and download the latest DMG file for Mac.

  3.  Double-click the file to open it.

  4.  Drag the application for the DMG into the /Applications folder

  5. Wait for the application to finish copying over, then eject the DMG with the eject button.

How to Play Games on DOSBox

With DOSBox set up on your system, it’s time to download a game and start playing. There are a bunch of places where you can get DOS games online. My Abandonware hosts hundreds of free classic games that were abandoned by their developers. Here's how to download games on that site:

  1. Open your browser, and go to My Abandonware.

    My Abandonware website
  2. Select Platform and search for DOS games (or follow that link).

    The Platform heading on My Abandonware
  3. Find a game you’re interested in playing and select it to download it.

  4. Unpack the archive your DOS game came in and place the files in a folder that's easy to access.

  5. Open DOSBox.

    DOSBox terminal window
  6. The first thing you need to do is mount your game folder as the C: drive. You can do that by running the mount command and passing it C first, followed by the path to your game folder. It should look something like this:

    mount c /path/to/game/folder

    Mount game folder in DOSBox
  7. Now, change directories into the new C: drive. Do this by simply typing “C:” without the quotes.

    Change directories in DOSBox
  8. All you need to do now is type the name of the .exe file and press Enter. DOSBox will launch your game.

    DOSBox running a game
  9. You can use the on-screen mouse icon if there is one, and your keyboard, to control the game.

  10. When you’re done playing, exit the game normally. To exit DOSBox, type "exit" in the terminal.