Windows for Workgroups 3.11 Virtually

I needed to install a program on my replacement PC the other day so I had to dig through my installation disks looking for the CD. That’s when I saw the original Packard Bell Multi-Media Master CD for my 1994 Packard Bell Force 53CD PC. The CD contained the full version of MS-DOS 6.00 and Windows for Workgroups 3.11 so I just couldn’t resist installing this in a virtual machine. The process turned out to be a very fun and time wasting trip down memory lane.

Since both DOS 6 & WFW3.11 are still under copyright, I can’t provide a VHD file like I’ve done for the Linux distros. So if you want to play around with this 20 year old OS you’ll need to roll your own VM. Here are a bunch of tips for getting a Windows Virtual PC going with WFW. At the very end of this post is a list of downloadable drivers, updates and programs with links.

VM Setup

  • Give the VM 128MiB of RAM and don’t make the virtual disk bigger than 2GiB (old size limit). In my trials I found a 200MiB drive was large enough to install everything including keeping a full copy of the WFW installation files.
  • Use a fixed size virtual disk, I saw a number of disk read errors when I tried using a dynamic disk.

DOS & WFW Setup

  • You can’t run MS-DOS setup from a normal CD or from a hard disk. Since my Master CD had a copy of the files from after installation I just copied that directory to the disk and used a DOS 6 boot disk to partition and format the drive. If you really want or need to install DOS 6.x make three physical bootable CDs with the three installation disk images. Then set the VM to use your real drive, boot off of disk one and when prompted to put the next disk in A: change the CD.
  • Use the /S option when formatting so that you don’t have to run SYS on the disk after formatting.
  • Copy all the files from the 8 WFW floppy disks into a single directory e.g. WIN_INST. This makes installation faster and comes in handy later when you are prompted for install disks during driver installations.
  • Don’t use EMM386 in you DOS CONFIG.SYS file, it seems to cause a lot of GPF’s in Windows.
  • The WFW Express install option always crashed at the network adapter screen but simply choosing custom setup and taking the default options avoided the crash.
  • After you finish installing all of the drivers and programs set the swap file to none. With 128MiB of RAM a swap file is not needed.
  • When you’re finished installing everything run a full DEFRAG on the drive, it speeds up operations significantly.
  • Add EMMExclude=A000-CBFF to the [386Enh] section of the SYSTEM.INI file. I found this tip here (comment by Zinc) and here.
  • When I had 15 program groups in Program Manager, groups would randomly disappear from the screen at start up. I merged some groups until I had only 8 total and it solved the problem. I didn¬ít take the time to see what number of groups makes the problem occur.

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