1

I have just managed to find and install my native language versions of MS-DOS 6 and Windows 3.11 in a virtual machine, just as I had on my first computer: an IBM 486 DX2 66 MHz.

VM software: VMware Workstation 15 Player.

I've got it working, and I'm very happy for that, but there's two issues:

  1. It's going at lightning speed. When I type "win" in MS-DOS prompt after starting it up, I can only see the Windows logo for a split second before I see the Windows 3.11 Program Manager, fully loaded. The way I remember it, that Windows logo "splash screen" is supposed to show for many seconds until the GUI gradually loads up. How do I slow it down? I've already looked in the CPU settings for the VM, and baffingly, it lacks any option to "simulate 486" or anything like that. Not even a field to enter any kind of cryptic number. How is it done?

  2. The GUI uses 640 × 480 pixels, just as I remember it. However, even in fullscreen mode, it looks like a little square in the middle of my 1920 × 1080 screen. It could easily be "2×2" as big without being upscaled in any way. (Yes, there would still be black bars on all four sides.) I don't see any options anywhere to make it scale up either, but even if there were, I wouldn't want that. The "VMware tools" only seem to be available for Windows, and when I try to install them anyway, there is no D: (CD-ROM) drive, neither in Windows or DOS. So that's probably not it.

How do I solve these two frustrating problems so that I can actually see what I'm doing and immerse myself in nostalgia and preferably never return back to the present?

11
  • 7
    This seems to be a question about modern software, VMware, and not about retrocomputing per se. Dec 23 '20 at 18:29
  • 3
    Sounds to me as if the OP wants to recreate a "retro" experience. Does it not count as "retro" if it's emulated? Dec 23 '20 at 19:48
  • 3
    Going 'super speed' is natural. VMware is not an emulator to recreate an old machine and especially not meant to support nostalgia. VMware is a hypevisor offering a virtual environment to run multiple environments on the same machine. It's task is to NOT slow it down, giving all power to whatever it is hosting. VMware is about giving maximum power to whatever is running inside. So by giving small amounts of RAM or HD results simply in a modern machine with small amounts of RAM and HD, not a slow machine. You might want to use a PC-Emulator instead.
    – Raffzahn
    Dec 23 '20 at 20:04
  • 11
    DosBox can run win3.11 and has a speed option Dec 23 '20 at 23:29
  • 2
    I think this question falls within the remit established by retrocomputing.meta.stackexchange.com/a/17/15334 in that it asks about tuning a platform (which happens to be an emulator) to work well with retro software, as opposed to tuning an emulator to work well with its host environment. One might as well ask a very similar question whether there’s an equivalent of a Turbo button for modern physical hardware. Dec 27 '20 at 13:39
15

VMWare is not an emulator these days, but a hypervisor. Windows 3.1 is running directly on the hardware with nothing underneath it, just fenced in by hardware-level protection and translation. If you want to slow it down, you'll have to eat up cycles with a busy task, or slow down your processor some other way.

Another option would be to use an emulator like PCem which aims for timing accuracy of real 8086 through 80586 PC compatible machines, though it may not have some other features of VMWare you need.

12
  • Would it have killed them to include the option to simulate slowness? They cannot possibly be so naive to think that: 1. Everyone uses it for "as fast as possible" business applications only. 2. That it's even something good to run these old systems faster than they were designed for... which it obviously isn't. No, I don't buy this answer. It doesn't make any sense to me.
    – Rothberg
    Dec 23 '20 at 20:12
  • 13
    @Rothberg - an option to simulate slowness isn't as obviously easy as you think. There's the relative speed of I/O devices, for one. Plus, VMWare isn't in business to sell to hobbyists who want a "retro" experience. The people they are selling their products too - who are willing to pay $$$$ - aren't using them to boot Windows 3.1 and see the logo screen in all its glory. This answer is useful because it points you to an alternative that you could use.
    – davidbak
    Dec 23 '20 at 21:01
  • @davidbak Well, I don't trust PCem, which I haven't heard of until today, and what's more, its website royally pisses me off by deliberately leaving out any "About" section or even short paragraph or even slogan. It doesn't say what it is, and makes the visitor guess. I hate that.
    – Rothberg
    Dec 23 '20 at 21:04
  • 9
    @Rothberg But that's exactly what VMware is about, giving as much computing power as possible to a guest system. A typical use case ist o run a production environment on a developer machine to test a new version. Or to run a certain application only available under a different OS, or to run some software that works only under an older OS version. In all these cases one wants to have as much power as possible. Why wait as long as one did years ago? Long story short: The answer is spot on and you're simply trying to use the wrong tool. Get a PC-Emulator. They offer what you want.
    – Raffzahn
    Dec 23 '20 at 21:13
  • 5
    @Rothberg Their target group does not need that. If I were to use old software today in a professional setting I would like it to run as fast as the machine allowed. Dec 24 '20 at 10:29
8

You might consider DOSBox (free). It is more oriented towards emulating retro hardware, and has some speed control options. It tries to 'figure out' what the speed control should be, but there is a manual setting you can also use if that fails.

Additionally, it does have a scaling feature (which I personally prefer over going full-screen anyway -- going full screen does some DirectX stuff and moves my existing open windows all around).

2
  • 1
    Apparently Windows 3.1 will run inside of DOSbox.
    – StarCat
    Dec 30 '20 at 12:22
  • oh thanks @StarCat! I was going to give it a go myself, but I only have floppies (of WfW), and I couldn't be bothered to dig up a floppy drive to make images (if those floppies are even still intact magnetically).
    – ziggurat29
    Dec 30 '20 at 16:09

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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