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I'm attempting to install Sid Meyer's Colonization in DosBox from the original floppies, and it gives me the error message "You have specified a drive that doesn't physically exist!" when I try to run "install.exe".

I'm running DosBox 0.74 on 64-bit Gentoo Linux. I've got the first floppy of the set mounted in Linux at /mnt/floppy, and I've mounted that directory in DosBox as drive A:. I've verified that the floppy disk isn't corrupted.

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    This is something of a test to see what sort of game-related questions are on-topic. If you vote to close, please add a comment here or on this thread. – Mark May 3 '16 at 5:04
  • Well, this is a dosbox error, and the solution is provided on a few game sites. So, I suppose it is on topic, because this problem doesn't just affect games, but could affect any compressed install program for any app or app Suite. – user12 May 3 '16 at 12:54
  • Here is a possible solution, for the record: gamefaqs.com/boards/199361-x-com-terror-from-the-deep/64369036 but it isn't an answer because who knows if it works. – user12 May 3 '16 at 12:56
  • @jdv, thanks. That was the hint I needed to figure out what was going wrong, and how to work around it. – Mark May 5 '16 at 3:48
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    Your answer is great, as it addresses a specific problem that others may run into. Could you generalize the question a bit to make it easier to find for future spelunkers? I'm thinking you understand this well enough to tweak the title and question so it contains the details necessary for other people to find. e.g., is this limited to, or primarily affects Microprose installers? That sort of thing. Let's make this good question even better. Like I said, I'd edit the question, but I think you are the expert now. – user12 May 6 '16 at 15:25
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Microprose tried to be clever in using BIOS calls to detect which disk is present in the floppy drive. However, the information that install.exe is looking for gets lost somewhere in the many filesystem layers between it and the actual disk. This is not a problem unique to emulation; CD-ROM-based installation sometimes had trouble, as did some not-quite-IBM-compatible PCs.

There are two ways to work around this:

First, you can make images of the disks, and mount those images in DosBox. You'll need to specify the disk geometry when mounting the image:

imgmount -size 512,18,2,80 a: /path/to/your/disk/image

This is not the recommended method, as there's no easy way to switch out disk images during the installation process.

Second, you can bypass the installer entirely: the mpscopy.exe utility on the first disk does the actual work of installation, and all it cares about is that the files it's looking for are present. You can copy the files from all three floppies into a single directory somewhere (the easy way) or switch out the floppies as-needed (the harder way). Run it directly:

mpscopy -c a: c:\colonize

If you're switching out floppies, you may need to use CTRL+F4 to inform DosBox that you've done so. Once the files are copied, run the configuration program to set up sound:

c:
cd colonize
install

mpscopy.exe and the floppy-detection issues are not unique to Colonization; the issue and its fixes may also apply to other DOS-based Microprose games.

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