I am looking for a emulator for MS-DOS for OS X to run old games on.

Are there any free emulators for MS-DOS that run on an Apple machine with OS X?

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    Yes, NetHack (and Hack, from which NetHack was derived, and Rogue, which inspired Hack) were all originally for Unix systems. There was an early port of Hack to MS-DOS, and later versions of NetHack were ported to MS-DOS as well. There was a port of Rogue to MS-DOS as well.
    – Ken Gober
    Commented May 12, 2016 at 17:40
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    @blubberdiblub : Right.
    – TOOGAM
    Commented May 25, 2016 at 6:46
  • DosBox appears on almost every platform
    – phuclv
    Commented Aug 12, 2016 at 9:57
  • What does a port of some game to or from MSDOS have to do with an emulator? Commented May 29, 2017 at 9:33
  • @rackandboneman Look at the edit history. The question was originally about running Nethack. Commented Jul 24, 2019 at 5:05

6 Answers 6


The nicest DOS emulator for macOS is Boxer, which is a macOS-specific version of DOSBox. Not only is it free, it's free software (or open source if you prefer); its source code is available and freely modifiable. On modern Macs you’ll need the forked Boxer with 64-bit support.

Boxer or DOSBox or DOSBox-X are the best option nowadays for running old DOS games (they have pretty good hardware emulation for the kinds of peripherals used with games). If you want a full-blown, free, DOS experience, you could install FreeDOS inside a VirtualBox virtual machine, but that's more complicated to set up; in particular, VirtualBox's guest additions aren't available for DOS, so it's harder to transfer files from your macOS environment to your DOS environment than it is with Boxer. Instead of FreeDOS, inside VirtualBox, you could also try DR-DOS, or MS-DOS if you have a license for it.

If you're looking to really experience what the operating system was like back when it was still in widespread use, you'll need to find an old PC and run DOS directly on it — a lot of the quirks of daily DOS use are related to the hardware of the time (IRQ handling, memory management...), and emulation environments, be they DOS emulators such as DOSBox or full-blown virtual machines such as VirtualBox, don't allow you to relive that to the same extent.

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    DOSBox isn't an MS-DOS emulator. It's a hardware emulator really. Many MS-DOS functions are not supported. Question really should be retitled.
    – Thraka
    Commented May 12, 2016 at 17:27
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    I believe the actual intention of @EᴀsᴛᴇʀʟʏIʀᴋ is to play the DOS version of NetHack (if that's the case, editing the question to reflect that might help getting more directed answers and would make this answer more valid), where a fully-blown command.com might not be required. A plain DOSBox/Boxer might or might not be sufficient. Commented May 12, 2016 at 18:03
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    DOSBox's compatibility list shows Nethack as having near-perfect support.
    – Mark
    Commented May 12, 2016 at 18:10
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    @mnem no worries, I think you started writing your comment while I was writing that update! Commented May 12, 2016 at 19:08
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    @Brian that does work; you can also “burn” CD contents to ISO images instead of using a CD-R, and mount the image in the VM. I recently came across EtherDFS which provides file transfers between DOS and Linux systems, but I haven’t tried running the DOS part in a VM. Commented Jul 23, 2019 at 18:33

I have had great success with the Qemu emulator! I have been able to run (emulate) DOS and MS-DOS on an Apple computer with it. Because some versions of DOS may require a different CPU architecture than what your Apple runs on, you can use Qemu to emulate another CPU architecture. Here is the homepage to help get you started: http://wiki.qemu.org/Main_Page


Although I don't recommend this course of action except for educational purposes, it is possible to do a bare-metal boot of FreeDOS on some x86 Macs. The problem with actually using it (as opposed to noodling around in wonder that it works at all) is that most interesting DOS software gets down and dirty with the hardware, and a modern Mac isn't exactly register-level compatible with a 1990s-era PC.


Doxbox for Mac would work. I have Dosbox for PC (Windows 10). I love it and use it run everything from 1980 or later. I have GW-Basic, Turbo Pascal, Old games like Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy from the early 90's. You can run off a flash drive or hard drive.

DosBox 0.74

Another thing you try..Something my uber extreme computer geek of a son did. Partitioned the drive and installed windows 7 on one, and Linux on the other. Apparently it worked so don't quote me on it.


In https://msdos-games.com you can play ms-dos games emulated in your browser.


I was playing sometime in the past and I'm very satisfied with the RetroArch Emu.

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    Given your other posts across the network, I take it you’re involved with Retrostic, is that correct? “All the emulators” is a bit of an exaggeration, there are only two listed here. Commented Jul 23, 2019 at 18:40
  • Yeah… you should definitely be letting us know you want to advertise Retrostic. I've edited your answer to remove reference to Retrostic from it – please read How not to be a spammer before you try to edit it back in.
    – wizzwizz4
    Commented Jul 23, 2019 at 19:03

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