How to Emulate And Play MS-DOS Games On Windows Mobile

Good games on the Windows Mobile platform are largely limited to a few recent titles – but there is a wealth of games available for the platform thanks to the library of titles written in MS-DOS, and a suitable emulator.

If you want to install some old games or apps or simply want to push the limits on your Windows Mobile device, MS-DOS emulation is a good way to go. Modern Windows Mobile devices are more than capable of running old MS-DOS games and applications, but emulation is a tricky business. Surprisingly there are just two emulators available.

The Emulators

While emulation of games consoles and 8 bit platforms are commonplace on Windows Mobile, there is a huge vacuum in the DOS emulation field, with barely filling the gap. Given that fans of so many classic and retro games want to be able to play their favourites on a mobile platform, it’s astonishing there aren’t more PDA MS-DOS emulators generally, let alone on Windows Mobile.

First of all, there’s pDOSBox – probably the most well known of the MS-DOS emulators for Windows Mobile, pDOSBox is 100% free. PDOSBox (the “p” is for “pocket”) is available as freeware and is currently a beta release for version 2.0 – however it is tricky to setup and not compatible with all Windows Mobile screen resolutions. pDOSBox isn’t suitable for use with all Pocket PC devices and fails to run satisfactorily on Windows Mobile 6.5.

Secondly, there’s Pocket Dos. This MS-DOS emulator is also available for free but requires registration to get rid of an annoying reminder every 15 minutes. The registration is in the $30 area and as there really isn’t very much between the two emulators in terms of performance and compatibility, it’s down to the user’s preference which they opt for.

We’ll carry on now and look how to successfully achieve emulation on each of these applications.

Emulation with pDOSBox

Sid Meier's Civilization running on pDOSbox 2.0

Installation of pDOSBox veers away from the standard CAB file or ActiveSync-managed desktop installation. First download the pDOSBox zip file. Extracted it and copy the folder to the Storage Card on your Windows Mobile device.

While viewing your Windows Mobile device in Explorer (usually opened via ActiveSync) right-click on the file pdbfend.exe in the pDOSBox2.0 folder and select Create Shortcut. Rename this shortcut to pDOSBox 2 and then right-click on this shortcut and select Cut.

Navigate to the Windows folder on your WinMo device, right-click on the “Start Menu” and select Paste

You’re now ready to run pDOSBox!

Configuration of your pDOSBox requires the mounting of your Storage Card as a drive. To do this, browse to theĀ  pDOSBox2.0 folder and open the dosbox.conf file in Notepad.

The following line should be altered as appropriate, depending on how your additional storage is named in the Windows Mobile device and whereabouts you’ve saved your DOS programs.

By default, the line reads:

mount c "/Storage Card/pDOSBox0.63-p1/DosPrograms"

You might change this to:

mount c "/Internal Storage/Games/"

Once this has been done, the C:\ drive should automatically mount when pDOSBox 2.0 is launched and you’ll then be able to carry on and install and launch the games or application using standard MS-DOS syntax:

cd path-to-app-folder
install.bat

Entering the two lines above would – in turn – change directory to the game/app directory and then run the installation procedure.

Once the installation is completed the game could be run by entering:

name-of-game.exe

Although tricky to setup, pDOSBox 2.0 can be an effective MS-DOS emulator and is 100% free.

Emulation with Pocket Dos

Pocket Dos meanwhile is “nagware” (meaning that every so often a notice is displayed asking you to purchase the software) but is easier to setup.

Once downloaded and installed, Pocket Dos can be quickly launched from the Program menu on your Windows Mobile device.

Pocket Dos for Windows Mobile - launching the application

Using the emulator is more straightforward than pDOSBox – Pocket Dos doesn’t require the mounting of new drives, and detects your Storage Card and mounts this as C:\ when the app is launched.

A freeware MS-DOS title – such as Sid Meier’s RailRoad Tycoon as shown here – can be saved to your Storage Card and via Pocket Dos installed and run on your Windows Mobile device.

To do this, load up Pocket Dos and type

DIR
CD Rails
rails.bat (or game.exe)

to play!

Sid Meier's RailRoad Tycoon running on Windows Mobile MS-DOS emulator Pocket Dos

Obviously there is a good deal of MS-DOS in this tutorial. It should be noted that the emulation offered by each of these apps goes beyond running old games. Each offers full emulation of the old Microsoft disk operating software, so there are plenty of opportunities to explore the system in full.