Modern computer, how old an OS can I run?

With a new bought computer, a dual core AMD or Intel, without emulation, as a strict install what is the most basic MS OS I could actually install and run?

Pretty sure any version of DOS would run on that. Whether or not the applications you ran would be able to talk to hardware such as your soundcard, is another matter.

(and you might need to run it in a small partition on the hard drive, as it might have trouble dealing with the whole thing - particularly reporting free space)

If you could actually find an MS-DOS 1.0 app which would use the soundcard. Back then, you were lucky if something beeped at you through the PC speaker.

I don’t know if I’d bet on that. I’m thinking the relatively huge memory spaces and some of the hardware onboard modern motherboards would give old versions of DOS a serious bellyache.

Just remember: Anything over 60gb requires NTFS. Fat32 didn’t like my new hard drive, hence me upgrading from win98 to win2k last year.

Not sure - I think DOS would just completely ignore it and only use base memory - assuming such a thing still exists.

I imagine that you could run any OS that had x86 support (MS-DOS, QDOS, maybe CP/M-86, others that I’m forgetting), though it’s probably not going to recognize any hardware on your computer that was developed after it came out.

As a test, I just booted to MS-DOS 3.3 from an old boot disk and it mostly worked. It didn’t recognize my hard drive, which isn’t surprising because it’s looking for FAT12 formatting. 3.3 doesn’t have the MEM command, but I imagine it’s seeing 640K of conventional memory, 500-odd K of free RAM, and nothing above that. So yes, you can run something as least as old as MS-DOS 3.3, with some limitations.

DOS will have no problem with the memory. It’s only going to look at the memory below 1 MB, which on all modern motherboards is mapped identially to the way it was mapped way back on the PC AT. The first 640k (that should be enough for anybody) is RAM, then you have a bunch of 64k segments for things like video memory and the BIOS ROM. Anything over 1 MB won’t even be looked at by DOS.*

DOS won’t be able to handle a modern hard drive, though. DOS can only handle FAT16 partitions and can’t manage disk drives anywhere near as large as a modern drive. You can boot the computer easily from a floppy drive or a flash disk, though.

  • If you want to do a minor nitpick, DOS can access almost 64k over the 1 MB limit, due to the way it does addressing - a segment of FFFF plus an offset of FFFF yields an address of 10FFEF (hex). The area from 100000 to 10FFEF will be RAM.

Maybe. Video cards, the CPU, etc. need to be switched into modern modes to get to use the modern stuff, and are by default 16-bit, 256 color, interrupt based mode.

I don’t know how much of the hard drive interface has changed and if it is very backwards compatible. Your keyboard and mouse would still work if USB keyboards and mice were automatically understood by the BIOS (I think?), but you might need to use a traditional mouse and keyboard slot. You would probably also need an old-school floppy drive if you wanted to do anything useful.

So I can’t say about accessing the hard drive, but outside of that I would say that the great odds are that you would be able to run DOS just fine. You just wouldn’t be able to do anything useful to modern day life with it, since you wouldn’t be able to access your printer, the internet, video card beyond VGA, or find any applications to run with it (probably.)

Of course, if you actually want to do something useful in DOS(like play an old game), you’re much better off to use a DOS emulator like dosbox. That will emulate the old hardware as well. I’ve used dosbox to play many old games successfully.

Partitioning the HD in 2GB segments with FAT16 will work, unless you run out of letters of the alphabet.

I don’t know for sure, but I doubt if USB devices will work, even if the BIOS understands them. You would probably be limited to parallel printing, altho that would work fine for simple text.

RAM above 1MB will be not recognized.

I remember having trouble with a 1 gb drive, something about cylinders over 1080 or something.

True Blue IBM PC-DOS (as opposed to generic MS-DOS from Microsoft) may have some trouble booting or running as it may depend on certain hardwired BIOS routines. Similarly, Compaq DOS, Zenith DOS or other OEM versions may also have some trouble.

Not so. FAT32 can theoretically handle up to 8 terabytes using 32k clusters. Where you run into limitations is with the OS. The largest size of a single file under FAT32 is limited to 4GB however, and Windows 95, 98, Me and 2K are themselves only capable of formatting a single volume of only 32GB. Windows 95, 98, ME, 2K and XP up to and including SP1 were incapable of properly detecting a hard drive larger than 127GB. (It would report the drive was only 127gb regardless of how large it actually was) XP Service Pack 2 overcame this limitation.

As to the OP, what you can run depends entirely on what hardware you currently have and whether or not there are any drivers for it available for the OS you want to run. The best way to find that out is to head over to DriverGuide and do a search for the bits and pieces in your system.

Yeah, I’m thinking probably not, now. I guess when I played around creating some bootdisk 16-bit applications to try out all this stuff, that my test computer must have had non-USB peripherals (since I was able to read from them fine.)

That was fun though. You’d write a little COM app in assembly, use Hex Workshop to write it to the first segment of a floppy, and boot. Of course, there’s not much you can do with the system until you flop everything into protected mode and get a working graphics card driver, at least.

No, that doesn’t work because DOS still tries to keep track of the total number of cylinders, heads, and sectors from the BIOS. It is possible to use a drive overlay program to get DOS to recognize the disk, but just partitioning alone won’t do it. IIRC, DOS tends to just lock up when starting if it finds a disk it can’t handle.

DOS has no real device drivers for anything other than disk drives. USB devices such as keyboards and mice won’t work. Printers, scanners, etc. won’t work. Sound cards won’t work, unless you happen to have a sound blaster or compatible card, in which case a lot of DOS software will recognize it even though DOS itself does not.

Well, you PC-using folks have us Mac users very solidly beat, backwards-compatibility-wise.

The modern-era Mac will boot older OS’s going all the way back to, umm, err, well… the one it came with, give or take possibly one minor second-position decimal-point freebie revision.

My trusty old “WallStreet” PowerBook spans a more impressive range and will obligingly switch from booting the latest OS to booting MacOS 8.1 if I ask it to. That’s a 1998 vintage OS.

If I want to boot the 1984-vintage original MacOS “System 1” (natively, not in emulation), I have to go on eBay and score a 1980’s vintage Mac. Not too terribly late in the 80s, either. (My SE could do everything from System 1.1 to 7.5; but once Apple upped to the '030 chip — our equiv of the Intel 386, give or take —backwards compatibility took a fall).

I’m impressed that a modern PC with a huge honking mobo with dual Core 2 Duos and all modern peripheral architecture etc can actually boot the primordial DOS natively. At all, never mind sound cards and being able to utilize a 500 GB drive etc.

I suppose there could be some drives with specs that DOS won’t handle, but BIOSes I have seen can map unusual specs to more reasonable virtual specs, so the size of the drive isn’t in itself the determining factor.

I have partioned a 6GB drive into 3 2GB segments and it was in daily use until last year. It was one of maybe a dozen I configured that way with no problem. I have also configured a 20GB drive with 2GB partitions, although I didn’t try to create more than 4 partitions on the drive. It can work.

See my reply above. This problem was solved in the 1980’s by virtual mapping, so DOS doesn’t see the actual cylinder/head numbers. I can’t guarantee every BIOS works the same way, and more modern disks than just a few years ago might be different, but I haven’t run into this problem yet.

Parallel or serial printers should work fine. I use them daily.

PC’s rule! :slight_smile:

I was running Windows 3.0 on my tablet PC in a Vmware machine. Vmware runs basic DOS rather well, so any DOS based OS would be well suited in a virtual machine.

I tried to load Windows 95 natively in a AMD machine (a 2600+) a few years back and it would blue screen on boot. I didn’t spend a ton of time working the problem because I was just goofing of.