Windows 95/98/ME emulators

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By the 90s, PCs with Intel CPUs started to break away from the mold of their 16-bit incarnations. It began with Intel taking the helm of the PC platform with the ATX specification, which departed from the PC AT and related models in a number of ways. The rise of PCs also brought with it the bundling of the Windows 9x family of operating systems, which were hybrid 16/32-bit operating systems consisting of Windows 95, Windows 98, and Windows ME; Windows 2000 was based on Windows NT.

Windows 1.0x/2x/3x were graphical user interfaces (GUIs) built on top of MS-DOS. Those were the programs that runs a window manager on top of MS-DOS operating system. Many of the underlying device drivers and protocols had to be loaded in DOS for 3.11 to use them. On the other hand, Windows 9x (95, 98, ME) were standalone operating systems with DOS compatibility mode. Also NT3.x was an operating system as it included its own micro-kernel and device drivers [1].

Playing games released for these platforms on a modern system can be quite easy as programs can be run on latest Windows without sacrifices due to backwards compability.[1] However this may change in the near future due to dropping 16 and 32-bit support from processors.[2][3]

If you are trying to get Win9x software working on a modern system, you should only be using this page as a last resort and would be better suited to read the PCGamingWiki, which likely already has information on the game you want. If you don't have the operating system you want, you can download it from WinWorldPC, and if you don't have the game you want or it's not available on the platforms like Steam; you can try downloading it from My Abandonware.

Compatibility layers[edit]

Wine is the quintessential compatibility tool for POSIX-based operating systems like Linux and macOS that translates Windows API calls to Linux equivalents. Support for Windows 9x software is quite strong, far superior to that of 64-bit Windows versions. For running games, you'll also want to check out the Linux frontend Lutris, since it includes a plethora of customizations and tweaks for running Windows games. It is also possible to use WineD3D and DXVK on Windows, which may improve compatibility on a case-by-case basis.

Wrappers[edit]

Sometimes, all that may be missing in order to get an old game running is a DLL wrapper for the graphics API. This is common for games that were designed for 3Dfx Glide cards and also you can use these in virtual machines for increasing "Virtual GPU Adapter" compatibility. More information is available at the respective page.

Game Engine Recreations and Source Ports[edit]

Many games are considered enough of a cult classic that the source code is made publicly available for study and use as a base for ports to newer platforms. For some titles, this is done by the developer themselves to show other developers the viability of such a project. However, for most games this'll usually be done by force through reverse engineering.

We have already listed many of the most popular video game ports and recreations at the respective page.

Software emulators[edit]

These are emulators in the truest sense, in that they don't do any kind of "cheating/hacking" the way a hypervisor would. But keep in mind that, unlike hardware-assisted hypervisors; emulating something like Voodoo3 with Pentium II level of hardware with these software emulators requires latest and greatest top-notch single thread performance of CPUs. PCem, 86Box and UniPCemu are full retro x86 computer emulators, spanning from the original IBM 5150 to Pentium II powered PCs. Setting it up is much like building an actual retro computer, but in software, so expect it to be as difficult as setting up an actual retro PC. This means you're going to have to install Windows 95/98/ME along with all necessary drivers for the hardware you chose. Having said that, see these emulators as a useful alternative way to emulate these operating systems especially if you want the most accurate and compatible option for 3Dfx Voodoo emulation and Windows 95/98/ME Glide games.

For more and detailed information;

Main article: POS_(Pong_Consoles)_CPUs_and_Other_Chips#x86_CPUs
Main article: PC_Emulator_Comparisons

Hypervisors[edit]

See this page;

Main article: Windows_2000/XP/Vista_emulators#Hypervisors

External links[edit]

  • https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/make-older-apps-or-programs-compatible-with-windows-783d6dd7-b439-bdb0-0490-54eea0f45938
  • René Rebe: Intel finally to remove 16-bit REAL MODE and some 32b RINGS
  • In 2023, Intel proposed a major change to the architecture referred to as x86-S (with S standing for "simplification"), which aims to remove support for legacy execution modes and instructions