Windows 95/98/ME emulators

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The Windows logo for 95/98/ME

The Windows 9x series consisted of Windows 95, Windows 98, and Windows Millennium Edition (ME), a consumer-oriented operating system based on the 9x core rushed to market as a stopgap release following the cancellation of Windows Neptune (which would later merge with the Odyssey project to form Windows XP). Windows 3.x includes 3.0, 3.1, and 3.11. Playing older Windows games on a modern system can be difficult. There is no simple straightforward "emulator" for it, unlike DOS.

Native Approach


Some 9x applications can be run on newer systems like Windows XP because of a feature Microsoft developed called Windows on Windows. However, support is very poor and 64-bit versions of Windows don't support it (because Windows on Windows refers to 32-bit program support instead).[1][2] Selecting Windows 95 or Windows 98 in compatibility mode helps, and Windows XP will get the best compatibility, but it's best to use XP in a dual boot setup (or in a virtual machine instead) since it's no longer officially supported by Microsoft.


Main article: Wine

Wine is a compatibility layer for Linux, various BSDs, and OS X that allows Windows applications to run on those systems. Support for Windows 3.x and 9x programs is quite strong, though since development is centered more on modern games and apps, they're usually the lowest priority.

VM Approach

Note: Virtual machines in this case refers to the use of emulators that handle the hardware (such as hard drives) entirely in software.


Main article: PCem

PCem is a classic x86 system emulator that can handle old hardware fairly accurately. Configuration is not the easiest, but once it's running, it works quite well. Needs somewhat powerful hardware to run.

Currently, it only emulates up to a Pentium processor on the latest stable release, but if you have the muscle for it, you can also emulate an S3 ViRGE, or even a 3dfx Voodoo. Other forks of it exist, like 86Box that encompass even more hardware.


QEMU's x86 emulation is fairly good for general purpose needs. 3D acceleration isn't too great right now, so it's better to use another option until it improves.


Main article: DOSBox

While DOSBox isn't designed to run Windows, it's still possible to install Windows 3.x, 95, and 98 on it (but not Windows ME).

Step by step guide to installing Windows on DOSBox.

Windows 3.x runs very smoothly, but 95 and 98 require more legwork, and it runs much slower than on QEMU without acceleration. For instance, 3.x will run games from a mounted CD drive just fine, but the 9x systems require a disc mounting tool like Daemon Tools to be installed, and it also doesn't do a good job running DOS games, especially since it doesn't have any 3D acceleration. Some will not detect Windows properly and refuse to install, and any problems and bugs Windows had alone will only be made worse in an emulator. There has been interest in creating a spin-off version of DOSBox that incorporates this compatibility called 9xbox, but as of 2017 it never passed the theoretical stage.


Bochs is geared around emulating the full x86 architecture rather than games or platforms specifically. In their own FAQs section, they explain that "because Bochs emulates every x86 instruction and all the devices in a PC system, it does not reach high emulation speeds. Users who have an x86 processor and want the highest emulation speeds may want to consider PC virtualization software such as [VMware] or VirtualBox (free software)."See virtualization.


Windows 3.x, and 9x can be installed with VirtualBox and VMware Player/Workstation. 3D acceleration for VirtualBox is very poor for 9x (since it requires a lot of work to get it running), and VMware hasn't updated their guest tools in a while.