FreeDOS is the most popular DOS replacement operating system software. It is fully compatible with old world operating systems like MS-DOS or PC-DOS. After Microsoft discontinued MS-DOS many decades ago, FreeDOS is the only MS-DOS compatible operating system which is still being developed.
FreeDOS can be used to play old DOS based games like Doom, Wolfenstein 3D, Heretic, Blood, Jill of the Jungle and many more. It is also very good for running very old business application just in case you have to check those old files stored somewhere in your basement.
FreeDOS can be installed on a hard drive, but the best way to experience FreeDOS for the beginner is to use it through a virtual environment like Qemu. We can run any operating system inside Qemu very easily.
Here is how you can run FreeDOS 1.3 on any Windows PC including Windows 11 using Qemu:
- Download and install Qemu from https://www.qemu.org/download/#windows. You can also download the installers directly from Stefan Weil’s page at https://qemu.weilnetz.de/w64/.
- Add Qemu binary path to your system PATH variable. The Qemu binary path is usually “C:\Program Files\qemu”.
- Download FreeDOS 1.3 from https://www.freedos.org/download/. We will use the LiveCD edition for this, even though we can use any other edition too.
- Extract the files from the downloaded FreeDOS installer to a folder, for example in D:\DOS.
- Right-click on the same folder and choose Open in Windows Terminal.
- In the Terminal window, give the following commands:
qemu-img create dos.disk 100M qemu-system-i386 -cdrom FD13LIVE.iso -hda dos.disk -m 512 -L . -fda FD13BOOT.img -boot a
- The previous commands will start the FreeDOS installation process which goes like usual. After the installation is complete, your FreeDOS installation will reboot. At this point close the Qemu window.
- After Qemu window has been closed, give the following command to boot FreeDOS 1.3:
qemu-system-i386 -hda dos.disk -m 512 -L .
If you want to add more RAM, then you can change the -m 512 parameter. For example you can increase the RAM to 1 GB by changing it to -m 1024. But usually the old applications do not need so much RAM.