Yesterday the extended Support Phase of windows XP ended. That was the last stage in its official life cycle, where users were getting security updates but not a lot else. So as far as Microsoft is concerned, that’s all folks, XP is now finished. Unless you pay them anyway, apparently our government is shelling out £5.5mil to keep it going a little while longer.
It’s the end of an era, then. Or at least a formal end, even if a majority of users had already moved on to new systems. I’m not enough of a tech expert to say on how great an OS XP was, other than to comment that it always seemed pretty stable and user-friendly, and it served us well for many years. Certainly, it dominated the 00′s. Lots of us kept using it past the release of the widely disliked Vista, until microsoft got back on form with Win 7. Rik in fact kept true to his promise to stick with XP until the bitter end, and has only now upgraded.
Anyway I thought this would be a good moment to revisit our how to run old games piece, where we list the various options open to retro gamers on modern Windows PCs. When we wrote it, we both had XP in mind when we said “modern windows”, and now of course there have been three major new iterations of the OS. (four if you count 8.1 as a major iteration).
Fortunately, the general picture hasn’t changed a lot. Generally, your solution for running MS-DOS games is the emulator DOSBox. In years past that had speed issues with more demanding titles from late in the DOS days (such as first person shooters) but on a modern PC you should get a decent framerate.
For old adventures like Monkey Island, you have a choice of ScummVM, written specifically for such games, or sticking with DOSBox. I generally prefer the former since it’s a bit more user friendly, with a built in GUI, but these days it’s largely a matter of personal preference.
Stuff from the windows 95 days may become increasingly problematic, especially if you’re using a 64-bit system which will not run 16-bit software. We don’t yet have an equivalent to Dosbox for this generation, and I think Rik’s answer was to resort to keeping an old beige win98 box lurking around. You could try virtualisation software if you’re feeling really dedicated although you’ll need your own copy of Win 95 or 98, and I don’t know if it’s fast enough for gaming purposes.
What is worth remarking on though, is that since we first wrote that piece, GoG.com have steadily expanded their range and become one of our favourite sources of classic games. Anything you buy there should be ready to run on a modern PC, either bundled with dosbox or patched up, with a minimum of tinkering. Same goes for oldies found on Steam.
If you’re a windows user reading this, odds are you’re on Win 7. I’ve yet to encounter any issues with Windows 8 that didn’t already exist with 7, but if I learn a game we wrote about is newly broken I’ll update the relevant article. If you’re a Linux user you’re on your own, and are probably enough of a tech-head to sort it out for yourself!