Solved I Want a DOS-Based System

December 26, 2013 at 06:13:03
Specs: DOS 6.22
My oldest machine - 486 DX-266 (I think) is starting to die. Working on a spreadsheet, I've noticed that cursor movement from cell to cell is slowing down.

The machine is never off - 24/7 for several years (less any power failures from the hydro utility). It's performed extremely well since 1996. I DON'T want to stop using some DOS programs - I have over 1000 WordPerfect 5.5 documents that I access on a regular basis, and a dozen or so Lotus spreadsheets used regularly. The thought of saving all the WP docs as "text", and then converting to MS-Word for Windows makes me cringe. The movement of the spreadsheets is "manageable", but again not desirable.

I'm NOT concerned with "speed", I AM concerned with "reliability". SOooooooo, here's my questions:

What is the newest (Pentium 1, 2, 3, 4) machine that I could buy or assemble from assorted parts, that will reliably run DOS 6.22? Does DOS 6.22 have a limit on hard drive size (I have two IDE drives that are just over 500 MB/each)? On memory size?

I don't need sound, or high resolution graphics - USB support would be "nice", but not essential.

Any suggestions (and potential pitfalls) appreciated.


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#1
December 26, 2013 at 08:25:27
You will get other advices from regulars on Forum, here what I suggest to fit your needs. Stated the conversion from WordPerfect 5.5 to MS Word (or a free clone as LibreOffice) should not be an epic job using the .rtf format, while Lotus spreadsheets are compatible with MS Excel, I would directly afford an up to date PC to install MS DOS 6.22 inside a virtual machine running Lotus and WordPerfect applications to access legacy documents.

DOS can not access actual sata drives and is limited to 2 GB partitions due to FAT 16 architecture. Installing FreeDOS you can access FAT32, but parallel IDE is still a limit. If you want to keep your original document structure (WordPerfedt and Lotus) while having a reliable hardware, buy a medium-low computer equipped with Windows 7 and run a virtual machine as MS Virtual PC or VirtualBox (both free) to execute MS DOS 6.22 or FreeDOS inside its virtual environment.


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#2
December 26, 2013 at 08:41:18
mmm... if you were close enough.. I might have been able to pass on machine that is DOS capable (One is a 386 board - an oldie; and another is an early 486 - I think).

But just in-case...are you in UK or a little further afield...?

Likely the easiest option overall is to run a more current system/OS - and as advised by "IVO" - and run DOS etc. in a virtual machine. M$ Virtual PC is OK by all accounts...


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#3
December 26, 2013 at 10:05:19
✔ Best Answer
It's likely a 486/66 (nothing was ever made in the 486 line beyond 133MHz). As mentioned, MS/PC-DOS has a HDD partition limit of 2GB (actually 2.1GB) and a total drive limit of 8.4GB (the machines' BIOS also has to recognize the drive as well). Larger size partitions increase "slack" on the drive, so a smaller partition (540MB or lower) gains you a little space:

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/118335

Memory limits on PC/MS-DOS are 64MB, but can be overcome by using a copy of himem.sys from Win9x/ME:

http://www.drdos.net/faq/#p2_5

If you're determined to use DOS (and not under a VM), you wouldn't gain a tremendous amount from upgrading your hardware (a 486/66 is quite fast for just MS-DOS, and you don't mention how it is "dying" beyond the cursor movement), but you may want a dual- or triple-boot system (say with Win95/98/NT4) for "newer" applications (which would benefit from newer hardware):

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/157992

Realize that older DOS applications (and some older 9x/NT ones) may have trouble with "too-fast" of a machine. But with 95(B/C)/98/NT4 (especially 98/NT4) you get some degree of native USB support (yet not nearly as good as 2K/XP/7). There's also generic USB drivers for some devices for Win98/98SE:

http://www.technical-assistance.co....

There's also various sites devoted to using/hacking USB in MS-DOS (just do a Google search for them).

"Channeling the spirit of jboy..."

message edited by T-R-A


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Related Solutions

#4
December 26, 2013 at 10:10:26
What old hardware do you have at your disposal? A socket 7 Pentium or AMD K6-2 system with 64MB RAM should be more than sufficient.

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#5
December 26, 2013 at 10:49:39
Thank you to all three who have so far replied. Interesting food for thought!

Last month I had built a Win 7 Pro machine - CoolerMaster HAF912 case, ASUS X87-A board, Intel 3.4GHz processor, Sandisk 120 Gig SSD (for O/S), WD Black 1 TB drive for data, 16 Gb of Patriot Ram, and other assorted "toys".

I'm sure this would run a virtual DOS machine, but the idea of even attempting to set this up is frightening. Are there any "detailed, incremental, step by step instructions on how to set up such a virtual mmachine?? I'm sure I can find a shop that will strip the data from my two old IDE drives, and put them on my 1 TB drive. This would surely solve the reliability issues.

On the other side of the coin, some of the data that I download daily from the 'net, cannot be retrieved in a form that allows for a "copy and paste", so there is some advantage to having two separate machines, side by side monitors, two keyboards, and simply shifting my eyes from screen to screen and manually entering numbers on the spreadsheet.

Thank you for the offer of a machine from the UK - I'm in Canada, - the thought was appreciated.

I'll certainly be following this thread as I struggle to make sense of this "ever-changing world"

Thanks again.

Terry


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#6
December 26, 2013 at 11:11:25
mmm - Hi Terry; would have been "nice" to have helped a fellow Canuck... with albeit slightly dated kit - but stuff that works nonetheless... But the freight and whatever charges would far outweigh anything you might achieve locally...


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#7
December 26, 2013 at 11:36:56
Incidentally... I "think" you could connect your dos drives via a usb adapter (or within a usb enclosure) to any windows system that supports usb - i.e. 98SE and upwards... However as l understand it... up to and including Windows XP you have full support for read/write fat16...; but win-7 and later do not...

So as long as you can access an XP system - and have a usb adapter/dock - you could simply copy the data yourself to whichever drive(s) - to including another external usb 1Tb... I'm thinking your olde HD are 512Meg?

I have a USB adapter kit (for both SATA and EIDE) which is a simple cable system. For occasional use it's ideal. But for a regular use that way - either a suitable usb dock or an enclosure might be better... With a dock you simply put the drive into the dock, connect to your PC/laptop - and more or less that's it... I would likely favour a docking system in your situation.

The kit would be far cheaper than any store transfer service? And you would have it for future use; as likely you could/would retain your dos drives as they are - a sort of olde archive backup...?

With a little thought etc. too it might be possible to do it all over network as well; but an adapter/dock and a '98SE, XP system may be easier and more convenient....


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#8
December 26, 2013 at 12:13:59
When was the last time you did some housekeeping inside the case. Blow out the innards with canned or compressed air. Don't forget to do the power supply from both ends. Snap your memory modules in and out 4 or 5 times each. Reseat all cards and cables.

Remove the heatsink and clean off the mating surfaces. Use thermal paste between the CPU and the heatsink. Not too much.

Defrag the hard drive. I assume you have a ball mouse. Blow it out too after removing the ball. Compressed air works pretty good on keyboards too.

Other than the hard drive dying, I can't identify any other hardware that would cause the computer to slow down.


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#9
December 26, 2013 at 12:27:12
Also re' the wee rodent (mouse)... They have very poor hygiene habits in that their privates seldom actually get a thorough cleaning...

Besides blowing out any dust in a ball rodent/mouse cavity..., also remove the ball and wash in warm water with a wee bit of detergent; dry thoroughly of course...

Then have a good look at the rollers... Likely they have a mixture of fluff, grease and general "stuff" hard wrapped around the rollers. It can usually be picked off carefully with small knife blade or slot screwdriver blade. And be mindful to bow out the bits as they come free. Get it al off.

When re-assembled any rodent, having been given such "loving care and attention...", will be suitably grateful and show its gratitude with much better performance an behaviour; and no more erratic sloppy movements on-screen.

I used to clean a couple of these a week at one stage; due to the heavy (ab)use in a very mixed Newsroom and studio environment... Surprising just how mucky they get.. Equally one doth wonder just how many poor wee rodents were consigned to scrap - when all they needed was a little TLC to continue a long and productive life... - at least until laser super rodents arrived...!


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#10
December 26, 2013 at 13:05:44
"Fellow Canuck"?? Where from originally?, where now?

T


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#11
December 26, 2013 at 13:08:40
The DOS machine also has Win 3.1, and a NIC card, but I've never been able to establish a connection with any of my 5 Windows machines. I'm sure it can be done, simply not by ME.

Thanks for the advice.

Terry


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#12
December 26, 2013 at 13:15:37
Originally UK; then to the triangle (Toronto/Montreal/Ottawa for the most part); some time in Calgary - love the mountains and even more open space (and even a hot spring or two...).

Travelled a lot too as part of my professional life so got to see (at other's expense) to other places (Hafilax, Saskatoon, Digby NS, St Johns NB - and some rather remote too (Thompson Manitoba is pretty remote...) Railroad track beds had been washed out while I was there... And the local roads did leave a little to be desired, after winter's privations earlier...

Now back in UK (SE London/NE Kent border)


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#13
December 26, 2013 at 13:17:51
Taking your advice, I took the cover off the DOS machine, vacuumed the vents at the front, then went out on the balcony, and "blasted away" with two cans of compressed air. There was a LOT of dust flying around, and since it's just below freezing here, the cans started loosing pressure and got too cold to hold with a bare hand, so I took them inside to warm them up. They work better that way.

Is it possible the size of the spreadsheet is a problem? As I get closer to year end, the file size increases; currently 1,151,108 bytes.

Thanks,

Terry


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#14
December 26, 2013 at 13:21:09
Also cleaned "the rodent's" innards.

It's an old Microsoft (forgot the terminology) that has its own card with a PS2 port.

Terry


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#15
December 26, 2013 at 13:24:47
Born raised in Toronto - lived 3 years in Oakville (20 miles west of TO) and 3 years in Aurora (20 miles north of TO. Love the city, never been west of Winnipeg.

We got slaughtered by an ice storm here last weekend. Over 300,00 without lights and heat. I was "out" for 14 hours. Some people still not back on-line.

Cheers,

Terry


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#16
December 26, 2013 at 13:53:05
"I'm sure this would run a virtual DOS machine, but the idea of even attempting to set this up is frightening. Are there any "detailed, incremental, step by step instructions on how to set up such a virtual mmachine??"

Actually it's not as daunting as it may seem:

https://www.vmware.com/support/ws55...

http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/...

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/833139

"Is it possible the size of the spreadsheet is a problem? As I get closer to year end, the file size increases..."

Absolutely. That's quite a large size for a spreadsheet (no matter what format it's in). Have you tried starting a new one and seeing if the performance is any peppier?

"Channeling the spirit of jboy..."

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#17
December 26, 2013 at 14:34:10
Simple peer to peer network (home workgroup) style of connection would allow you to access the dos/win3x systems from XP, and also Wind-7 etc. Over a network file formats are effectively discounted/invisible, and one can transfer files from one computer (regardless of format) to another...

Presumably you have network card in your dos/windows 3x system? Setting up the actual access can be a little fiddly at first. Sometimes (usually) need to invoke NetBiosoverTCP/IP on the XP boxes as I recall when networking between dos/winx3x/'9x and XP... Otherwise it may happen that XP won't connect to the dos box, or possibly visa-versa. Been a long time since I done that routine, but can find and point to the how to if needs-be.. And it isn't complex to set up overall...

I have an elderly 386 box; dos 6x, 98SE installed, and it will network to an elderly Dell XP-Pro 200 (I think that's it) with dos/win3x, '98SE, NT4 WkStn/Svr, Win2000, and XP-Pro installed... Can boot to any of them and also network from any of the windows OS... Was bought early in '98 for NT MCSE - added NT assorted to the original 98SE installation; later added the rest in for general use (Win-2000), and test/reference. Doesn't do much these days... but it's still there and could be brought into use again if needs-be...

Oakville almost in the Lake; sort of part of Mississauga too? Quiet "suburban enclave" with a Go Train (commuter train service - for the benefit of UK readers).

Aurora - where the Gorge is and near Fergus (Canadian Highland Games spot)? The gorge is beautiful in the fall - classic red and gold colours aplenty...

Sounds like weather is being really nasty over there just now. Have had few like that while in "the triangle; been snowed in when on a farm (hippie days); and also in Montreal at least twice; and also Ottawa. Had my first ice storm in fall/winter of '67-68 with 2inches on everything overnight! Pure glass/polycarbonate like coating on anything it could get too...


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#18
December 26, 2013 at 15:42:54
ADDENDUM TO ORIGINAL POST

I also have a lot of "still useful" files for Ventura Publisher. If I recall, when I set up Ventura originally, there was no option for a USB printer. I've always used a parallel cable to print my Ventura work.

If I go with "Virtual Machine" option, I'm wondering what will happen when I try to print. Ventura sends print to the printer in PCL5 language (I think I'm describing this correctly, as that's what the manual for my LaserJet printer tells me), and I DO have a special driver for Ventura/LaserJet.on the old machine.

Comments, ideas?

Terry


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#19
December 26, 2013 at 16:16:08
Not sure about the addendum printing issue. But possibly others here can/will advise - as they may have experience in that regard... I would have to look a deal into that part, and will take a while likely...

Which having said... a quick trawl via google (following a flash of whatever...) for:

usb to parallel port adapter

brings up quite a few. Had a vague memory of such devices...

http://www.amazon.co.uk/ABC-Product...

is but one...

Another an option in the background as it were... presuming you did go the VM route overall, and didn't use a usb-adapter. Setup the "olde" dos pc as print server. Leave your parallel port printer attached to it; share it over the network and access it that way...

And it seems there are now add-in Centronics parallel port cards (again) that go upto windows-7 at least...

http://uk.startech.com/Cards-Adapte...

being a possible? Use the same pcl5 routine as current? Not entirely clear how it would be accessed etc. via the VM OS but I think its' viable nonetheless?

message edited by trvlr


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#20
December 26, 2013 at 18:13:05
Side notes:
Openoffice ( www.openoffice.org ) which is a free download (XP, W7, W8, Mac) can open, work, save, and convert many different office formats to more common ones. This might be important if you want to access those office files from your newer system(s) or to be able to share any of them.

USB support really started (fully) with Win98 and really became useful with XP.

Otherwise, many useful ideas above.

You have to be a little bit crazy to keep you from going insane.


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#21
December 26, 2013 at 18:44:57
"I also have a lot of "still useful" files for Ventura Publisher. If I recall, when I set up Ventura originally, there was no option for a USB printer."

No surprise there, since Ventura Publisher was a program which was produced long before USB even saw light-of-day. If you're using those files with a special printer driver, then that may indeed be an issue. Possibly upgrading to a newer version may (or may not) solve the issue, but Ventura hasn't been around for 10 years. Other programs may however be able to import those files---just make sure of the compatibility of doing so before you invest in one. There also may be a work-around (such as printing to a .pdf file or such)...

"Channeling the spirit of jboy..."

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#22
December 26, 2013 at 20:39:54
I'm surprised it's been running that long. If it was me and I had all those files I didn't want to lose I'd already have one or two backup computers with cloned drives standing by.

If you go with a pure dos machine instead of a VM setup any computer up to an equivalent of a P-II will probably work OK, Dos will ignore any memory it can't use and speed shouldn't affect operation with those older cpu's.


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#23
December 27, 2013 at 02:50:10
Good job I'm not substituting for SatNav... Aurora is a few miles north of Toronto after Markham. Used to be "out in the sticks" when first I went Ontario - almost bought a wee house there too... Sinlge lane each way road is now a two lane each way highway...; and the sleepy little town now a sprawling whatever...

Incidentally a lot of the "New Avengers" series was shot around there; and "The Foxes" movie (D. H. Lawrence) likewise...

Elora is where the gorge is of course and not too far from Fergus. Both are "west" of Toronto...

Slight correction.edit later...

Elora and Fergus is both WEST of Toronto... Clearly my SatNav is up the proverbial creek...

Grey cells need recharging...

Trvlr

message edited by trvlr


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#24
December 27, 2013 at 06:13:30
Since I am a "virtualization" lover instead of a hardware fan, I suggest you try on one of your Win 7 workstations the DOS inside a virtual machine. We are handling software after all and your precious data are at no risk while experimenting. If all your issues will be eventually solved (data transfers, parallel printing and so on) you can decide to follow this lane, otherwise hardware never fails.

If you are interested and not under pressure, I can give you a short guide I wrote for a College student based on MS Virtual PC that proved to be effective to run his DOS system. You have to be patient however because I live in Milano (Italy) and so we have to take into account the time lag. Contact me by a private message with your e-mail.


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#25
December 27, 2013 at 07:27:04
One of the beauties of trying to remain in 1986, it gets really challenging. Always good to see a person who enjoys long term, self inflicted complications!!!

To err is human but to really screw things up, you need a computer!


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#26
December 27, 2013 at 10:00:24
There is system based on Unix, ported over into a DOS environment - and then later windows - used for an age by some (most/all) of the tv broadcasters in UK - Basys... Think of a multi-user/account word processor package and data base and heavens knows what else... Also has a messenger style system included too... both "live" chat as it were, and actual internal email style.

I think it arrived in the very early 80's and was intended to allow anyone (with an account) to logon from almost anywhere - process their story, data etc... and all manner of things... The Beeb used it as part of their resources to launch the first UK breakfast time morning show... If you know/knew Unix at lot is/was easy to get across. but otherwise - quite a learning curve...; and problems that arise from the dos/windows porting/integration - a real pain at times...

Has been superceeded to some extent by another (windows based I think) package (from ABC in USA I think). But it is still in use by at least one major broadcaster in the UK... (at least it was 3yrs ago and I have no reason to believe it isn't still). Although they have had to invest in some more modern kit so as to enable it to continue in use...

I never got cross it fully; but some of my former colleagues really did know it. And the overall supervisor of the whole system at that last reference was known as the Unix (and DOS) Queen... I don't think there was anything about the Unix and DOS she didn't know!

Some technologies die hard...?


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#27
December 27, 2013 at 10:05:37
"One of the beauties of trying to remain in 1986, it gets really challenging."

It may be challenging to remain in the past, but sometimes it isn't within budget (or even possible) to advance to the future. Having worked with many old systems in industry over the years, it does become a challenge to keep something as old as a 486 running, but since there sometimes isn't a replacement (within budget or at all) possible to do a certain jobs, one has to "live in the past" as much as possible. Not so long ago I had to routinely maintain an 80286-based machine running MS-DOS 3.3 with a 20MB MFM HDD because there wasn't a machine made to do the job it was designed for. I was able to keep it going until I left that job (late 2007) and the machine was sent to a factory in Mexico. Didn't last a week after that and the company had to fork out over $125K to get another that only partially did what the 286-based machine was designed for...

"Channeling the spirit of jboy..."


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#28
December 27, 2013 at 13:15:20
IVO:

How do I send you a private message with my e-mail address?

Terry


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#29
December 28, 2013 at 04:17:14
To send a private message to one of the friends in the Forum click on his/her userid and then again on his/her userid at the top of the displayed profile page (where you can also evaluate his/her skills).

About my help offer maybe I was too fast. Yes, I can send you a complete package to setup a minimum Virtual PC running DOS, however here the key point is not the virtual machine by itself (that is a quite easy issue) but how to transfer your system (MS DOS 6.22, Win 3.X and applications and your huge data). We have to develop/choose a system to transfer all that stuff.

-What is the exact configuration of the 486 machine (HDD, CD - burner?-, NIC, serial port)?
-What is the config of the target computer driven by Win 7?
-Do you have the installation disks for DOS, WordPerfect and so on?

Last but not least, talking about DOS, the content of your Config.sys is mandatory to select the correct keyboard layout (Canadian keyboard is different from the one used in Italy).

You can connect as suggested your old hard drives to the new machine, and they can be accessed by the virtual DOS (running Virtual PC I know how that can be done, by direct sharing), but the DOS environment must be resident on a virtual C: unit.

This porting can be done, but it needs a good planning and the help of the other guys on the thread.

message edited by IVO


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#30
January 2, 2014 at 11:22:24
BEST ANSWER

Choosing only ONE answer as "best" causes me to shiver, since every post has it's pros and cons.

I know deep in my heart, that for "hardware reliability", I'd go the "virtual route" on my Win machine. Newer and faster hardware, ability to back up via a USB drive, and a general feeling of being up to date.

On the other side of the coin, going with a newer Win 9x machine and running DOS 6.22, I'd avoid having to worry about various programs not printing (can't find LTP1) and/or "translating" some user files from program to program.

In an "ideal world", I'd find a nearly new Pentium I or II, find brand new IDE hard drives (good luck there Terry), transfer my DOS and data to these, slip the new drives, and my old cards into either ISA or EISA slots, push the power button, and I'd have my old DOS machine, in a more up to date hardware environment.

I'll keep you all informed as I move forward.

Truthfully, I'm amazed at how altruistic and nurturing computer folks can be towards a total stranger. Thank you all so very much.

Terry

message edited by Terry722


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#31
January 2, 2014 at 11:28:20
"but Ventura hasn't been around for 10 years. Other programs may however be able to import those files---just make sure of the compatibility of doing so before you invest in one. There also may be a work-around (such as printing to a .pdf file or such)..."

There is an organization called VPUG (I think Ventura Publisher Users Group) - someone there suggested Adobe Acrobat might do this quite well


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#32
January 2, 2014 at 11:55:27
". . .find brand new IDE hard drives (good luck there Terry). . ."

I just picked up a brand new, still in the box, still in the original shrink wrap, 80 gig maxtor drive at goodwill for $2. Beat that!


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#33
January 2, 2014 at 12:16:28
If you beat it then likely it won't be much good afterwards... HD don't like being thumped...

There are still lots of IDE drives around too...; best not to beat them either...

Time for another sherry...


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#34
January 2, 2014 at 18:17:56
"Choosing only ONE answer as "best" causes me to shiver, since every post has it's pros and cons."

Agree, since there seems to be a number of solutions---it's just dependent on your situation and what you're comfortable with doing. Nonetheless, before you attempt doing anything you desperately need to backup your files to something before your machine truly does fail.

"On the other side of the coin, going with a newer Win 9x machine and running DOS 6.22, I'd avoid having to worry about various programs not printing (can't find LTP1) and/or "translating" some user files from program to program."

A DOS 6.22/Win3x/Win9x combinations isn't that much of a problem---just make sure you install DOS first, then Windows 3.1, then Win9x---making sure that you install Win9x in some other directory other than "C:\WINDOWS"

http://www.synapseadaptive.com/dolp...

Just remember there are some problems with "newer hardware" (such as the following):

http://www.geocities.com/~budallen/...

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/312108

"In an "ideal world", I'd find a nearly new Pentium I or II, find brand new IDE hard drives (good luck there Terry), transfer my DOS and data to these, slip the new drives, and my old cards into either ISA or EISA slots, push the power button, and I'd have my old DOS machine, in a more up to date hardware environment."

Too bad you're (likely) nowhere near where I live. Have a basement full of PI/II's that you could have for the taking...
Nonetheless, there's still some "old-iron" for sale out there---you should be able to find someone locally with an old machine that would still be usable. If there isn't an industrial complex near you (which would be a good source for machines being upgraded), see if you can locate something from a medical/dental practice or even the local junkyard/dumpster-dive could be a good start. Finding "new" IDE drives that would accommodate such old hardware would be difficult at best...

"Truthfully, I'm amazed at how altruistic and nurturing computer folks can be towards a total stranger. Thank you all so very much."

We're generally pretty civil around here. The key to our being civil is clearly stating your issue (which you did in very good detail), and having some technical knowledge (which you also seem to have) to understand some of the things we recommend (even if you don't understand them fully). It's a lot less effort on both parts than someone stating something like "my computer's messed up and I need someone to fix it"...

"Channeling the spirit of jboy..."

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