How to install Win 3.1 along side XP

February 7, 2010 at 05:24:44
Specs: Windows XP
I have been wanting to use Windows 3.1 for a long time. But I don't know how to install it along side XP. I know you have to make another partition on the hard drive. Thats all I know.

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February 7, 2010 at 09:19:30
Instead of partitioning and setting up a dual boot system I suggest you run Windows 3.1 inside a Virtual Machine. In this way you can run Win XP and 3.1 concurrently as Win 3.1 runs in a window much like other XP applications while retaining all functionalities.

The following virtual machines are free to donwload and install

- Microsoft Virtual PC 2007
- Open Source VirtualBox

Choose the one you prefer (MS Virtual PC is the easiest in my opinion), set up and install the guest operating system (Win 3.1). The process is easier to perform than to explain.

This way you avoid harmful partitioning and dual boot and run the legacy environment safely. Obviously you need a legal copy of MS-DOS 6.22 or almost 5.00 as the base for Win 3x.

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February 7, 2010 at 15:06:18
While the virtual PC solution will work, there is a tool I know of that can resize partitions. I do not know of its name, but I have used it three times before successfully. It may or may not work on NTFS partitions. Remember that any MS-DOS version that will run Microsoft Windows 3.1 will not support partitions larger than 2GB (2048MB) which is the limit of the size of a FAT16 based partition. You will also need a boot manager if you choose to use this method. The Microsoft Windows NTLDR will technically work but will have some quirks about simply telling it to boot from your windows 3.1 partition. for more information "How To Dual-Boot or Multi-Boot Operating Systems - Load Linux LILO or GRUB using Windows NTLDR." This site provides the basic method of using NTLDR to load other operating sytems without errors related to NTLDR. To find a partition resizer type exactly that phrase into Google™ (partition resizer). The one I have expierience with is made for dos and normally appears on the first or second page. I also know that an Ubutu live installer normally comes with an application called "gparted" that can resize any partition that windows supports.

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February 7, 2010 at 19:23:31
Stick with IVO's suggestion. A virtual machine is less risky than trying to manipulate your drive with bootloaders/managers, and if you screw up the DOS/Win3.1 installation, you can always just blow away the old and recreate a new virtual machine with just a few clicks.

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February 8, 2010 at 11:06:05
how many times slower than real hardware is the emulated ?

windows 3.1 can make use of drive space

win98 sized partitions if win98 dos is used

4gb partitions with dr dos

or just 24 2gb partitions

you could boot from
or perhaps usb drive

or just switch over to 100% windows 3.1

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February 8, 2010 at 13:48:41
I run Windows 98 SE inside Virtual PC 2004 under Windows XP SP3 concurrently with Office XP, Outlook and IE 6 without any slowdown. The same for DOS 6.22 and FreeDOS inside two other dedicated virtual machines.

Keep in mind Windows 3.1 was designed to run on PC at 10 Mhz with 386 processors, while my environment runs on a AMD at 1600Mhz.

Virtual PC and VirtualBox are "virtualizers" not strictly "Emulators", i.e they emulate peripherals as video BIOS and hard disks not CPU's instruction set. Even Open Source Bochs, a complex true emulator, can run Win 3.1 decently (but better avoid that).

Anyway my legacy applications under virtual machine perform better than on the native Olivetti M350 with intel 386 10Mhz.

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February 8, 2010 at 19:26:06
I totally agree with what I-R-A said. Virtual PC or other virtualization software will definitely be much more safe for your computer. I just want to make a note that I in no way said that the method I suggested was better in any way. The only reason you might possibly want to use a real installation of Microsoft Windows 3.1 is to make it seem more real. Also the bootloader I suggested is run every time you start windows if you looked at my link in my previous post.

There are many more advantages to using the Virtual PC method. Here are pros and cons of both of the methods:

Virtual PC
● No risk at all for installation unless using real disks
● old network/graphics adapters/sound cards/chipsets with known drivers for Windows 3.1
● ability to share files without network on DOS 5 or up
● ability to pause for whatever reason
● ability to configure many aspects of system
○ memory size
○ hard disk number/size
○ undo disks to undo any mistakes
○ choose CD/DVD ROM IDE channel
○ mapping COM and LPT ports to files, named pipes or physical serial ports with option of waiting for modem command to open the port
○ ability to configure network adapters
- up to 4 adapters
- map virtual adapters to real adapters, virtual network of only virtual machines or NAT
○ and more

● Minor complications and emulation issues

Real installation
● more real
● real hardware without emulation issues

● cannot configure hardware easily
● if it crashes you have to start over
● installation/partitioning is very risky
● any file sharing must be actually done by network

Overall, a virtualization approach is the way to go, not a real system loaded with windows 3.1 unless you want/need to use it on a real computer rather than a virtual one. To install windows 3.1 you do needs an underlying version of MS-DOS (I believe 5.0 or above but it might be 3.3, I would have to check, all I know is that 6.22 is the newest version that will work without hacks. Windows 98 dos need a hack to run windows 3.1)

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February 17, 2010 at 13:26:10
mmm To help cpatazek understand the what/why/how of it all...

The core condition for a dual/multi-boot environment that incudes dos (upto 6x) or dos based OS is for the commonly used active Primary partition to be fat16 - and no larger than 2Gig... If no dos 6x/windows 2x-3x present then the primary could be fat32 - unless one is inclduing NT3x/4x; in which case it again has to be fat16 for the active primary (and again max of 2Gig)...

Dos and dos-based OS (windows 2x/3x) have to be in the first (Primary) partition on the hard-drive; that partition can be a maximum of 2Gig (if using dos 5x/6x) and "must" obviously be fat16. And it will be the active Primary... unless using an add-in boot utility.

Presuming not using an add-in boot manager... and yet wishing a dual/multi-boot environment; all other OS can go where you want (within reason). But... their respective boot/start-up files "must" be installed/pressent in the active Primary - in this case the dos (fat16) active Primary...

When one installs any of the NT family it will (if done correctly) install its boot-files into the designated/active Prmary; install a boot-manger (part of NT family OS); and create a boot.ini/menu that has both the NT OS(s) and dos listed; and if windows 2x/3x is there... then that too...

Thus although NT can handle fat16 (to a max of 4Gig) and ntfs, and its its relatives can handle fat32, and variants of ntfs... all boot-files would reside in a fat16 primary... And this if especially if NT is there with '9x/ME...

While dos/win2x-3x has to be in the first cative primary on a drive... all other OS can go elsewhere on a drive (within some limits depending on the OS).

In your situation if you were not using a virtual environment (and it is logically the easier way to go here?) then you would have to tweak the drive so as to create a smallish fat16 Primary ahead of the present one... Then do a llittle work to establish XP boot-files therein; then runa wee routine to make XP boot via that new dos Primary... Not hard to do but has to be done carefuly/properly... AFter-whcih yoi would have both OS as options to boot etc...

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