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February 3, 1997

It's possible to run real-mode drivers using Creative Labs' CTLoad utility

As much as we would like to think that we live in a 32-bit world, and that all programs are fully Windows 95 compatible, it isn't yet so. Most companies still have at least one or two programs that won't run well under Windows.

I acquired such a program a few weeks ago. I perform certain transactions for my business via electronic funds transfer a few times each month. My bank provides a customized program for this purpose. If you want these banking services, you use this program, period. Yes, the program runs in DOS character mode. No amount of coaxing by me makes this program want to run under Windows.

I've learned a few tricks about running cantankerous programs under Windows that may be interesting to you. The following may actually help you save some memory under Windows, so read on even if you have no DOS programs that you know of.

First, let's make sure we understand the four major ways you can run a non-Windows program under Windows.

  • Virtual-86 Mode. If you double-click a DOS program in the Windows Explorer with no special preparation, that program is likely to run in Virtual-86 Mode. This means that the program thinks it is running in its own x86 processor, but in reality Windows is in charge. You can switch back to Windows using Alt+Tab, run the DOS program in a small window using Alt+Enter, and so on.

  • Non-rebooted MS-DOS Mode. If you right-click a DOS program in Explorer, then click Properties, Program, and Advanced, you can make the program run in Non-rebooted MS-DOS Mode. You do this by turning on the check boxes that say "Use MS-DOS Mode" and "Use current MS-DOS configuration." When you run the program in this way, Windows removes as much of itself from memory as possible for your DOS program. Any commands in the C:\Windows\Dosstart.bat file are run before your DOS program starts. (Windows automatically inserts into the Dosstart.bat file commands for Mscdex.exe and possibly a real-mode mouse driver, etc.) When you exit the DOS program, you return to Windows.

  • Rebooted MS-DOS Mode. You enter this mode if you follow the steps above, but you select "Specify a new MS-DOS configuration" instead of "Use current MS-DOS configuration." In this case, you specify new Config.sys and Autoexec.bat commands in the Properties dialog box. When you double-click the affected DOS program, Windows reboots and runs the special Config.sys and Autoexec.bat commands for this program, as well as Dosstart.bat.

  • Shutdown to MS-DOS Mode. Finally, you may click Start, Shutdown, and then select "Restart the computer in MS-DOS Mode." This runs Dosstart.bat. Here's the memory-saving part: Load into Config.sys and Auto exec.bat only those 16-bit drivers that you need. For example, many people do not need a CD-ROM driver in Config.sys because Windows 95 supports many CD-ROM drives automatically.

    However, you may not be able to access a CD-ROM, sound card, or other devices you need when you are in Shutdown to MS-DOS Mode. Fortunately, you can load Config.sys-type drivers in Dosstart.bat (or any batch file) using CTLoad -- a utility from Creative Labs, maker of multimedia plug-and-play boards.

    You get Ctload.exe by setting your browser to Scroll to the bottom of the page and click Ctload.exe. Save this file to a folder and run it once to decompress and other files. Print the README file for directions.

    Thanks to Carol Lee for this idea. She receives a copy of Windows 95 Secrets Gold, which contains more information on MS-DOS Mode.

    Brian Livingston is the co-author of Windows 95 Secrets Gold and four other Windows books (IDG Books). Send tips to or fax: (206) 282-1248.

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    Copyright © 1997 by InfoWorld Publishing Company


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