I'm THIS close to playing my favorite computer game on VirtualBox. THIS close.
May 1, 2011 3:10 PM   Subscribe

After much grueling labor and self-denial, I have created a virtual Windows 98 machine on my macbook using VirtualBox, all in the name of playing my favorite computer game from high school. The only problem? The most colors the virtual machine wants to display is 16, and this game requires at least 256. Ugh. How to remedy this?

For the last month and a half, after all other options were exhausted, I've been trying to set up a VirtualBox Windows 95 or 98 machine on my Macbook Pro, so to play my single favorite game from my teenage years, In The 1st Degree.

DosBox and variants of it didn't work, Wine didn't work, Crossover didn't work...and VirtualBox only started working today when I downloaded the latest update. All of a sudden, I was able to create the virtual Windows 98 machine that had refused to form. I installed the "In The 1st Degree" game, ready to play with my girlfriend...when it suddenly declared that this game required 256 colors, and my Windows 98 only allowed for 16. (BTW, I'm still not able to install a virtual Windows 95 machine, even with the updated VirtualBox.)

I've tried several different tacks the last several hours, including trying to install a new video driver or display adapter through the Shared Folders feature - but when I try to explore the network on my virtual machine, I'm told that I'm "Unable to Explore the Network." I'm losing faith quickly.

So, I'm calling on you, AskMe - how can I up the colors available on my new VirtualBox Windows 98 to a measly 256? You're my only hope.
posted by Ash3000 to Computers & Internet (31 answers total)
I came in here to suggest the same thing as CrayDrygu
posted by deezil at 3:28 PM on May 1, 2011

CrayDrygu - Right, but since Shared Folders and the network both won't work for me, there's no way for me to access/install it - I've downloaded several different drivers, as mentioned in the question.
posted by Ash3000 at 3:28 PM on May 1, 2011

To clarify: downloaded several different drivers onto my macbook, but having no luck at actually accessing/installing them from within VirtualBox/Windows98.
posted by Ash3000 at 3:29 PM on May 1, 2011

Put the drivers on a FAT-formatted USB drive and mount that in the VM?
posted by zippy at 3:34 PM on May 1, 2011

Zippy - this might be a silly question that reflects my relative amateurism here, but how would one go about this?

e.g. I put a driver file on a Cruzer USB thumb-drive, clicked Devices->USB Devices, and found the thumb-drive listed in faint-text next to the bold-texted Bluetooth USB Host Controller, Apple Internal Memory Card Reader, etc., indicating that the thumb-drive can't be accessed on the virtual machine. Is there something I'm missing?
posted by Ash3000 at 3:49 PM on May 1, 2011

Driver files tend to not be too big right? Couldn't you just email it to yourself or put it on Dropbox or whatever, then download onto the VM?
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:55 PM on May 1, 2011

This image might help clarify what I'm talking about when I mention the USB Drives submenu.
posted by Ash3000 at 3:56 PM on May 1, 2011

DrJimmy11 - Yes - as mentioned above, I have driver files, that's not the problem - the problem is actually getting it ONTO the VM.

I'm guessing that one possibility would be setting up internet through the Virtual Machine and just downloading it from there, but unfortunately I haven't been able to get the internet set up through it.
posted by Ash3000 at 3:58 PM on May 1, 2011

Gave internet setup another try, not seeming to come together:
posted by Ash3000 at 4:05 PM on May 1, 2011

I will be interested in seeing your ultimate answer because I gave up on VirtualBox when I got my MacBook a couple years ago. Same thing, I couldn't get network working which meant it was pretty worthless.

I did a Google and found this blog entry where a guy tries to get Win98 working on a MacBook and talks about changing the Network Adapter to PCnet-PCI 2. I don't know if it will help you.
posted by forthright at 4:34 PM on May 1, 2011

Are you this wouldn't work in an XP VM, running in Win98 Compatibility Mode?
posted by mhoye at 4:37 PM on May 1, 2011

mhoye - Pardon my ignorance here, but what is Win98 Compatibility Mode? Is that a feature within XP, or a VirtualBox setting? Thanks for the help on this.
posted by Ash3000 at 4:44 PM on May 1, 2011

"Windows Compatibility Mode" is a special feature in XP and later versions of Windows that lets you give the OS a heads-up that your application is an antique, and to handle it appropriately. Windows XP's backwards compatibility is actually pretty magical, provided you know how to turn it on, and you'll find vastly better hardware, software and emulation support for XP.

You're making this pretty hard for yourself; I'd restart this project with an XP VM, install the game and then try running it as prescribed by that link before spending a lot more time dicking around with Win98.
posted by mhoye at 4:50 PM on May 1, 2011

you have to unmount the thumb drive before VirtualBox can use it. just right-clicking and hitting Eject may work. it should show up in the list after that. if that doesn't work, you can open Disk Utility, choose the thumbdrive (you may have to unplug it and plug it back in), and hit the Unmount button. basically, OS X has control of the thumb drive and VirtualBox can't get to it because of that.

you can also burn it to a CD and then just tell VirtualBox to use the CD drive too, if you've got a spare CD. kinda wasteful but it does work.
posted by mrg at 5:01 PM on May 1, 2011

DOSBox is hard to use if you've never used it before. You SURE it doesn't work in DOSBox?

Make a directory containing the application's files, throw it in C:\

Type in (once you open DOSBox)

mount c: c:\name of directory\

Then type in:


Then type in the name of the program (located in the directory you created)and hit enter
posted by banished at 5:01 PM on May 1, 2011

forthright - Thanks for the link, it's much appreciated. Unfortunately, tried the network change he recommended, and still ended up with this.
posted by Ash3000 at 5:08 PM on May 1, 2011

mhoye - Will try the XP side of things - thank you.
posted by Ash3000 at 5:09 PM on May 1, 2011

You shouldn't have to unmount a USB drive before VirtualBox can use it; VB will seize control of it as soon as you put a checkmark next to it under "Devices->USB". The issue will be that Windows 98 has no inbuilt support for USB storage devices; you have to install a driver. It's a chicken thing, it's an egg thing, it's a beautiful thing.

It doesn't have inbuilt support for a lot of network cards either, and unless you install rain it will chew up all your CPU time. Trying to run Windows 98 really is the hardest way you could possibly do this. I concur with the others who say you'd likely be better off getting XP going, then running your game in its Windows 98 compatibility mode.

But if you're truly determined to persist, the way to get stuff into Windows 98 is via virtual CD-ROMs. Use whatever CD burning tool you generally use to "burn" the files you want Windows to see onto CD-ROM, but instead of completing the burn to a physical CD-ROM tell the burner to save the result as an ISO image; then you can attach that ISO to your Windows box's virtual CD drive using the Devices menu.
posted by flabdablet at 5:16 PM on May 1, 2011

You might also have more luck getting it to believe it has a browseable network available if you change its VirtualBox network adapter from NAT to Bridged. That way, your VM's virtual Ethernet controller will appear on your LAN along with all your real machines, rather than being insulated from it via a layer of network address translation (Windows networking doesn't work across routers).
posted by flabdablet at 5:20 PM on May 1, 2011

Also, I've never managed to get sound working with Windows 98 and VirtualBox, but then again I never tried real hard. I imagine setting the VM's emulated audio device to SoundBlaster 16, then using the ISO image trick to install a SB16 driver into Windows, would be your best bet.
posted by flabdablet at 5:22 PM on May 1, 2011

banished - I'm 99% sure it doesn't work in DOSBox. That being said, just started it up again, having abandoned it a month ago - and while I have a directory worth of the game files, I'm really not sure what you mean by throwing it in C:\? Do you mean the Macintosh HD? Thanks.
posted by Ash3000 at 5:26 PM on May 1, 2011

Also also, Shared Folders requires VirtualBox Guest Additions to be installed inside Windows before it will work, and these are not compatible with Windows 98 or other DOS-based Windows versions; they need one of the NT-architecture systems (NT, Windows 2000, Windows XP and so on). So don't even bother trying to get Shared Folders to go. If you want your Windows VM to share files cleanly with your Mac, setting up Windows file sharing on the Mac and wrestling with Windows networking in the VM (after making sure its network adapter is Bridged, not NAT) is your only real hope.
posted by flabdablet at 5:30 PM on May 1, 2011

flabdablet - I'm working my way through your many varied suggestions, which I *much* appreciate, as I also try to get the XP VM up and running. Two quick notes on the 98 suggestions, if I'm doing something obviously wrong:

1. I was able to create an .iso from the thumb-drive - and it's somehow still not enough.

2. I made the Bridged network switch, but don't know what this means - haven't used Windows in a really long time:
That way, your VM's virtual Ethernet controller will appear on your LAN along with all your real machines, rather than being insulated from it via a layer of network address translation (Windows networking doesn't work across routers).
posted by Ash3000 at 5:44 PM on May 1, 2011

I've had really great luck using Boxer to run many of my favorite old school games. Technically, Boxer is for running old school DOS games, but assuming that the .exe files etc., are included and accessible for the game you want to play, i would give it a shot. Every old school game I've tried has been up and running on Boxer in a few minutes, it does a great job of taking care of the annoying configuration programs that always seem to pop up when running old games on new machines.
posted by EvilPRGuy at 6:02 PM on May 1, 2011

I don't think DOSbox can possible work since the game uses quicktime. Is the version you have just for PC or is the Mac version included as well? Emulating a PowerPC version of Mac OS could work.
posted by Harpocrates at 6:05 PM on May 1, 2011

I can't give any advice on running Windows 98 in VirtualBox, unfortunately - last time I tried to do this there were serious issues with graphics drivers and overall the OS was not well supported, and I don't know if the situation has improved any since then. It might be better supported in other Mac visualisation software like VMware Fusion.

If you have a copy of Windows 3.1 you might be able to install that in DosBox to run the game - do a Google search for "windows 3.1 in dosbox". It might be simpler, though, to just try and buy a cheap second hand laptop that already has Windows 95 or 98 installed (the game does have very low system requirements, so virtually any functioning system would do), which would allow you to run the game natively and avoid any messy emulation issues.
posted by fearthehat at 10:27 PM on May 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

... i would definitely try the windows xp route. and vmware too...
posted by 3mendo at 1:18 AM on May 2, 2011

1. I was able to create an .iso from the thumb-drive - and it's somehow still not enough.

VERR_NOT_SUPPORTED means that VirtualBox thinks there's something wrong with the way the .iso image is laid out. What were the steps you used to create it?

2. I made the Bridged network switch, but don't know what this means

By default, VirtualBox sets each guest up behind its own simulated Network Address Translation (NAT) router. That allows guests to establish outbound connections to anything the host can also connect to (so it works fine for Internet access from inside the guest), but it blocks connections from the host back into the guest and it also stops the guest seeing any broadcast traffic on the host's LAN.

Windows file and printer sharing relies on a set of protocols called NetBIOS, and NetBIOS was not originally designed to work across routers. To make it do so, you need to run it on top of TCP/IP and have a WINS server somewhere on your network, and you need to tell each Windows client where that WINS server is. On small networks it's much, much easier to put all the Windows boxes that want to share files and printers to live on the same IP subnet and tell each other about themselves via broadcasts; if they can do this, you don't need to worry about WINS servers.

By putting your VirtualBox network adapter in bridged mode, your VirtualBox guest is set up to appear as if it's plugged into your LAN via a network switch or hub, not via a router. It gets its IP address the same way your host or any other box on your LAN does (usually via DHCP), it can see all the broadcast traffic, and you can establish a TCP connection to it from any of your other LAN hosts or forward ports to it from your Internet router just as if it were a real computer. This is the configuration that Windows file and printer sharing was designed to work in, and it's how the Windows file sharing stuff on your Mac expects things to be. Do that.
posted by flabdablet at 2:11 AM on May 2, 2011

In the not-so-distant past, I actually tried running this game in Windows XP with Windows 95 compatibility mode. It started up fine, but after the intro when you get to the menu ("Witnesses", "Go to trial", etc) selecting menu items doesn't work.

Ash3000, when you say "Network doesn't work", do you mean you can't connect to the Internet at all? Or just that the network file sharing won't work? If you can get IE working inside the VM, presumably you can make the drivers available on the web somewhere, and use the browser to download them to the VM.

It looks like you're having trouble creating an ISO from a folder. If you're familiar with the terminal, it's simple: "hdiutil makehybrid -o mydisk.iso myfolder". Otherwise, you can use Disk Utility:

1. Open Disk Utility, select File -> New -> Disk image from folder. Choose your folder. In the "image format" popup, select "Hybrid image". Save it.
2. In the Disk Utility sidebar, choose your new "whatever.dmg" image. Click "Convert" in the toolbar. In the format popup, choose "DVD/CD master". Save it.
3. In VirtualBox, add your new "whatever.cdr" file: It's really an ISO with a weird extension.
posted by vasi at 3:02 PM on May 2, 2011

A suggestion.


Microsoft product, designed specifically to emulate Windows.

Try the XP image. If it doesn't work, INSIDE the XP image, install VirtualPC 2007. Then do a Win98 image inside that.

I've successfully run everything from WinXP down to Win 3.1 and DOS 6.0 in a VirtualPC setup. It works, really well, because Microsoft made sure that the generic "hardware" in the machine would work with Windows versions out of the box. I could even see the virtual Win 3.1 install on the network from another machine.

Yes, you'll be running an emulator inside your emulator... but your machine should be able to do it. If that's too many layers, you can always use XP in Boot Camp and then run the VirtualPC from there, to remove one layer of OS from the mix.
posted by caution live frogs at 12:08 PM on May 3, 2011

caution: Awesome idea. VPC inside another emulator has never worked for me. But on a whim I tried out the game in VPC under Boot Camp, and it actually works. Ash3000, give it a shot!
posted by vasi at 10:02 AM on May 5, 2011

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