Installing DOS, Windows 3.1 or Windows 95


The following texts are intended as guidelines to help you to get software up and running with the minimum of fuss. The author, Acorn Computers Ltd and any of its subsidiaries accept no responsibility whatsoever for the accuracy of this document, or for any loss or damage incidental or actual caused by following the guidelines contained herein.

Having said that, the author has had every success installing the PC emulator and associated software.


The following is intended as a guide to help you to install software with the minimum of fuss. It does not however include any hardware issues, as these are adequately covered by the Risc PC x86 Card User Guide, and elsewhere on this site. These guidelines apply equally to the Acorn and Aleph 1 PC x86 cards.

Neither is this a guide to using DOS or any version of Windows(TM), as these topics are covered adequately by the documentation supplied with the software.

I now assume that you have plugged in the PC x86 card according to the instructions supplied with it, and that all is well, and your Risc PC is running normally from the Desktop. You must also have available v1.92 or above of the !PC application and !PCConfig that goes with it. These can generally be found on the Acorn and the Aleph 1 FTP sites.

Unlike with an Acorn computer (which has Risc OS supplied on ROM) a PC needs to load its operating system from a disc (normally a hard disc). The PC card is supplied with PC DOS 6.3 although some people may prefer to install a version of MS DOS. If you choose to install Windows 95 then it 'includes' DOS at a low level.

Part 1 - Initial preparation

Firstly I suggest that you decide exactly what software you are going to run on the PC card, and whether you are likely to upgrade any of it in the near future. This is quite important, as it is quite difficult (although not impossible) to change certain parameters later, especially the hard drive partition allocated to the PC card.

These figures are the minimum that the PC card requires to run in single tasking mode. You must have more memory available in your Risc PC as RISC OS has a small overhead, even when not multi-tasking.

If you want to multi-task between the Desktop and the PC card then you must have sufficient main memory for the Desktop to run as well. The rule is that the more memory that is available, the less sluggishly both the PC card and the Desktop will run. Windows 95 will run on 7Mb main memory, but it's slow, file swapping on the hard drive is unbelievably tedious, and as for multi-tasking - forget it!! SIMMs are coming down in price all the time, so it is worth considering installing more memory right from the start. The other problem is that although you may get DOS or Windows to run on a 'shoestring' memory, you still have to run applications on top of that, and they can really gobble resources.

Take a few minutes to read the instructions given in the PC x86 User Guide. They are quite straightforward and are there to save you having installation problems.

Install the PC x86 software according to the PC x86 User Guide:

This involves updating the !Boot file in the root ($) directory on your hard drive. Creating a directory called PC in the root directory of your hard drive. Copying the !PCx86 and !PCConfig applications from the software disc to your new PC directory. Rebooting your computer.

Configure your Risc PC for PC use, again following the PC x86 User Guide:

Double click on PCConfig so that its icon appears on the icon bar, then click on the icon bar icon to open the PC card configuration window.

The first thing that you need to do is to allocate part (or all) of your hard drive to the PC card. This is where you need to stop and consider the implications of what you are about to do.

The major issue is to get the hard disc partition size correct. Watch out though! If in the unlikely event that you want to set up two partitions on the same hard drive, you'll find that the software will assume that the second partition is on HardDisc5, so you'll need to change the path to your second partition by hand.

Once the !PC application is run from Risc OS, the card is fully configurable to either multi-task with Risc OS, or to run in stand-alone mode. The choice is yours.

Personally when running Windows 95, I prefer to start up in stand-alone mode, then flip in and out of Risc OS using the MENU (middle) button on the mouse. It is very easy to revert to PC only mode, or to connect the mouse in PC mode, by using the !PC icon bar menu. The only thing that can be offputting is pressing the mouse MENU key by mistake in the middle of a Windows session, and finding yourself dumped back into Risc OS, although it does no harm, and it is quite easy to regain control of the PC card again, without loss of data or program continuity. It's a thing that you gradually get used to.

Unless you configure the PC card to output via Risc OS, which however will slow everything down and is not recommended unless really necessary) one thing that you should not attempt, is to try to run a Risc OS application and a PC application that try to use the serial port or parallel port at the same time, if you do, you are asking for trouble.

Especially if you are running a Pentium processor, it is also worth running the PCsleep application from within your Boot file, as this will reduce current consumption when the PC card is dormant, and will thus help to reduce heat output.

Lastly a word about partitions. If you should find yourself in a position where your hard drive partition is just not big enough, then you are in for a few problems, although they are not insurmountable.

Firstly you need to have either enough space on your current drive to create a new partition whilst still containing the old one, or enough space for your new partition on a different drive. The following applies to both methods except that when you are creating a new partition on the same drive, it is necessary to rename your present partition to something other than "Drive_C", which is straightforward using Risc OS.

You now need to create your new partition called "Drive_C" which is easily done using !PCConfig. Unfortunately it is not just a simple matter of copying all of your files from one partition to another. You now have to re-install all of your previously installed components of DOS, Windows, and Windows 95. Then you can copy your data files from the old partition to the new one. It is possible (and physically easier) to copy files using Risc OS, but due to the vagaries of Windows, it is recommended that you use !PCConfig to define a "Drive_D" and rename your old partition to "Drive_D", then do your copying from Windows, so that it knows where everything has been put.

I repeat, DO NOT try to simply copy the entire contents of your old partition to the new one. You'll be lucky if DOS/Windows will even run, and you'll likely crash the card.

When you are finally satisfied that everything is working 100% (take a few days to be sure) then you can delete your old partition and don't forget to remove it's definition from !PCConfig, or you'll get error messages.

As you can see, this is no mean feat, and it is clearly better to get your partition size correct in the first place. Also if you are not confident about what you are doing - DON'T.


Installation of DOS is a doddle. Most of the following is in the manual.

First of all ensure that you've set PCConfig to Boot from floppy and saved the config. Put PC DOS diskette no. 1 (the setup diskette) into the floppy drive, then double-click on PCx86 to load it. The PC DOS welcome screen should appear, and from then on it should be just a case of following the screen prompts to install DOS. Depending on your requirements, it may be necessary for you to set certain international settings such as Country, Keyboard, Font etc. Take care over these, or you may not find characters such as or $ in the correct place on your keyboard, and the date format may be incorrect for your country.

Just as you might do on a 'standard' PC, you will probably want to change the DOS prompt to something like:


and you may wish to setup a path to certain programs/utilities. This is simply achieved by changing the AUTOEXEC.BAT file using the standard editor that now comes with DOS. This is all documented in the PC DOS manual that comes with the software.

For those of you with a CD Rom drive and/or sound card, it will be necessary to install certain drivers and setup the correct configuration for your hardware. Full instructions are given in the manual.

Finally, don't forget to unset the {bold on}Boot from floppy{bold} setting in PCConfig, before you next use the card. You can change this setting back and forth whenever you find it necessary.

Windows 3.1x

Fortunately, Windows 3.1 and Windows 3.11 (for workgroups) is fairly straight forward to install, and needs little comment here. Whichever version is being installed, start up the PC emulator in DOS. Insert Windows disc 1 in the floppy drive, and at the DOS prompt type A: to install from the floppy drive, then SETUP to start the Windows installation. From now on, it's mostly a case of following the on-screen prompts.

As with DOS you need to let Windows(TM) know about any sound support and/or CD Rom driver that you may be running. Again, follow the documentation - it's straightforward, factual, and it works. Do however make sure that you have ARMDRV.DRV installed and set up correctly, as this will save you from having to track down obscure screen faults. Occasionally, you may have a problem using the mouse. Fortunately, in most cases AMOUSE.COM properly installed, will cure this. All necessary drivers are provided with the PC card software.

Windows can be run in the same way as you might do it on a 'standard' PC. You can configure your AUTOEXEC.BAT file to automatically run Windows, or you can type WIN at the DOS prompt once the PC card is running. I would however suggest that you NEVER try to exit Windows by simply quitting the !PC application to shut the card down. ALWAYS exit windows first by the approved method/s (all in the Windows documentation), THEN close the PC card down. That way you won't lose any data, and Windows won't crash and corrupt itself!

Windows 95

Windows 95 (TM) is a whole new ball game.

Firstly, although I've never tried it, Windows 95 supplied on floppies takes about 30 floppy discs, and is a pain in the reticule to install. Far, far better to invest in a CD rom drive (even a slow one) and buy the CD Rom version of Windows 95!

Windows 95 is not especially difficult to install, but you MUST install the correct drivers in the correct directories and get your configuration 100%, for reasonably trouble free Windows 95 operation. Especially follow the instructions about installing ARMDRV.DRV and setting up you AUTOEXEC.BAT and CONFIG.DOS files. If you don't, you are almost guaranteed to run into strange screen problems, which will drive you up the wall. You should also set the configuration to allow screen output to be handled by Risc OS, otherwise you will find Windows 95 tediously slow.

From Windows 3.1x, ensure that you have shut down all Windows applications, then run the SETUP.EXE file from the WIN95 directory on the Windows 95 CD rom. follow the screen prompts and all should be well EXCEPT that you MUST select the 'change hardware checks' and disable the checking for CD Roms, otherwise the PC Card will crash during installation as Windows 95 goes poking about looking for hardware. This and other Windows 95 related topics are covered adequately by the Readme file that is supplied with the !PC application.

Windows 95 assumes that you are upgrading from Windows 3.11. If you are upgrading from Windows 3.1 then when you are asked to insert your original Windows 3.1x discs, you will find that the discs are different. However, all you need to do is to insert he disc that numerically precedes the one that is asked for (i.e. If asked for disc 2, then insert disc 1). This is ONLY necessary for Windows 3.1.

During installation, I would recommend that you consider allowing Windows 95 to back-up your previous Windows installation. It may seem as though this will take up a lot of hard drive space (which it will), but you can always transfer the back-up onto floppies or tape, or if you are really brave you can delete the back-up when you're confident that the Windows 95 installation has been 100% successful.

Once up and running, as with Windows 3.1x, DON'T quit Windows 95 by quitting !PC. Shut Windows 95 down properly. Wait until you are informed that its is safe to switch your computer off, then close the PC card window within Risc OS, and quit !PC as necessary.

There are probably other words that could be written about the PC card and its software, but it is mostly covered by the supplied documentation, and does not need repeating here.

Author: A.K. Baker :

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