10 March 2012

It’s been much longer between my posts than I’d like.  We had a re-org at work a little while back and now I’m up for another position that I’m waiting to hear on.  It’s like a desktop administrator position but more.

I have a bit of a nostalgia bug and I found my old copy of Windows 95 a while back.  I’ve been wanting to install it in a VM so I could play around with it again and remember old times.  I made an ISO from it, mounted it, and attempted an installation.  I forgot back then that CD’s weren’t bootable and I didn’t still have the boot disk.  I do, however, still have my old Win98 boot disk.  I think it has corrupted, however.  It wouldn’t matter tho, I don’t think, as I only have an external floppy drive and the software back then didn’t support USB!

So I looked on the net and found some boot disk images.  I also did a quick google search to see how complicated it was for other folks.  There sure are a lot of folks that had a lot of problems!  I found it to be farely simple, to be honest.  I did get a few tidbits of info that helped me along in my adventure to figure it out.  I’ll have several links at the end of the post.  But here’s how I did it:

I’m running VirtualBox 4.1.2 r73507 on Windows 7 Ultimate, 64-bit
I have Windows 95 “A” (although the boot disk I found will work for either, I believe)


Boot Disk and Installation CD

  1. If you don’t have the original boot floppy you’ll need to get a copy of the boot disk image from:  http://www.allbootdisks.com/
  2. Make an ISO of your Win95 CD and save it somewhere.  You can mount this directly in VirtualBox which is nice.  If you don’t want to do it that way, you can make another virtual drive and mount it in MagicDisc (another free app)
  3. An alternative is to create a single ISO that includes the boot disk and Win 95.  I’ve outlined that below, or you can skip to step 4.
    1. You can also burn both the boot disk and the Win 95 files to the same disc (but this as issues) to make one, bootable CD!
      1. To do this in ImgBurn launch the program and select “Write files/folders to Disk”
      2. On the window that comes up, the left space is where you add the folders and files (don’t forget both, they are separate icons) from the Win 95 CD.  The icons are have magnifying glasses over a sheet of paper and one over a folder.  I added the files and then each of the folders individually so that they will be at the root of the file structure.  Also add the program xcopy!
      1. Click on the “Advanced” tab on the left and then on “Bootable Disc” below that.
      1. Check the box “Make Image Bootable”
      1. Emulation Type:  Floppy Disk 1.44MB
      1. Boot Image:  add the .img file you downloaded from above.
  4. That should be it for your discs.  I highly recommend having two ISO’s and just mounting them in VB, but hopefully the steps above will help you if for some reason you can’t do that


VirtualBox Setup

  1. Started off by creating a new 5GB VDI Hard disk and making it Windows 95
    1. I configured mine to use 512MB of RAM
  2. BEFORE LAUNCHING THE NEW DISK you need to change some configuration.
    1. Right click on the new VDI in your list and go to Settings
    2. Select System on the left and you can configure your RAM size if you didn’t already.  Also change the Boot order so that the CD/DVD-ROM is first
    3. Click on the Acceleration tab and UNCHECK “Enable VT-x/AMD-V”
      1. If you don’t do this step, when you go to boot after installation of Win 95 you’ll hang at a black screen.
    4. Click on Storage on the left so we can add the ISO’s we’ll be using.
    5. Click the icon that has a plus sign over a single disk (not a disk stack) to add a CD/DVD Device
      1. Add the Bootable image FIRST so that it is the primary slave (which is what it will try to boot from)
      1. Then add the Win 95 installation iso
    6. Click OK to save the settings
  3. Launch the new VDI!
  4. PAY ATTENTION to the initial boot screen.  It’s going to list two drives right above the A:\> prompt.
    1. The first drive letter is your Win 95 installation CD (Mine is set to R:\).
    2. The boot disc is automatically mounted to the A: drive.
  5. Since this is a brand new VDI there is no partitioned drive.  Win95 setup isn’t capable of creating one so you have to do that.
    1. Type format c: at the prompt and hit [enter].  Type Y for yes when it asks if you’re sure and hit [enter].  You can enter anything for the Volume label.
  6. The Win95 setup doesn’t mount your CD drive after you reboot , thus the continued setup for Windows can’t complete because it cant find the Win95 CD.  You’ll get a bunch of dll errors.  The OS will still boot but it’s a lot of errors.  To fix this we need to copy the Win95 CD to the C drive so we can access it later.
    1. From the A:\> prompt type xcopy R:\ C:\WIN95\ /S
      1. Remember to substitute R: for the drive letter that yours is.
  7. Now switch to your C: drive to run the setup
    1. Type C: and hit [enter]
    2. Type cd win95 and hit [enter]
    3. Type setup and hit [enter].  It will tell you it has to do a scan before it can install, hit [enter] to proceed.
  8. You should now be in the setup wizard for Win 95.  I’ll trust you can follow the prompts from here.
  9. When it prompts you to restart after install is a good time to click on “Devices” and unmount your bootable iso.  When I restarted after that I got a boot failure, but I just used “Reset” in the Machine menu to reset the box and then it was fine.
  10. It should then proceed with the usual setup and ask you a bit of input.
  11. After another reboot you should be all set to use Windows 95!


Getting on the Internet

I wasn’t sure if this would work but I was easily able to get on the internet.  The bad part is most pages are using code that Internet Explorer 4 can’t render.  However, if the site still uses just basic HTML you should be able to render it fine.

  1. Please note you’ll have wanted to install the virtual networking driver when you initially installed VirtualBox on your machine.
  2. Launch the “The Internet” icon
  3. Select to connect via your LAN
  4. Use DHCP
  5. Your DNS server will be your router IP
  6. Your Gateway will be your router IP
  7. Save it and reboot like it says

One “old school html” page you can load to try it out is www.bootdisk.com

And that’s it!

I did a lot of trial and error trying to figure out the best way to make the ISO’s and mount.  It wasn’t until I got the xcopy idea that it all became beautifully simple.  But if I had looked in the first place, I would have seen xcopy was part of the downloaded boot image all along :\  It was fun though!

Here are the links where I got a few tidbits of info to help me along:

http://www.sevenforums.com/virtualization/10121-installing-windows-95-virtualbox-5.html   (this is really the only one that helped me)
http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=533611   (sort of, it pointed me in a different direction which made me realize I needed to pursue a different path)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Awo948eU_eE   (I tried installing DOS 7.1 first but didn’t want to mess around with mounting my drive)

27 Responses to “Installing Windows 95 in VirtualBox”

  • bonezore
    November 6th, 2012 at 4:51 pm     

    Hey I have done everything exactly as u described up until I need to format the virtual hard drive. When I type “format c:” in the command prompt during setup it says “invalid drive specification”

  • thegeek
    November 16th, 2012 at 9:37 pm     

    hi bonezore, sorry for the late response. It’s possible you need to use fdisk first (a utility that should be on the boot disk) and partition the drive. You can first use Fdisk to check the partitions (perhaps it got another drive letter somehow?) or use it to create one (option 1, then 1 again). If when you run fdisk it prompts you about having a larger drive, use FAT32 and not 16.

  • Sergio Andres Ruiz
    September 12th, 2013 at 1:35 pm     

    Thank you very much! this information helped me and the company where i work alot! we have some control units with technical problems for a hydroelectric plant in Colombia. and the only way to recover them is through windows 95, this tutorial was really helpful. for the record i had two problem, first the same problem of bonezore, but i solved it with your reply and second was that i couldnt find the install file inside the C druve after i coppied it, problem was i had put it in 2 win95 folders, the root was win95/win95 hehe but i solved it.

  • thegeek
    September 23rd, 2013 at 7:34 am     

    You’re welcome! Glad this helped 🙂

  • Michael Barker
    October 5th, 2013 at 9:12 am     

    I followed the internet instructions exactly, but it still won’t work. Host is OS X if that matters. It hangs at “finding site http://www.google.ca” or whatever site I’m trying to access. Then, after about 5 minutes, a popup window says, “The internet site ‘www.google.ca’ was not found. Please make sure the address is correct. Could not open http://www.google.ca.”

  • thegeek
    October 27th, 2013 at 6:16 pm     

    What are your network setting set at for this VM? NAT, bridged? Does your host OS have the VirtualBox virtual network adapter installed?

  • Jackson
    December 26th, 2013 at 1:12 am     

    Everytime I get past the setup and my VM reboots, it takes me right back to the begining… how do i make it so that it will remember me doing the whole setup? thanks in advance

  • thegeek
    January 5th, 2014 at 8:47 pm     

    Sorry I was out of town for the holidays and had some catching up to do when I got back. I see you figured it out. In case anyone has the same issue…. it sounds like you just needed to unmount the Windows 95 ISO from the virtual machine so that it stopped booting to that when powering on/restarting.

  • Jackson
    December 26th, 2013 at 1:19 am     

    nevermind, figured it out! haha

  • Trevor Brady
    February 10th, 2014 at 6:27 pm     

    How do you make the bootable image the primary slave? My iso always becomes the primary slave when I attempt this.

  • Trevor Brady
    February 10th, 2014 at 6:32 pm     

    Addendum, it is only allowing me to add my bootable image as a floppy. SO even when I add it first, I don’t see it listed as the primary slave.

  • thegeek
    February 10th, 2014 at 8:52 pm     

    After you create the VM (and with it shutdown) you want to right click it from the VM Manager, go to Settings, and then the Storage tab. Select the “Controller: IDE Controller” line and then click the disk with the plus sign to add a CD/DVD. Select Choose Disk and then browse to the ISO file. It should then be highlighted automatically and on the right side, under attributes, change the drop down. If it’s not an option in the dropdown, that means one of the other disks/drives in your storage tree is already set to primary slave, you need to find it and change it to something else. Just like on a physical PC, you can only have one device as each config.

    Hope that helps.

  • Trevor Brady
    February 11th, 2014 at 2:09 pm     

    I type “format c:” in the command prompt and it tells me that that is an invalid prompt. I’m brand new at this, as you can tell >.<

  • thegeek
    February 11th, 2014 at 4:54 pm     

    Does it say it’s an invalid prompt or invalid drive letter? Try typing “diskpart” (no quotes, hit enter) and then at the DISKPART> prompt type “list volume” (no quotes, hit enter). You should see all your volumes/disk. If one with Ltr C isn’t listed, you need to create the C volume first. To do that, from the same DISKPART> prompt you want to type assign # (where # is the Volume ### from the list you just got, for the drive that should be the C drive)

  • SledgeNE
    February 12th, 2014 at 1:21 am     

    Hello, thank you for this great tutorial. But i can’t find “the internet” icon to choose “Use DHCP” and connect via LAN. I have Bridged Network on VM activated. I have Win 95 Version C.

  • thegeek
    February 12th, 2014 at 7:13 am     

    It’s really just the old (original?) Internet Explorer. If you don’t have the globe icon with the magnifying glass on your desktop, go to Start > Programs > Accessories > Internet Tools and open Internet Explorer from there. I believe every time you launch it, it will ask for those settings if they are not set.

  • SledgeNE
    February 13th, 2014 at 7:22 am     

    Thanks i found the Internet Explorer. It’s a bit complicated because Windows 95 found two driver Ndis2-Driver and ODI-Driver. But it doesn’t work. Thanks for your help. 🙂

  • No tell
    February 18th, 2014 at 9:04 pm     

    what is a bootable image?

  • Matthew
    February 19th, 2014 at 4:32 am     

    Hi there
    I get to the xcopy… command. there it says
    CDR101: Not ready reading drive R
    Abort, Retry, Fail?
    My drive letter is R, so this is not the problem I guess.
    I would be very glad if you could help me.

  • Matthew
    February 19th, 2014 at 5:36 am     

    EDIT: It worked out fine now. I didn’t put the cd-image in the right drive.

  • Manuel
    March 16th, 2014 at 8:06 pm     

    I’ve gotten to step 7, but when I type “setup” and press enter, nothing happens. Any advice?

  • thegeek
    March 16th, 2014 at 9:51 pm     

    were you able to “cd” to the Win95 directory? are you on the correct drive (c:)? Did step 6 actually do anything (copy from your automatic drive letter to your newly created c:)? Are you getting any errors?

  • Manuel
    March 17th, 2014 at 12:55 pm     

    When I press enter after typing “setup”, all I get is another prompt saying “C:\WIN95>”. I did get a long list of errors after step 6, but I don’t know if that’s normal.

  • thegeek
    March 17th, 2014 at 7:32 pm     

    a long list of errors at step 6 is not normal, it sounds like it didn’t copy the files. Make sure you have a c: drive and try to copy again. If not, you may need to make the volume first and then do format c:. It’s possible it didn’t auto create one, see my reply to Trevor regard using diskpart.

  • Manuel
    March 17th, 2014 at 9:46 pm     

    Actually, the problem must’ve been with the ISO I made. I tried it again using the Windows 95 CD-ROM instead of the ISO and it worked just fine!

    November 7th, 2014 at 4:10 pm     

    This guide doesn’t work. I did EVERY THING CORRECTLY, but when I type C:/WIN95\Setup, t says bad command or file name

  • thegeek
    November 7th, 2014 at 5:56 pm     

    It does work, actually. You can see by the previous comments made by folks before you.

    That error message usually means you either don’t have a C:\ or that the file copy didn’t work (copying the setup files over to the newly formated C: drive). Did any of those things fail? If so, I may have answered on how to correct those above in the comments as well.

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