Here is the general information section of the FreeDOS
Frequently Asked Questions. Posted with permission.
1.0 GENERAL INFORMATION
1.1 What is FreeDOS?
The goal of the FreeDOS project is to create a free implementation
of MS-DOS. DOS is a popular system, and there is plenty of hardware
out there that supports DOS. The FreeDOS project was founded in 1994
by Jim Hall.
The concept of FreeDOS came about when Microsoft announced in 1994
that soon users would no longer be using DOS, and everyone would be
using MS Windows. (Note the timing: Windows95 was released in August,
1995.) Many of us on the DOS newsgroups loved using DOS, and in
general, disliked using Windows because the GUI interface often made
it more difficult to do our work. So we began asking ourselves: if
Microsoft will not support DOS anymore, who will?
The answer to that question was: ourselves! We started up a
project to create a free version of DOS, with source code available to
all. The result was the FreeDOS project.
FreeDOS is not a derivation of MS-DOS - we are not using or
referring to any Microsoft code. We are instead using the description
of the MS-DOS program as given in publications (such as the user
manual) to create a program of our own that follows that spec.
1.2 Where can I learn about
The official home of the FreeDOS project is
There is also a
You may also consider joining the FreeDOS
mailing list. Or, you
can post a message to
seems more appropriate) and ask your questions there. A lot of people
in these groups are pretty knowledgeable about FreeDOS. A number of
FreeDOS mailing list members are also part of c.o.m.m and c.o.m.p.
1.3 Will FreeDOS run on my PC?
In short: yes, FreeDOS should run on all PC's. That means you can
run FreeDOS on your Pentium-Pro 800Mhz. It will just run really fast.
You should also be able to run FreeDOS on your 5MHz PC-XT. It will
just run a little slow.
FreeDOS will run on all levels of PC's, from as low as an XT with
640k memory. We may one day expand the project to support 32-bit
extensions such as protected memory or multi-tasking, but for now we
are content with supporting the lower systems.
All of this information, and more, is spelled out in the
1.4 Will FreeDOS work under
a PC emulator?
Yes. FreeDOS works well in several PC emulators, including the
popular Linux DOSEmu. In fact, FreeDOS is the official DOS of the
FreeDOS is also used in other PC emulators as well, including Mac
Bochs, plex86, and VMWare (for Linux and Windows NT.)
1.5 Can I use FreeDOS to install my
copy of Windows?
Windows is a special case. Microsoft Windows does not like to run on
any DOS other than MS-DOS. Some people have reported success in
running MS Windows on FreeDOS, but I don't recommend it.
For the same reason, many people report that you cannot run the
Windows95/98 installer from FreeDOS. It doesn't work. I also
understand that DR-DOS does not run the Windows95 installer, at least
without serious patching.
1.6 Is FreeDOS really free?
Yes, FreeDOS really is free. Most FreeDOS programs are written
under the GNU General
Public License. This means that the source to all FreeDOS programs
(including the kernel and replacement Command.com shell) is
1.7 Can I bundle FreeDOS with my
The short answer is: yes, if you pay close attention to the GNU
Some software in the FreeDOS software distribution is protected
under other licenses, so you should be sure to check the licensing of
any program that you want to bundle with your app.
1.8 Is FreeDOS the same as
FreeDOS is not associated in any way with OpenDOS from
Actually, Caldera has re-named OpenDOS to DR-DOS, because their DOS
was neither really open nor free.
1.9 What programs can I run on
Refer to the FreeDOS
Maintainers Lists for a list of all programs that are currently
distributed with FreeDOS.
To see a list of many old DOS programs that are currently known to run
on FreeDOS, please see the kernel
This list was assembled from the contributions of many who have tested
FreeDOS with their favorite DOS application, and found that it works.
This is not, by any means, a complete list of all programs that will
run on FreeDOS. If you have a favorite DOS app that runs on FreeDOS,
please send us an email and let us know.
Some DOS favorites will not run on FreeDOS, however. These are
usually due to some incompatibility with an MS-DOS internal, and we
are working on those problems. In particular, New Deal Office suite
does not seem to work on FreeDOS.
1.10 How can I contribute?
If you would like to contribute to the FreeDOS project, you might
look at the
for a place to start. You should also read the
for guidance on writing your program.
A frequent question on the mailing list is: what programming
language should I use? The answer is provided in the
FreeDOS Spec, that
if you are writing a program that reproduces the functionality of
MS-DOS (i.e. a program for the Base list) then you need to use either
C or Asm. If you use C, please make sure your program will compile
correctly on Borland C 3.1. If you use Asm, your program should
assemble properly on MASM.
If you are writing a program that is not for the Base list (i.e. it
is some extention third-party software such as a modem dialer) then
you can use pretty much any programming language that you prefer.
If you intend to do some serious work for the FreeDOS project,
you may also want to join the FreeDOS
Submit a maintainers list entry when you have at least a
'beta' available of your program. I am trying to avoid
adding any more 'TBD' projects to the maintainers list, as
they don't really do me much good, and I have had to take down too
many entries because the 'owner' didn't get a chance to finish the
You should continue to post updates on your progress to the FreeDOS
Mailing List, to (a) let people know where you are, in case they can
help or are willing to test, and (b) to continue your
'claim' on the program so no one thinks that you've stopped
working on it, and decide to take the project on for themselves.
1.11 What is the difference between
the kernel and Command.com?
Jan Verhoeven writes:
kernel is the nucleus (kern is germanic for nucleus) of the
operating system. Traditionally this is loaded from/by IBMBIO.SYS and
IBMDOS.SYS like files. In our case we load one file called kernel.Sys.
Command.com is the command interpreter that acts as an intermediary
between you, the user, and the computer. It does all the nasty things
you COULD do yourself, but which are far better handled by a dedicated
They are distinct. Command.com is in fact mostly user level,
whereas kernel is mainly systems level.
Command.com, or FreeCom as we call it, uses the system
calls that are needed to control the computer. The kernel
defines the system calls that are needed for the computer.
1.12 I have the source code for MS-DOS!
Would you like to see it?
Please do not do this. It is highly inappropriate for any person who
is contributing towards the FreeDOS project to have any
"inside" knowledge of the MS-DOS source code. For this
reason, you should not send any code that claims to be derived from
Microsoft's code base. I ask you not to do this.
I delete mail that suggests things like this.
1.13 How do I use my CD-ROM
In theory, the same as you install a CD-ROM driver under MS-DOS.
However, in practice we find that the network redirector (which is
used by the CD-ROM interface) is currently not working for many CD-ROM
The following is how you would load a CD-ROM driver:
1. In config.sys, you add a DEVICE line to load the driver. For
example, if your driver was called IDE_CD.SYS and was in the C:\CDROM
directory, you would type:
2. In autoexec.bat, you bind the driver to the CD-ROM extender. For
example, if you are using FDCDEX:
(I think that is correct usage.) If you were using MSCDEX:
Copyright © 1998,1999,2000 Jim Hall
-C FAQ Copyright © 1998 Pat Villani. Used with permission.
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