Windows XP installation in Virtual Box

Step 1 - When do you need Windows XP

Windows XP is a must for games run in MS Windows platform between 1997 and 2003 (or all games developed for 16/32 bit architecture). If you can't run old games through dosbox or you can't run old games through windows 98 emulation, this is the solution for you. Actually it's the best solution since Win XP offers almost 100% retrocompatibility with Win 95/98 games and more advanced features:

The installation is also a lot easier than what you could have seen with Win 98, allowing to have a platform able to run old games in few minutes!!

Step 2 - Software you'll need

First of all you need to install OracleVM program. It's free and easy to use. Later on you will need to procure a Windows 98 installation disc (within license key) and a video driver - you can download from the links below:

Step 3 - Virtual Machine preparation

After launching Virtual Box program, you can setup the new virtual machine as illustrated in the video tutorial:

Step 4 - Virtual CD ISO setting

Machine is ready. Simulate the presence of installation disc by creating a virtual drive. Go in settings select the drive and create a new CD/DVD drive assigning the ISO file related to the Win XP installation CD. Once you've done, run the virtual machine. Make sure you boot from CD the first time.

Step 5 - Windows XP setup

The process can last several minutes since it will format the hard drive and configure. Once it's finished the system will reboot from hard disk. You can unmount the ISO since you won't need for the moment.

Step 6 - Guest additions

Your Windows XP guest operating system is now ready to work. But before, it's better you configure guest additions that will enable useful feature, in particular, shared folders (useful to move files from host to guest and viceversa) and video enhancement. In order to install the guest additions, you need to restart the Win XP in Safe Mode. Just restart the guest, and press F8 right before OS boot. It will give you the menu and you will choose, "Start in Safe mode" (no matter if you select with or without network.

Once it has started, select the command "Devices>Install Guest additions" from command menu. Let the system to install and just reboot in normal mode.
At reboot, you'll get the possibility to use new features, like video resizing or shared folders. To create a shared folder, you can shutdown the guest OS, and from the virtualbox "settings>shared folders", you will be able to setup a virtual drive: in our case we have mounted a directory "d:/games" from host so, all downloaded game will be automatically available from guest. The folder will be represented in the guest as a remote drive.

Very important: the Guest Additions will be mounted in the Windows XP OS as a portable drive (D: in our case). Don't remove or you'll need to mount it again from scratch.

Step 7 - How to finally play Windows games in XP

If you already have a game available in your game shared folder, just search for it from the guest, run it and enjoy! Otherwise, download it from squakenet (search from your host or your guest, unzip and run it!).

Annex 1 - Video configuration (enable 3D acceleration)

The configuration setting above should be enough to run majority of games. But, there could be some game requiring 3D acceleration. In order to enable it you will need to install a recent version of DirectX. To check the installed version, you can run a program (dxdiag) that will allow you to check the status of your directX. By default you will see 3D acceleration is disabled. To enable 3D acceleration you will need:

Annex 2 - Games compatibility

As we've said at the beginning, XP installation will allow you to play almost all games developed for Windows platform in 32 and 16 bit architecture. However some game won't work due to the fact that developers in the past used to access directly to video drivers, and this mode won't be possible for security reason on a virtual environment. If the game does not run with XP there could be the possibility the game run with Windows 95/98, so you can give a try.

Annex 3 - NGlide wrapper for 3Dfx Voodoo graphic card emulation

As said in the annex 1, some games will need 3D or the presence of a graphic card (as an example, Pandemonium 2). In such situation the game won't run unless we do not create a simulation environment for a graphic card. Recently many projects were developed, in particular for Windows XP. One that we tried is NGlide Wrapper that is actually used by GOG to develop their games compatibility for Windows platform. You simply have to download the freeware program and run the installation on the XP guest operating system. Once the setup is completed, the system will simulate the presence of a 3Dfx Voodoo graphic card. We highly suggest to install it so you won't have any problem with games requiring Voodoo graphic card presence.

Still need help?

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Related guides

How to run DOS games
How to run Windows 98 games