Jörgs Windows 3.x Page

In Case of Emergency: Break Glass
"Who needs to go through Windows when he can have a door?" (Author unknown)

Windows What?
A few thoughts from a Linux User

Note: The material on this page is no longer updated, and most links to the Microsoft website are dead (as of early 2016). I keep this page for reference purposes.

Linux is the main, and usually the only, operating system on my PCs. Yet I still keep a multi-boot system between Linux, MS-DOS 6.22/Windows for Workgroups (WfW) 3.11 and MS-Windows 98. The reason is that I have a few old legacy applications where a Linux equivalent does not exist.

WfW still gives a lot of functionality for home use and this on low-end hardware - after all, generations of students have composed their diploma work and PhD thesis on such machines. If you need a graphical interface for your daily work, Windows 3.x is certainly one of the products with the lowest hardware demands. A de-commissioned 486DX2/66 with some 16 or 32MB RAM is all you need and even surfing the Internet is not a problem with such an old machine. Even the most convinced Linux user will admit that hardware requirements for Linux running X-Windows are close to that of MS Windows XP.

Of course, it has its bugs. But decide yourself if the more recent version are worth the price - and be sure to read the manufacturer's license agreement and disclaimer(s) first.

From "a few" years of experience: Here's my collection of hints around MS-DOS (from version 5 onwards) and Windows 3.1 and 3.11.


Setup and Install

  1. If you have a previous installation on this disk, perform a full backup of your personal data. This includes all your documents, spreadsheets, drawings, e-mail, and bookmarks. Make sure your backup copies are readable.
  2. Verify that hard disk partitioning fits to your needs. DOS 6.22/WfW 3.11 will run nicely within a 50-MB partition and with 200-250 MB you should have plenty of space for applications. Note that above 250 MB partition size the cluster size of the FAT16 file system becomes large, so you'll loose disk space.
  3. Run ScanDisk with in-depth testing. Just to make sure your harddisk is OK ...
  4. Boot from the MS-DOS 6.22 installation disk. Install into C:\DOS. If you install from CD-ROM, this link from the Microsoft knowledge base might be interesting.
  5. Install WfW3.11. Choose "custom install" and select C:\WFW311 as Windows directory.
  6. Omit unnecessary stuff like Cardfiler, Windows Tutorial, Schedule+, Mail (replaced by Outlook Express, see below) and their corresponding Help files. I don't use MS Backup, MS Anti-Virus, DOSshell, DoubleSpace either.
  7. If you have a network card and you use it, remember to specify a "reasonable" name for your PC and for the Workgroup. Personally, I tend to use names like "home" or "localnet".
  8. Get back to the DOS setup and install the "undelete" function for Windows.

Recommended Updates

Now your system should be running. It's time for "fine tuning" and a few updates:

  1. Move device drivers that you have in multiple copies over into one directory. As an example, I move all memory managers from C:\WFW311 into C:\DOS, keeping only the latest versions.
  2. Install the drivers for your video card, sound card etc.
  3. The Windows File Manager does not display dates correctly. Update to the y2k-proof versions (as of early 2009, this link is dead?).
  4. Update the WfW network drivers.
  5. If you miss a few tools that were included with DOS 5.0 but that don't come with 6.22, look at the Microsoft support site.
  6. Using the Control Panel, add other fonts as desired (select "copy to Windows directory").


I keep system utilities, drivers etc. together in one directory C:\UTIL, with appropriate subdirectories for video, CD-ROM, compression tools and the other goodies that I use.

Here are my generic CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT files. Explanations:

This gives me some 628'800 bytes of free memory, with all device and network drivers loaded. The only stuff remaining in conventional memory are MSDOS, HIMEM, EMM386 and a part of COMMAND.COM. I think it's difficult to have even more free memory ;-)

Surfin' the web,
and more

A few goodies and Add-Ons that Microsoft offers for download - all for WfW 3.11:

Swap file settings

If ever you need to transfer the system from one disk to another, but forgot to disable swap settings ... the difference in SYSTEM.INI is:

Configuration using SwapFile

101:  PermSwapDOSDrive=E 
102:  PermSwapSizeK=20460

Configuration without swapfile

101:  Paging=0