How to install Windows 1.0 on a modern PC

mai 17, 2020

Windows 1.0 was released in the fall of 1985. Due to the retro-compatibility of the x86 architecture, it can also be installed on a state-of-the-art system. The newest configuration I ran Windows 1.0 in real mode is a Ryzen 3900x , on a motherboard with X470 chipset, 32GB DDR4 @ 3200 RAM and an RTX 2070 Super video card.

According to Microsoft, Windows 1.0 requires a minimum of 256 KB of RAM, two floppy disk drives and a video card. For running more programs, however, it is recommended to install on your hard drive and 512 KB of RAM. Requires DOS 3.0 or higher.

Going back to the mid-80s, Windows 1.0 made a so-so impression and that’s about it, it wasn’t taken very seriously, as evidenced by not many programs and games developed for Windows 1.x and 2.x. The main advantage of Windows 1, namely the possibility of using a mouse, was in a period when ordinary PCs were not generally equipped with a mouse. Windows 3.x is at a completely different level and is really a system with which you can do interesting things, especially since you have Office, Photoshop, Premiere and hundreds of other titles available. With Windows 3.11 you can connect to the Internet using TCP / IP. Not surprisingly, despite its limitations, Microsoft effectively withdrew Windows 3.11 from the market in 2008 .

To be or not to be… an operating system

Because Windows 1.0 seems to be more of a graphical interface for MS-DOS, the question has arisen as to whether it is really an operating system. We must keep in mind that Windows 1.0 works with its own hardware drivers, which is far above the level of a simple graphical interface.

Drivers built into Windows 1.01
Among the above drivers we can also see HPLASER.DRV for HP LaserJet printers introduced in 1984.

Stanger Things

Due to the mega-popularity of the Stranger Things series , which pays homage to the ’80s, and which last season reached the era of Windows 1.0, Microsoft did a little advertising last year. Season 4, which takes place in 1986, when the Chernobyl event also takes place, and which integrates perfectly into the story of Stranger Things.

Where do we get Windows 1.0?

Obviously not from Microsoft. Not anymore. For retro operating systems there is only one reference site, and this is called . In case winworld fails, I will put a download link at the end of the article.

Once we get to the download page, we should also download Windows 2.0 because we need the mouse driver, respectively the mouse.drv file. Windows 1.0 will not work with our mouse on PS / 2. (In 1985 the standard was not even invented).

I don’t have a floppy drive anymore, what do I do?

No problem, no one has. After downloading the installation kit – which is a .7z file of 528KB – we will use 7zip to extract the installation kit.

Our files are contained in 5 disk images. To make things extremely simple, 7zip lets us extract all the files from the floppy disk images in one place, using the Extract Here command .

After selecting all 5 disk images and using the Extract Here command , we will have in the same folder the 155 files needed for installation. Microsoft uses unique names for each file, the only one we will be asked to confirm overwriting is the readme.txt file. We can rewrite it without any worries.

Back to DOS

Because Windows 1.0 is more of a DOS extension and less of an operating system per se , since we have copied the instalation files on a bootable DOS partition, we are good to go. Windows 1.0. uses a text interface for installation and we have to express our options using numbers or letters: C to C ontinue, Q to Q uit, Y for Y es and N for N o etc.

Substitute command

To get to the wonderful screens above, we can’t run setup.exe if it’s in a folder with the letter C: (at least not on the first try). Let’s not forget: it’s 1985, and Microsoft is expecting us to start installation using the floppy drive, which is A:

So we are in a small stalemate, because a FAT 16 DOS partition will receive the letter C: when we boot from it. Fortunately, starting with DOS 5, there is the external command subst (external: because requires the subst.exe file) through which we can assign a drive letter to a folder, including the letter A. The syntax is as follows:

subst [<Drive1>: [<Drive2>:]<Path>] 

subst A: C: \ kit

After using the above command, the C: \ kit folder will be given as drive A: and when we write setup.exe everything goes according to plan, as evidenced by the screen above which we are notified that the installation is complete. (We assume that the files just extracted are in the „kit” folder.)

For this command to work, just copy the subst.exe file to C: \ if we don’t have a full DOS installation, which includes all the utilities.)

Let’s also set the DOS version with setver

Setver.exe, like subst.exe, is also part of the DOS 5 „Tricks task force” (and the following). Setver will make a program – which needs a specific version of DOS – believe that the current version of DOS is exactly what it needs. To get this trick we copy setver.exe to C: and add the following line in config.sys:


Windows 1.0 will believe that it is using DOS 3.34 and will finally start.

The drive with Windows 1.0 accessed from Windows 10. In the Windows folder we have, of course, the operating system. We have subst.exe and setver.exe on C: \. We also have the Win1 folder from which we ran setup.exe. We also have to edit config.sys, although we can do just as well from Windows 10

It didn’t start? It’s time for VGASETUP.EXE!

Same here. In my case, the problem was with the RTX 2070 Super video card that did not want to start in EGA mode which is implemented in the EGAHIRES.DRV driver, respectively the best display mode to pick in 1985. Although RTX is compatible with the VGA standard ( introduced in 1987) and implicitly with the previous EGA standard – simply it didn t want to work. The solution comes with the installation of a 640 × 480 VGA driver and running VGASETUP.EXE – the file that this utility creates.

Click on the image to download the driver.

To use this driver we must resume the installation process and copy WIN1VGA.EXE to the installation folder, it will patch some files and create a VGASETUP. EXE from which we will start the installation and we will be able to select as VGA video mode.

Victory! We have Windows 1.0 running at full speed!

Installation kit

How about we have all the Windows 1.0 installation files already unzipped in one folder including the mouse driver + the VGA driver already installed (we start the installation on vgasetup.exe) + subst.exe and setver.exe in one 554 KB archive?


Un comentariu la articolul “How to install Windows 1.0 on a modern PC”

  1. 0766249711 on septembrie 19th, 2023 2:59 pm

    Merge asta și la Windows 3.1?

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