DOSBox: Tips + Tricks

22nd June 2019 | Tutorial

DOSBox has been a godsend in being able to play older DOS games on modern systems, but its interface and user-friendliness leave much to be desired. DOSBox contains a number of options, but it requires the necessary know-how to properly configure these settings to get the best use out of this utility. This blog post will outline a number of tricks I've used to get the most out of DOSBox.

Keyboard Shortcuts

Since DOSBox does not display a standard menu bar, there are a number of hidden, but useful, keyboard shortcuts available.

Toggle full screen: ALT/Option + Enter
Increase CPU speed: CTRL + F12
Decrease CPU speed: CTRL + F11

Mounting and Unmounting Drives

On initial launch, DOSBox doesn't seem very useful, and the user is being stared at by a non-helpful Z: prompt. The first step is to tell DOSBox where you have stored your DOS programs. On my Mac, I have a folder where I keep all of my DOS games.

Mac: mount c /Applications/Games
Windows: mount c D:\Games\

Mounting a CD is a little more involved, and the interface between Windows and Mac is also a little different to indicate the source path of the CD.

Mac: mount d /Volumes/Name_of_CD -t cdrom -usecd 0
Windows: mount d d: -t cdrom -usecd 0

DOSBox will allow you to associate a mount point to whichever drive letter you choose. Even if your CD drive is actually the E: drive on your Windows computer, you can specify it to be drive D: under DOSBox.

If you need to unmount a drive (such as the CD drive), add the -u switch and the letter of the drive:

mount -u d

Automounting a Drive

The next several tips involve editing the configuration file. The configuration file is just a plain text file, so you can use any text editor to open up and modify the file. The file can be found in the following locations, depending upon which operating system you are using:

Windows XP: %USERPROFILE%\Local Settings\Application Data\DOSBox\dosbox-{version}.conf
Windows Vista and later: {system drive}:\Users\{username}\AppData\Local\DOSBox\dosbox-{version}.conf
Mac: ~/Library/Preferences/DOSBox {version} Preferences

Note: The version number will correspond to the version number of DOSBox.

Each time that DOSBox is restarted, it forgets the previously set mount points, so it defaults to the unhelpful Z: prompt. To set up DOSBox so it will automatically mount a particular "drive" each time it launches, go to the autoexec section in the configuration file, and add a couple of lines to mount a given drive. Once this is saved, DOSBox will run these commands on start up so the drive will be automatically mounted, reducing the amount of steps you'll need to make each time you use DOSBox.

# Lines in this section will be run at startup.
# You can put your MOUNT lines here.
mount c /Applications/Games

Changing to Tandy Mode

One of the advantages of having a Tandy computer in the 1980s was its 3-voice sound system, which produced far superior audio to that of the standard PC which had a simplistic speaker that could only create single voice beeps. By default, DOSBox does not have the Tandy mode enabled, but it can be set to produce Tandy-style audio and visual effects.

To enable the Tandy mode, change the machine to type tandy under the [dosbox] section:


This works out well to enable the 3-voice sound for early Sierra games such as King's Quest 3, but I have noticed that some early SCI games (e.g. Space Quest 3, Colonel's Bequest) do not load so I had to set the machine type back to svga_s3.