Steves Legacy Games Corner
By Steve Metzler (Last updated: 25th September, 2005)

Q. What is VDMSound?
Q. What's the difference between VDMSound and DOSBox?
Q. Where can I obtain VDMSound?
Q. Downloaded and installed it, what next?
Q. What if my game won't run with the defaults?

Q. What is VDMSound?
A. It just so happens that a very bright and indubitably curious lad named Vlad Romascanu was discouraged by the fact that old DOS games could never work in Windows NT/2000 (this was even before the days of XP). The reason for this is that most of these games assume that they are running in DOS (as they would), and interact directly with the sound hardware, chiefly for performance reasons. Unfortunately, this manner of direct interaction between software and hardware generates a 'protection fault' in modern operating systems. In other words: your game crashes and burns, usually before it even gets a chance to put anything on your screen. And what is XP but only a cousin of NT/2000? So... Vlad knuckled down and wrote a nice little utility that eventually grew into a very solid piece of open source (read: FREE) software called VDMSound. What VDMSound essentially does is emulate SoundBlaster and MIDI hardware in software, redirecting the wayward DOS programme's output to your modern Windows hardware.

Q. What's the difference between VDMSound and DOSBox?
A. VDMSound only tackles the problem of sound, whereas DOSBox actually mimics an entire 386 PC in software. Therefore, VDMSound is a lot less demanding on your processor's resources, and can be used with lower speed processors. For instance, to run a 3D DOS game like Pandora Directive or System Shock in DOSBox, you need at least a 2GHZ or preferably 3GHZ processor. VDMSound can do it with a 1GHZ processor, though getting the game to work is usually much tricker than with DOSBox.

Q. Where can I obtain VDMSound?
A. Here's a step-by-step guide to downloading and installing VDMSound:

  1. Launch your web browser and go to the VDMSound project site.
  2. Click on the 'Download VDMSound-2.0.4-WinNT-i386.msi' link to download (note: this was the version at the time of writing). Select a mirror, and put the downloaded VDMSound-2.0.4-WinNT-i386.msi file in a folder called C:\VDMSound.
  3. Double-click on the VDMSound-2.0.4-WinNT-i386.msi file that you just downloaded in order to install VDMSound. We'll assume that you install it to the default installation folder: C:\Program Files\VDMSound.
  4. VDMSound is now installed and ready for use :-)

Q. Downloaded and installed it, what next?
A. When you right-click on a DOS game's executable (.exe) file or batch (.bat) file, you now have a menu option to 'Run with VDMS'. If the game in question will run with the VDMSound defaults (like Realms of the Haunting), then you're instantly up and running!

Q. What if my game won't run with the defaults?
A. The default settings for VDMSound are a SoundBlaster 16 (version 4.15) using IRQ 7. The manual for the DOS game you are trying to run should tell you if these settings need to be different. If they do, then no need to panic. We just have to jump through a few more hoops to get the game to run. For instance, Space Quest 5 uses IRQ 5. What we need to do is create a custom VDMS.INI file for games like this. Here is how you do it:

  1. Using Windows Explorer, navigate to the folder where you installed VDMSound (should be: c:\Program Files\VDMSound). Copy the VDMS.INI file from there, and paste it to the installation folder of the game you are trying to run (example: C:\SQ5).
  2. Using a text eitor like Notepad, open the VDMS.INI file that you just copied. The only section you ever need to change is this one:
    [SB Controller.config]
    version = 4.15      ; 1.05 for SB1.x, 2.01 for SB2, 3.02 for SBPro, 4.05 for SB16
    port    = 0x220     ; usually 0x220 (can also be 210, 230, 240, 250, 260 or 280)
    IRQ     = 7         ; usually 5 or 7
    DMA8    = 1         ; usually 1
    DMA16   = 5         ; usually 5
    Either change the IRQ, and/or the SoundBlaster version according to what your game supports.
  3. Then, to run the game with this custom VDMS.INI file, you first start up a Command Prompt via:
    Start -> All Programs -> Accessories -> Command Prompt
    Then go to the folder where your DOS game is installed, like:
    cd \sq5
    And finally, you enter (obviously, substituting the name of your DOS game's installation folder in the place of 'sq5'):
    dosdrv -i:c:\sq5\vdms.ini
    This installs VDMSound with the custom VDMS.INI file. Then just type the name of the (.exe) file or batch (.bat) file to run your game, and you're away!