Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Windows 3.11 on a bootable floppy

Windows 3.11

Real long-time readers may remember that a couple of years ago I came across a site that told you how to get Windows 3.11 on a single floppy disk (now since removed, alas).

However, this version of Windows was so cut down that the only applets that were included were Minesweeper and Notepad – you didn’t even get Program Manager. It was also completely useless on many new machines as it didn’t support disks formatted as FAT32.

But now some Chinese dudes have created a bootable disk with MS-DOS 7.10 and Windows 3.11 on it (scroll right down to the bottom of the page). DOS 7.10 is the version that sits under Windows 98, and with a few handy TSRs (Terminate and Stay Resident programs, remember those?) support for FAT32, long filenames and even USB devices is possible.

As you can probably imagine, I just had to try this out for myself, and amazingly it does all work just fine – I had a usable Windows environment, including luxuries like Program Manager, Clipbook Viewer, PIF Editor and Calculator. Control Panel was also included but some of the panels, like Printers, didn’t work. I was able to browse my FAT32-formatted C drive with no problems and my USB mouse worked as well. I’d have shown you a screenshot or two but it didn’t have Paintbrush so I couldn’t save bitmaps and nothing I have seems to be able to open the CLP files that Clipbook Viewer saved, not even IrfanView.

Update: I ran it again and took a photo of the screen.

There is one major downside, however, and this is bootup time. For a start, floppy disks aren’t the fastest things in the world, and to make it worse Windows is actually in a zip file which has to be extracted to a RAMdisk first. In all, bootup took around 10 minutes, though since it was running from memory the OS was lightning fast. Although that also might be because it was running on a 2.2Ghz Intel Celeron processor and not a ~25Mhz Intel 386 processor as was the norm when it was originally released.

Update: A little alteration to the batch file that starts Windows meant that I got the bootup down to around 4 minutes. I now have the batch file copy the zip file to the RAMdisk before unzipping it rather than unzipping from the floppy, which speeds things up greatly.

And incidentally 10 minutes is not the longest I’ve had to wait for a computer to load – one of the computer labs at the university had a 266Mhz beast with 64MB of RAM loaded up with Windows XP Pro. I think that took 15 minutes before it was usable, although that did include logging onto the network.

11 Comments

  1. If only they released a 64bit edition of Windows 3.1 – man that would be fast on this machine!
    If you’re going to boot windows from removable media though you may as well do it properly and put it on a cd. That way you can fit anti-virus and firefox on as well.

  2. How about on a USB drive? I’ve got my old mp3 player knocking around (which I’m using to take photos of Gran Turismo 4 off my PS2 with). I would like to play with Win 3.11 again, just to reminisce (and maybe chuckle).
    I wonder if this is all possible, and to read NTFS partitions aswell.
    (oh, they make Firefox for win 3.11? hehe)

  3. This machine doesn’t have a CD writer and I couldn’t find an option to boot from a USB drive on the BIOS settings. A floppy was the option that required the least effort, basically πŸ™‚ .
    There is a DOS on that page with NTFS support included but it’s not in the Windows disk download.

  4. this is awesome. great stuff!
    just what i need to bring my old pc back alive!
    maybe install an rdp or ica client and make it a thin client on a disk???

  5. I’d like to try this, pity the link to the boot image is dead… any chance you could email the .zip?

  6. Can anyone provide me win 3.11 bootable disk. I am having one PC with win 3.11 and now it is not booting. Unfortunatelly I lost bootable disk. If anyone has the content kindly mail me at amit_tiwari@hotmail.com

  7. yeah i’d love a copy of that too if possible!
    smiljanic@dodo.com.au

  8. Neil,
    I clicked on the link but it was all in chinese..
    Can you post it on your site for download… Tks.

  9. It appears the site has gone down πŸ™ . I would like to post it but doing so would technically be copyright infringement.

  10. If you have a look with web.archive.org and on dos.e-stone.cn most of the files are still available – be nice if someone would mirror them if they can :o) (or zip them all up and make a torrent?)

  11. i’m trying to make a no-install bootdisk that starts dos7.1 and then loads win3.11. from what you’ve posted, this looks like it does that, is that right? and if so, is there any way that you could get me this file? I have an old tripod account that you could ftp it to as a proxy. if this does what i think it does, then i really need that file.