FreeDOS booting screen shot
|Company / developer||Jim Hall & The FreeDOS team|
|Source model||Free and open source with a few closed source utils|
|Initial release||June 28, 1994|
|Latest stable release||1.0 / September 3, 2006|
|Available language(s)||English, German|
|Kernel type||Monolithic kernel|
|Default user interface||DOS Command line interface|
|License||GNU GPL with some freeware and shareware licensed utils|
FreeDOS (formerly Free-DOS and PD-DOS) is an operating system for IBM PC compatible computers. FreeDOS is made up of many different, separate programs that act as "packages" to the overall FreeDOS Project. As a member of the DOS family, it provides mainly disk access through its kernel, and partial memory management, but no default GUI (although OpenGEM is listed on the official FreeDOS website). FreeDOS is currently at version 1.0, released on September 3, 2006.
FreeDOS supports vintage hardware IBM PC as well as modern ones, in addition to embedded computers. Unlike MS-DOS, it is composed of free and open source software, licensed under the terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL). It does not require license fees or royalties and creation of custom distributions is permitted. However, in its "util" section, it includes non-GPL software such as 4DOS.
FreeDOS has a sparsely-populated IRC channel, #freedos, on irc.i7c.org.
The FreeDOS project began June 29, 1994, after Microsoft announced it would no longer sell or support MS-DOS. Jim Hall then posted a manifesto proposing the development of an open-source replacement. Within a few weeks, other programmers including Pat Villani and Tim Norman joined the project. A kernel, the COMMAND.COM command line interpreter and core utilities were created by pooling code they had written or found available. There have been several official pre-release distributions of FreeDOS before the final FreeDOS 1.0 distribution. GNU/DOS, a distribution of FreeDOS, was discontinued after version 1.0 was released.
FreeDOS 1.0 is available for download as CD-ROM images: a base disc that only contains the kernel and basic applications, and a full disc that contains many more applications (games, networking, development, etc) and doubles as a Live CD. Versions of these two discs with source code are also available. It may be downloaded with BitTorrent, FTP or HTTP.
FreeDOS is used by several companies:
FreeDOS is also used in multiple independent projects:
|FreeDOS Version History|
|0.05||ALPHA||None||January 12, 1998|
|0.1||BETA||Orlando||March 25, 1998|
|0.2||BETA||Marvin||October 28, 1998|
|0.3||BETA||Ventura||April 21, 1999|
|0.4||BETA||Lemur||April 9, 2000|
|0.5||BETA||Lara||August 10, 2000|
|0.6||BETA||Midnite||March 18, 2001|
|0.7||BETA||Spears||September 7, 2001|
|0.8||BETA||Nikita||April 7, 2002|
|0.9rc2||BETA||None||August 23, 2003|
|0.9rc3||BETA||None||September 27, 2003|
|0.9rc4||BETA||None||February 5, 2004|
|0.9rc5||BETA||None||March 20, 2004|
|0.9||BETA||None||September 28, 2004|
|0.9sr1||BETA||None||November 30, 2004|
|0.9sr2||BETA||None||November 30, 2005|
|1.0||FINAL||None||September 3, 2006|
|1.1||COMING||None||No date available|
FreeDOS is mostly compatible with MS-DOS. It supports .COM executables, standard DOS executables and Borland's 16-bit DPMI executables. It is also possible to run 32-bit DPMI executables using DOS extenders. The operating system has several improvements relative to MS-DOS, mostly involving support of newer standards and technologies that did not exist when Microsoft ended support for MS-DOS, such as internationalization, Advanced Power Management TSRs, and integrated ASPI. Furthermore, with use of HX DOS Extender, many Win32 console applications function properly in FreeDOS, as do some GUI programs, like QEMU and Bochs.
Windows 95, 98 and Me use a stripped down version of MS-DOS as a bootloader. FreeDOS cannot be used as a replacement bootloader; however, it can be installed and used beside these systems using a boot manager program, such as the "METAKERN" included with FreeDOS. Problems running Windows result from Microsoft's efforts to prevent their products running on non-Microsoft DOS implementations.
Windows NT-based operating systems, including Windows 2000, XP, 2003, Vista, and 2008 do not make use of MS-DOS as a core component of the system. These systems can make use of the FAT file systems, which are used by MS-DOS and earlier versions of Windows; however, they typically use the NTFS (NT File System) by default. FreeDOS can coexist on these systems on a separate partition on NTFS systems, or on the same partition on FAT systems. The FreeDOS kernel can be booted by adding it to the Windows NT Boot Loader configuration file, boot.ini, or freeldr.ini for ReactOS.
FAT32 is fully supported, even booting from it. Depending on the BIOS used, as many as four LBA hard disks up to 128 GB, or even 2 TB in size are supported. Care is recommended when using huge disks, since there was little testing so far, and some BIOSes support LBA but produce errors on disks larger than 32 GB. A driver like OnTrack or EzDrive resolves this problem. FreeDOS can also be used with a driver called DOSLFN, which supports long file names (see VFAT), but most old programs do not support long file names even if the driver is loaded. There is no planned support for NTFS or ext2, but there are several external third-party drivers available for that purpose. To access ext2fs, LTOOLS (counterpart to MTOOLS) can be used to copy data to and from ext2fs drives. NTFS support is provided by products such as NTFSDOS and NTFS4DOS.
So far there is no USB driver support inside the FreeDOS project, but many modern motherboards contain BIOS settings for "Legacy USB" support which allow USB devices to be used in operating systems that lack support for them (such as FreeDOS). This applies to keyboards and mice, and some BIOSes can even support storage devices. Some external DOS USB drivers (such as DUSE, USBASPI and USBMASS) for storage devices work with some effort and luck. There is also DOSUSB which offers an API and supports storage devices, printers and serial adapters. An alternative to running DOS programs with USB devices is DOSBox, which recognizes USB devices from the host operating system to act as if they were "legacy port" devices (e.g. joysticks with game ports, printers with parallel ports, and USB flash drives would act as if they were a hard drive for DOS), but this requires an OS with a GUI.
FreeDOS can be booted from a hard drive, live CD, USB flash drive or floppy disk. It can also be run using virtualization software like Virtual PC and VirtualBox or emulation software like Bochs and QEMU. To use the Windows Boot Menu the following line can be added to
To boot using GRUB something similar to the following can be added to menu.lst:
title FreeDOS # Anything you want root hd(x,y) # x = device and y = partition on which FreeDOS resides chainloader /kernel.sys # Boots FreeDOS's bootloader
The FreeCOM shell, FreeDOS's version of COMMAND.COM, can move portions of itself into extended memory freeing up large portions of conventional memory, up to 620 kB. This is useful for DOS programs which only use conventional memory. The HIMEM and EMM386 memory management programs included with FreeDOS provide extended memory (XMS) and expanded memory (EMS) for old real mode software, EMM386 also supports VCPI, which allows DPMI kernels and DOS extenders to coexist with it. FreeDOS also contains an UDMA driver for faster disk access, which is also compatible with other DOS versions. The LBAcache disk cache stores recently accessed disk data in XMS for faster access and less direct disk access.
File:FreeDOS Beta 9 pre-release5 (boot splash) on Bochs|
FreeDOS starting up.
|Company / developer||Jim Hall & The FreeDOS team|
|Latest stable release||
1.0/ September 3, 2006
|Kernel type||Monolithic kernel|
|Default user interface||Command line|
FreeDOS is a free and open-source operating system. It is made to work just like MS-DOS. Almost all programs that will run on MS-DOS will run on FreeDOS too. It was created because Microsoft did not want to make MS-DOS anymore. FreeDOS can be installed with a floppy or with a CD.
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