Difference Between DOS and Windows Programs
Ultimately, the difference between these types of programs is who has
control over the computer. DOS programs generally expect themselves to
be the only program running on your computer, so they will directly manipulate
the hardware, such as writing to the disk or displaying graphics on the
screen. They may also be dependent on timing, since the computer won't
be doing anything else to slow them down. Many games fall into this category.
Windows programs, on the other hand, realize that they must share your
computer with other Windows programs. Actually, did you know that Windows
3.x itself is a DOS program? What this means is that Windows has
control of the computer's hardware, and in turn it shares parts of the
computer's resources with Windows programs. The obvious advantage to this
arrangement is that you can do several things at once; for example, you
could play Beethoven's 5th, start downloading a file from a BBS, then look
at your checking account and use a Calculator to check the balance all
at the same time. Another advantage is that you can share data between
programs; for example, copying a spreadsheet summary into a work processor
The important thing here is that many DOS programs will run poorly or
not at all in Windows. For example, if you try to run Microsoft System
Diagnostics (MSD) while you are in Windows, you will get the message:
You are running Microsoft Windows.
MSD can only report information specified by it's associated Windows
Program Information File (.PIF). Therefore information presented may be
less accurate or complete than if MSD is run outside of Windows. For more
accurate information please exit Windows and run MSD from the MS-DOS
Some areas may be affected while MSD is run under Windows: Memory values
and types will reflect what Windows provides by itself, and through the
associated .PIF file; IRQ values may be reported differently; and the visual
memory map in Memory, Memory Block Display, and Memory Browser may show
different results. Other areas that may be affected include Video, OS Version,
Mouse, Disk Drives, and COM Ports.
So how do you know whether a program is made for DOS or Windows? Nearly
all Windows programs bear the Microsoft Windows logo ,
while DOS programs do not. If you're still not sure, try running the program
from the DOS prompt first. For example, type
calc at a DOS prompt; you will get the message:
This program requires Microsoft Windows.
NOTE for Windows 95/98: if you try running a Windows program from
the Windows 95/98 command prompt, the computer will simply start Windows (if
it isn't already running) and run the program.
A word of warning for Windows users: in the Main group there is an icon
called MS-DOS Prompt. This is not the same thing as running in DOS.
It will let you run some DOS programs, such as the command prompt
or the EDIT program, but it is still running on top of Windows. The proper
way to switch from Windows to DOS is to close or exit all of your Windows
programs, including Program Manager.
One way to switch the computer from Windows to DOS mode is to click
on the Start menu, then Shut Down, then choose "Restart the computer
in MS-DOS mode". Doing this will close all Windows programs
and (mostly) remove Windows itself from memory.
Another way is to adjust the properties of a DOS program. Right-click
on your program (or its shortcut), select Properties, open the Program
tab, and click on the Advanced button.
In the Advanced Program Settings you can set the program to run in MS-DOS
mode, and even specify a starting configuration just for that program.