How To Run An Old DOS Program In Full Screen Using Windows Vista

by on December 20, 2007

Q: I am using an old but useful DOS inventory program. I can get it to run on a Vista laptop, but only in a small window. How can I get it to full screen?

A: It is truly amazing how useful some older programs are! In my opinion, computers today have become way too complicated. Although Microsoft Windows has not been based upon MS-DOS since the days of Windows ME, many DOS programs still run in newer versions of Windows, such as XP and Vista. The catch is that most computers today run at higher resolutions than DOS programs were designed to handle. Nevertheless, there are several popular ways that compatibility with DOS programs in Vista can be achieved:

  1. The first method is to just attempt to run the program by double-clicking on its executable. As you no doubt know, DOS programs can use .com or .exe files to run. If you have a choice between the two types, I would recommend trying .exe first. It seems to me like this is likely the method that you have been using. If the program launches in a smaller window, look for the Maximize button. It is the middle of the three button that usually appear at the upper right corner of all windows.
  2. The next method is to open a command prompt before trying to run your program. To open a DOS command prompt in Vista, type cmd where it says Start Search in the Start Menu. You should almost certainly get access to the Maximize button using this method. Maximize the window before using DOS to navigate to your executable.
  3. You may wish to experiment with the “Compatibility mode” in Windows Vista. While it is meant to help older Windows programs to run, it might be helpful with DOS programs as well. Right-Click on the program you want to start, and select Properties. You should see a tab called Compatibility. This should work for .exe files. But I honestly do not know if it is an option for .com files. As I intimated earlier, Windows 95/98/ME are DOS-based operating systems. Something else for you to consider is that DOS programs sometimes work only a lower resolutions. You should experiment with the different options in the tab.
  4. There is a free program called DOSBox, which allows many DOS programs that would otherwise fail to work in newer versions of Windows to function. I have used this extensively on my Linux computer with great success. Of course, you will select the version for Windows. On my computer Alt+Enter activates DosBox’s full screen mode.

One of these tips should help you to run your inventory program in a larger window, or even in full screen.