As much as I love to dig out one of my vintage laptops to get the full nostalgic retro gaming experience, sometimes it just isn’t very practical to fire up Windows 95 for a quick round of JezzBall. Unfortunately, the newer versions of Windows built on 32 and 64-bit architectures won’t run these old software relics. However, unlike Apple, Microsoft actually values backwards-compatibility. (Of course, this is mostly by necessity considering how many enterprises are running legacy software as well as due to the support of independent developers regularly bending the OS to their will, instead of the other way around.)
Virtue signalling aside, as part of my recent two-foot leap back into the daily-driver Windows world, I wanted to revisit one of my favorite casual diversions of the 16-bit era: Microsoft Entertainment Pack.
The only problem, of course, is that Entertainment Pack is a 16-bit application and Windows 11 won’t run 16-bit applications out of the box. Enter otvdm (forked from winevdm). Based on Wine, otvdm is a compatibility layer that adds the ability to run 16-bit Windows binaries in 64-bit exclusive versions of Windows much like the new Windows subsystems for Linux and Android. (At this point, Windows is almost a Swiss Army knife of computing, taking everything I’ve enjoyed from the Linux world without having to spend a few hours either setting up new hardware or reconfiguring everything after an update.)
How To Run 16-bit Windows Applications In 64-bit Windows
To use otvdm, download the latest release from GitHub, then unzip to the directory of your choice. From here, you can simply use otvdm as a portable installation by dragging and dropping your 16-bit application onto the otvdm.exe binary, and you’re all set!
If, like me, you prefer to have a more seamless integration into Windows, you can install otvdm with one of the included installer shortcuts. If you prefer to not show the console window while your application runs, use the “install (no console)” shortcut. At this point, 16-bit Windows applications (and their installers, for that matter) will run just like any other Windows application! Now, I’ll never get any work done ever again.