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Windows 3.1 max requirements

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First post, by vkcpolice

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strange question but what is the max system specs you can run windows 3.11 on bug free?
getting older hardware is near impossible or very expensive so i wanted to try and run windows 3.1 on more modern hardware like a Pentium 1 or 2
i would like to know what systems people have had win 3.1 running on with drivers working.

Reply 1 of 29, by dionb

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Not exactly the answer you are looking for, but Win3.1 runs fine in Dosbox. You could consider that.

I ran Win 3.1 back in the day on the Pentium 60 I bought in January 1995 and kept it in use until late 1999 (when I upgraded to a Celeron A and Win98SE). That was with S3 868 VGA and a Gravis Ultrasound Max for sound.

Reply 2 of 29, by PTherapist

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It should run on Pentium or Pentium II era hardware, but you'd have to be more specific about exactly what hardware you are trying to run it on and what exactly you are trying to achieve.

As an example, for fun I've ran it on a Pentium III in the past - but with basic drivers, ie. generic SVGA 256 Colours driver for Graphics (some cards without drivers will be limited to VGA 16 colours) & generic Windows included Sound Blaster driver for a SB compatible sound card. Stuff like using a CD-ROM drive is achievable using usual DOS drivers. If you're planning to go with Windows for Workgroups 3.1x, the key is picking a supported Ethernet adapter if you want networking support.

Reply 4 of 29, by ronyket

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I ran WFW 3.11 on Pentium III 500 MHz with 512 MB RAM without any problems.
But has a limit for 64 MB RAM being recognized on the system.
It did even work with ESS 1868 PCI based Sound Card.

The only problem was with the VGA Driver, which back then, was a RIVA TNT2 M64, it was very unreliable and hang up all the time with those drivers. With standard VGA (640x480x16) it was solid as a rock.

Reply 5 of 29, by jheronimus

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If I'm reading your question correctly, you're looking for an affordable build for Win 3.1, not the "ultimate"/fastest one.

Pentium I is definitely an option. Consider that before Microsoft released Win95, you could already buy Pentiums with speeds up to 133 MHz, so if you had an early Socket 5/7 system, Win 3.11/WinNT 3 were the way to go for a while. I've used it on a system running Pentium 133 on an Intel Thor motherboard with built-in S3 Trio64 videocard, a Crystal audio chip and a 3COM ethernet card. I had no issues finding the drivers.

I vaguely remember installing it on a Pentium 4 system 20 years ago as a kid (just for fun). While I imagine that I wouldn't be able to find any drivers, CPU speed is probably not a big issue for Win 3.11.

All in all, I think your biggest issue will be finding drivers for your expansion cards. I would just pick any S3 Trio/Virge, a 3COM Etherlink for network and any SoundBlaster clone. I can't think of any ISA sound card that doesn't have drivers for Win 3.11, but a quick google for a chip model + "Windows 3.11 drivers" will help you make a decision. All of these parts are usually cheap and easy to find

One issue I remember is that by default Windows 3.11 has 32-bit disk access disabled. If you'll enable it you won't be able to use disks larger than 524MB. To fix that you'll need drivers for your disk controller, and this is where you might have problems. However, without drivers the system will still work, just slower.

Pentium 166 MMX Overdrive, 32 MB RAM, Ark Logic ARK1000VL, Tekram DC-680C, Turtle Beach Tropez, Gravis Ultrasound Max
Pentium III 1000, 256 MB RAM, Matrox G400 MAX, Adaptec 19160, Yamaha YMF740B

Reply 6 of 29, by chrismeyer6

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I have windows 3.11WfW and dos 6.22 running an a AMD K6-3+@450mhz with 128 Meg's of ram. And it works flawlessly fast and stable. I'm using an ess based sound card and a cirrrus logic video card.

Reply 7 of 29, by Caluser2000

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I ran Win 3.1 until 1999 on a Pentium 133 as well with 56k modem until a I got a Windows 98 system. I ran the Calmira shell in Win3.1 at the end of that systems use.- http://www.calmira.de/ As someone said use an S3 video card. They worked with every OS available at the time.

Early Pentiums shipped with MSDos 6.x and Windows/Wfw 3.x. When Windows 95 rtm came shelves still had systems bundled with Dos/win3.x and hand vouchers for the option to get a Windows 95 upgrade CD. Pentiums were still VERY expensive at the time still. My Compaq P75 All-in-one system came out late 1994 with MSDos 6.x/Windows 3.x on it and TabWorks.

There's a glitch in the matrix.

Apparently 32-bit is dead and nobody likes P4s.

Reply 8 of 29, by fosterwj03

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Windows 3.1x will run on many modern platforms, but you'll need to make a couple of software adjustments and plan hardware out a bit. Windows 3.1x and WfW 3.1x aren't particularly speed sensitive, so they will run on almost any x86 system bare metal without much trouble. The WfW 3.1x network stack does have some memory issues, so you'll need to either physically or virtually limit memory to no more than 256MB.

Windows 3.1x uses the BIOS and DOS for disk access, so any drive supported by the BIOS or DOS (be it SCSI, IDE, SATA, or virtual) will show up in Windows. Motherboards using UEFI will need a Compatibility Support Module (CSM) to boot into DOS/Windows.

If you want sound, networking, accelerated graphics, and any other peripheral, you'll need hardware that has Windows 3.x drivers as well as open interfaces (slots).

As an example, I have gotten DOS 6.22 and WfW 3.11 running off of a 32GB SSD on a Core i5-4690 (3.5 GHz base clock) and 8GB of RAM (artificially limited to 256 MB). I had an Ensoniq AudioPCI for stereo sound, a Realtek RTL8139 for networking, and a Matrox Millennium for graphics. It worked great.

Reply 9 of 29, by waterbeesje

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I'd go for the SS7 platform.

My Asus P5B-A runs Win3.11 flawlessly. It has drivers still available and is rich solid. It supports any S5 / S7 / SS7 CPU.
The CPU choise is not an issue, whatever you choose that fits is fine. I fitted a K6-3 non plus at the moment (400MHz) and 128MB pc133 ram. Way overkill for W3.11 (still flies with W98SE) but it's cool!

For graphics I've chosen a Matrox Millennium: it also has drivers available. Just be aware this one has some vesa modes missing for dos games.

HDD can be anything that runs on the board, but I'd prefer a 512MB industrial CF in this system: access time is almost zero and you won't need more for W3.11 and DOS.

Sounds and Network are still open here... The onboard audio is missing the riser, but has drivers.

Overall I think it's one of the faster W3.11 systems to achieve.

Stuck at 10MHz...

Reply 10 of 29, by rmay635703

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ronyket wrote on 2021-05-14, 14:31:

But has a limit for 64 MB RAM being recognized on the system.

3.1 has no such limit, that is a problem himem.sys

Even back in the day some folks ran over 64mb with 3.1 but…

https://computernewb.com/wiki/Windows_3.1_Memory_Limits

You had to limit virtual memory and physical memory to around 256mb each or bad things happened.

And the real limit varies slightly from 256, with testing its actually a very odd amount before it blows up but 256 was close enough

Reply 11 of 29, by BitWrangler

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There's one bug you won't get away from and may seem more frequent with better hardware, it's the gdi.exe stack overflow. Win 3.xx can only handle opening so many graphical objects before it bombs gdi.exe, this can be desktop icons or whatever, possibly just flicking through images on viewers or applications that use the windows APIs for image handling. So kill any notions you have of running super high res with acres of program groups with every 3x game and app being an icon available at a click, you'll be rebooting hourly. It doesn't clear the stack properly when you close things, only if you restart windows.

This was only kinda bandaided in win 9x also so something you trip over occasionally there too.

I'd say you'd notice it less on slower hardware, lower RAM because you'll naturally limit yourself to lower resolutions and keep things tidier, you can't open and close things as fast, you open things you're actually gonna use for a while instead of "flicking through" things because it's quick to do so. So it can take 3 or 4 days, a week even to hit GDI limits. Anyway, definitely becomes more noticeable the more you pimp out your 3x install, the more you have on it, and the more you think you can do at once, or more quickly due to larger amounts of RAM or faster CPU.

Apart from that, I've come across no particular speed related issues up to a Ghz or so, and haven't had it on more than 128MB.

2017: Basement full of ancient PC stuff, starting to go through it. 2021: Still starting, heh, many setbacks. So what's this BitWrangler guy's deal ??? >>> Taming the pile, specs to target?

Reply 13 of 29, by canthearu

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Hmmm, I've never seen my windows 10 barf when formatting a floppy .... even my IBM USB one. Actually don't notice any system performance impact at all!

I've seen plenty of Floppy disks barf on themselves, but I still have lots more, so that isn't a problem for today 😀

Reply 15 of 29, by the3dfxdude

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I remember somebody analyzing windows drivers for timing loop issues when run on faster machines. He found that even in Win3.1x it has a very similar issue to the k6 bug in Win95. It might be in a specific version, like Win3.1 or Win3.11 or WFW. But I can't remember the name of who did this, but it was someone who does deep dives into hardware/OS issues and explains them.

It might be possible to patch or avoid the issue altogether. It was more of an issue in Win95 anyway, because more options got integrated during it's development, and computers were still pretty slow, and then after the MHz wars started heating up.

Reply 16 of 29, by Jo22

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+1

http://www.helpwithwindows.com/techfiles/win-resources.html

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In what to one race is no time at all, another race can rise and fall..." - The Minstrel

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Reply 17 of 29, by vkcpolice

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thank you all so much for your reply's. its very interesting hearing all your stories.
currently i have a few socket 7 motherboards sitting around the house but they have a Pentium 200 mmx installed with around 512mb ram of course i could just take some ram out and also look for a Pentium 75 that i think is the slowest cpu for a socket 7 motherboard.
so sad that most of these old computers have been lost.
i dont throw anything out anymore even if its broken as i still like to pass on what i have to someone who might be able to fix them up as i just want to pass on vintage pc history

Reply 18 of 29, by bakemono

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the3dfxdude wrote on 2021-05-15, 00:05:

I remember somebody analyzing windows drivers for timing loop issues when run on faster machines. He found that even in Win3.1x it has a very similar issue to the k6 bug in Win95. It might be in a specific version, like Win3.1 or Win3.11 or WFW. But I can't remember the name of who did this, but it was someone who does deep dives into hardware/OS issues and explains them.

It was on OS/2 Museum https://www.os2museum.com/wp/those-win9x-cras … -fast-machines/

new retro game on itch: https://90soft90.itch.io/glamorous-zombie-flakes