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Windows 3.11 on a 386SX

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First post, by Almoststew1990

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I've never used 3.1 before so I was thinking of sticking it on my 386Sx 40MHz system with 4mb of RAM.

Will it run very well?
Is there much point - is there much software that will use 3.11 or be better than the DOS version?
Do I need drivers for a Sound blaster 2.0 and AVGA 2 graphics card?

It's mostly just for the experience as I've never used it before!

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Reply 1 of 25, by matze79

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Windows 3.1 runs with 286 1Mb Ram, and was useable.

So yes it will run with 386SX40 very well.

3.11 is only needed if you want to run Network.

Drivers for Adlib and SB are included.
VGA also.

https://dosreloaded.de - The German Retro DOS PC Community
https://www.retroianer.de - under constructing since ever

Co2 - for a endless Summer

Reply 2 of 25, by Almoststew1990

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Thanks. I'll track down 3.1 rather than 3.11.

Does anyone have any software recommendations for 3.1?

Ryzen 3700X 4.4-ish GHz | 16GB DDR4 3600MHz | Nvidia 1070ti | 750GB NVMe
AM1 x4 3820 APU Thing | 6GB DDR1 | iGPU or GTX 650
Slot 1 PIII 450MHz | 256MB PC100 | Nvidia MX440 | AWE32 CT3910

Reply 3 of 25, by Jo22

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Hi, I don't see why it shouldn't run fine. 3.1 has a built-in driver for Sound Blaster 1.5 that works. 😀
The AVGA2 needs a driver maybe, if you need more than Standard VGA.

Other than that.. For maximum HDD performace, you can try Microhouse driver. http://win31.de/edrivers.htm
To make Windows 3.1 GUI more snappy, it could help to install a cheap 387 co-processor and to make sure
your serial mouse is connected to a serial port with a modern version of the 16550 UART chip (16450 was old, buffer-less and caused to many interrupts).

Edit:

Almoststew1990 wrote on 2020-02-24, 10:51:

Does anyone have any software recommendations for 3.1?

You may find some interesting stuff at http://win31.de/esoft.htm
😁

Good luck!

"Time, it seems, doesn't flow. For some it's fast, for some it's slow.
In what to one race is no time at all, another race can rise and fall..." - The Minstrel

//My video channel//

Reply 4 of 25, by derSammler

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matze79 wrote on 2020-02-24, 10:48:

3.11 is only needed if you want to run Network.

No, it's not. There's not only the 3.11 "Windows for Workgroups" version, but also an ordinary 3.11 version of Windows. Most people don't seem to know that.

http://retro-net.de/blog.html

Reply 5 of 25, by konc

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derSammler wrote on 2020-02-24, 12:32:
matze79 wrote on 2020-02-24, 10:48:

3.11 is only needed if you want to run Network.

No, it's not. There's not only the 3.11 "Windows for Workgroups" version, but also an ordinary 3.11 version of Windows. Most people don't seem to know that.

It's an uncommon version that most of us had never heard of so if "It's mostly just for the experience as I've never used it before" it makes sense to go for 3.1 or wfw

Reply 6 of 25, by derSammler

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WfW should be avoided by all means. It's bloated and even relies on real-mode stuff you need to load when not using Windows. Any non-WfW version of Windows will do even with networking, as it can use whatever network you have set up in DOS.

Yes, 3.1 was the most common and known version. But 3.11 had bug fixes. There's no reason not to use 3.11.

http://retro-net.de/blog.html

Reply 7 of 25, by Jo22

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derSammler wrote on 2020-02-24, 12:55:

Yes, 3.1 was the most common and known version. But 3.11 had bug fixes. There's no reason not to use 3.11.

I second that. From what I remember, Win 3.11 was even silently shipped in the normal 3.1 package, simply as an updated disk set.
The 3.11 version number was not mentioned in the boot splash normally, but rather in Program Manager->About. Or via winver.exe.

"Time, it seems, doesn't flow. For some it's fast, for some it's slow.
In what to one race is no time at all, another race can rise and fall..." - The Minstrel

//My video channel//

Reply 8 of 25, by matze79

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I only know chinese 3.11 without WFW.
its rather uncommon.

if you would like networking you would like 3.11.. to avoid stupid configuration odysseys and third party packages no one wants.
tcp/ip disk and you`re fine.

https://dosreloaded.de - The German Retro DOS PC Community
https://www.retroianer.de - under constructing since ever

Co2 - for a endless Summer

Reply 10 of 25, by Jorpho

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matze79 wrote on 2020-02-25, 18:12:

I only know chinese 3.11 without WFW.
its rather uncommon.

I thought they got Windows 3.2. See http://toastytech.com/guis/indexwindows.html for more items of interest.

I had the impression that one of the big reasons for making Windows 3.11 was to screw over the people at IBM working to integrate OS/2 with Windows 3.1. But they managed to get around it.

Is there much point [...] ? It's mostly just for the experience as I've never used it before!

That seems to be the only point to many things hereabouts.

Reply 11 of 25, by BinaryDemon

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I’ve got Win3.11 running on my 386sx-20 w/ 4mb ram. It’s acceptable, although I find it can handle only the simplest games.

Check out DOSBox Distro:

https://sites.google.com/site/dosboxdistro/ [*]

a lightweight Linux distro (tinycore) which boots off a usb flash drive and goes straight to DOSBox.

Make your dos retrogaming experience portable!

Reply 12 of 25, by Jo22

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BinaryDemon wrote on 2020-02-26, 00:44:

I’ve got Win3.11 running on my 386sx-20 w/ 4mb ram. It’s acceptable, although I find it can handle only the simplest games.

Well, it depends on the point of view, I guess. 😀
I played most games in that era on a 286-12 w/ 4MiB of RAM and was satisfied with the performance.
The other specs were a PAS16 w/ CD-ROM, an 80MB Conner HDD (40MB usable), HP Laser Jet+, Mustek (?) Handy Scanner, Commodore mouse pad,
Since it was a 286, I was running native Standard Mode (DOSX/KRNL286) instead of 386 Standard/Enhanced Mode also.

I must admit, though, running late MPC titles using WinG might perhaps be very slow on anything below a 486DX2-66, as they use animated 640x480 graphics.
If you want extra graphics performance, maybe a faster graphics card w/ GDI acceleration and/or a buffered ISA interface could help.
Or an FPU, if you can find one for little money. It can help a little bit at drawing some GDI figures.

The biggest improvement maybe can be accomplished if you install cache memory (if possible on your mainboard)
or if you install a 486SLC/486SLC2 chip somehow (please also check the web for further information, it has cache that can be enabled by software).

Another way would be be to slightly overlock the system. ISA bus can be speeded up to 10-12MHz on many systems.
Anyway, before you try, make sure you can clear the CMOS settings easily in case the system won't POST anymore.

Edit: Typos fixed.

"Time, it seems, doesn't flow. For some it's fast, for some it's slow.
In what to one race is no time at all, another race can rise and fall..." - The Minstrel

//My video channel//

Reply 13 of 25, by BinaryDemon

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Jo22 wrote on 2020-02-26, 03:31:
Well, it depends on the point of view, I guess. :) I played most games in that era on a 286-12 w/ 4MiB of RAM and was satisfied […]
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Well, it depends on the point of view, I guess. 😀
I played most games in that era on a 286-12 w/ 4MiB of RAM and was satisfied with the performance.
The other specs were a PAS16 w/ CD-ROM, an 80MB Conner HDD (40MB usable), HP Laser Jet+, Mustek (?) Handy Scanner, Commodore mouse pad,
Since it was a 286, I was running native Standard Mode (DOSX/KRNL286) instead of 386 Standard/Enhanced Mode also.

I must admit, though, running late MPC titles using WinG might perhaps be very slow on anything below a 486DX2-66, as they use animated 640x480 graphics.
If you want extra graphics performance, maybe a faster graphics card w/ GDI acceleration and/or a buffered ISA interface could help.
Or an FPU, if you can find one for little money. It can help a little bit at drawing some GDI figures.

The biggest improvement maybe can be accomplished if you install cache memory (if possible on your mainboard)
or if you install a 486SLC/486SLC2 chip somehow (please also check the web for further information, it has cache that can be enabled by software).

Another way would be be to slightly overlock the system. ISA bus can be speeded up to 10-12MHz on many systems.
Anyway, before you try, make sure you can clear the CMOS settings easily in case the system won't POST anymore.

Edit: Typos fixed.

The integrated vga (Western Digital paradise) feels a little slow, but I don't have plans to try an isa vga card. The isa bus is running at 10mhz. I did try some multimedia titles like Living Books, but most of the animation was choppy. Even when playing the Win3.1 version of Wheel of Fortune, I find it more enjoyable if I disable the animations. Dos games like Wolf3D feel fine tho. I think my plan is to load the 386sx up with classic edutainment software for my daughter (Where in World is Carmen Sandiago, Oregon Trail, ect). Nothing that will really push it hard.

Check out DOSBox Distro:

https://sites.google.com/site/dosboxdistro/ [*]

a lightweight Linux distro (tinycore) which boots off a usb flash drive and goes straight to DOSBox.

Make your dos retrogaming experience portable!

Reply 14 of 25, by NautilusComputer

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My first PC my dad built/gave to me as a kid was a 386SX-33 with Win 3.1 - you'll be totally fine. I played Command & Conquer on it, but it ran so bad that I had to tell it "no sound card" for the game to run at a decent framerate. Then he gave me a 486SX-25, and it was fast enough to add sound! It was like a whole new game. 😁

Reply 15 of 25, by Jo22

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BinaryDemon wrote on 2020-02-26, 06:59:
The integrated vga (Western Digital paradise) feels a little slow, but I don't have plans to try an isa vga card. The isa bus i […]
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The integrated vga (Western Digital paradise) feels a little slow, but I don't have plans to try an isa vga card. The isa bus is running at 10mhz.
I did try some multimedia titles like Living Books, but most of the animation was choppy. Even when playing the Win3.1 version of Wheel of Fortune,
I find it more enjoyable if I disable the animations. Dos games like Wolf3D feel fine tho.
I think my plan is to load the 386sx up with classic edutainment software for my daughter (Where in World is Carmen Sandiago, Oregon Trail, ect).
Nothing that will really push it hard.

Hm. I don't have a copy of these titles, but judging from the video at YT, the frame rate back then wasn't high.
However, they shouldn't be choppy. Maybe it helps running SmartDrive with the CD-ROM parameter, so it will cache the CD-ROM, too.
Or maybe the CD-ROM drive is spinning up and down ? If so, running it a constant speed might help making things more smooth.
Programs like CDSPEED can do that, I believe. https://www.sac.sk/files.php?d=14&p=8

If nothing helps, try running Windows 3.1x with a permanent swap file and the 32-Bit Disk Access (aka FastDisk) turned on.
That should keep Windows running in Protected-Mode all the time (it will handle int13h calls).
If the HDD is a modern type, you can try the MicroHouse driver; works up to 8GB.

http://win31.de/edrivers.htm
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/32-bit_disk_access

Anyway, these are just some ideas. Maybe you can also find a recent Paradise VGA driver that works better.
Modern decendants of the PVGA1A/WD90C00, such as the WD90C24 /WD90C31 can accelerate GDI, if they appropiate driver is used.
(In either case: The Paradise is not bad IMHO, even if it is an ancient model. Has Win 2.x drivers, good signal quality, can emulate CGA/Hercules via utility etc..)

Edit: Another idea - Does turning the sound/music off have any positive effects on performance ?
If so, choosing another type of sound card or driver could help.
Many of the old "clone" sound cards had both SB Pro and WSS (Windows Sound System) support.
So if you tell Windows to use "another mode", it will maybe help to get rid of some of the issues.

If that still doesn't work: Some non-IDE CD-ROM drive had DMA-capable controller cards, like the Mitsumu LU005S (ancient single-speed drive)
While data transfer via DMA is slower than PIO with a fast CPU, it *may* help a weak CPU.
So if you've got an ISA-based SCSI controller around (not that from the PAS16; it's very slow), you could try to get a cheap CD-ROM drive for it.
Anyway, that's just another, farfetched idea. The most efficient thing would be to upgrade the 386SX-20 by a 386SX-40 (+80MHz crystal).
Or a 486SLC2-40 (has internal cache and can run at same 386SX-20 clock). Unfortunately, the SX chips are often soldered.
Some clip-on (English term ?) upgrade boards existed, as well, but I do know little about them. Sorry. 🙁

"Time, it seems, doesn't flow. For some it's fast, for some it's slow.
In what to one race is no time at all, another race can rise and fall..." - The Minstrel

//My video channel//

Reply 16 of 25, by BinaryDemon

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Jo22 wrote on 2020-02-27, 10:46:
Hm. I don't have a copy of these titles, but judging from the video at YT, the frame rate back then wasn't high. However, they s […]
Show full quote

Hm. I don't have a copy of these titles, but judging from the video at YT, the frame rate back then wasn't high.
However, they shouldn't be choppy. Maybe it helps running SmartDrive with the CD-ROM parameter, so it will cache the CD-ROM, too.
Or maybe the CD-ROM drive is spinning up and down ? If so, running it a constant speed might help making things more smooth.
Programs like CDSPEED can do that, I believe. https://www.sac.sk/files.php?d=14&p=8

If nothing helps, try running Windows 3.1x with a permanent swap file and the 32-Bit Disk Access (aka FastDisk) turned on.
That should keep Windows running in Protected-Mode all the time (it will handle int13h calls).
If the HDD is a modern type, you can try the MicroHouse driver; works up to 8GB.

http://win31.de/edrivers.htm
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/32-bit_disk_access

Anyway, these are just some ideas. Maybe you can also find a recent Paradise VGA driver that works better.
Modern decendants of the PVGA1A/WD90C00, such as the WD90C24 /WD90C31 can accelerate GDI, if they appropiate driver is used.
(In either case: The Paradise is not bad IMHO, even if it is an ancient model. Has Win 2.x drivers, good signal quality, can emulate CGA/Hercules via utility etc..)

Edit: Another idea - Does turning the sound/music off have any positive effects on performance ?
If so, choosing another type of sound card or driver could help.
Many of the old "clone" sound cards had both SB Pro and WSS (Windows Sound System) support.
So if you tell Windows to use "another mode", it will maybe help to get rid of some of the issues.

If that still doesn't work: Some non-IDE CD-ROM drive had DMA-capable controller cards, like the Mitsumu LU005S (ancient single-speed drive)
While data transfer via DMA is slower than PIO with a fast CPU, it *may* help a weak CPU.
So if you've got an ISA-based SCSI controller around (not that from the PAS16; it's very slow), you could try to get a cheap CD-ROM drive for it.
Anyway, that's just another, farfetched idea. The most efficient thing would be to upgrade the 386SX-20 by a 386SX-40 (+80MHz crystal).
Or a 486SLC2-40 (has internal cache and can run at same 386SX-20 clock). Unfortunately, the SX chips are often soldered.
Some clip-on (English term ?) upgrade boards existed, as well, but I do know little about them. Sorry. 🙁

No CD-ROM drive, I’m running directly off a CF card. I think because of the IDE-CF adapter it won’t like me enable 32bit disk access. I have the correct vga driver loaded. A cpu upgrade definitely seems like more work than I want, it’s not soldered But it’s PQFP-132. I’m ok working with it’s current limitations.

Check out DOSBox Distro:

https://sites.google.com/site/dosboxdistro/ [*]

a lightweight Linux distro (tinycore) which boots off a usb flash drive and goes straight to DOSBox.

Make your dos retrogaming experience portable!

Reply 17 of 25, by AlaricD

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Jo22 wrote on 2020-02-24, 10:54:

To make Windows 3.1 GUI more snappy, it could help to install a cheap 387 co-processor

It could? [CITATION NEEDED]

Reply 18 of 25, by Jo22

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AlaricD wrote on 2020-02-27, 14:43:
Jo22 wrote on 2020-02-24, 10:54:

To make Windows 3.1 GUI more snappy, it could help to install a cheap 387 co-processor

It could? [CITATION NEEDED]

Here you go. 😀
Windows 3.0/3.1/3.11 FPU Usage

It's an older thread, though.
The article said that, unlike Windows 3.0, Windows 3.1 used the FPU for drawing.

Which makes sense to me, since it as also the first one to support GUI Accelerator boards.
The article also has some charts and comparisons..

Unfortunately, Win9x was expected to be run on 486+ which had FPU built-in,
so that FPU-related topics fell out of favour soon after Win 3.1 was nolonger the current Windows.

The only exception to this was MMX (uses FPU registers). Or the Nexgen RISC processor, maybe.
It had an optional FPU, too.

"Time, it seems, doesn't flow. For some it's fast, for some it's slow.
In what to one race is no time at all, another race can rise and fall..." - The Minstrel

//My video channel//

Reply 19 of 25, by AlaricD

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Jo22 wrote on 2020-02-27, 15:32:
Here you go. :) Windows 3.0/3.1/3.11 FPU Usage […]
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Here you go. 😀
Windows 3.0/3.1/3.11 FPU Usage

It's an older thread, though.
The article said that, unlike Windows 3.0, Windows 3.1 used the FPU for drawing.

I'll try to slog through the German article (loan words and cognates make it almost readable). I can see it accelerating CAD and Excel stuff, but screen drawing is done in 2D and so floating point calculation doesn't seem to apply.

Looking through, I can see mention of sine/cosine/tangent, which would be useful in CAD, obviously, but not for drawing 2D windows. Yet, strangely the graphs show performance difference in drawing windows, icons, fills, circles (circles, I can see being improved by an FPU), and points.

This is... mind-boggling.