• Please review our updated Terms and Rules here

Laplink- transfer between modern PC and MS-DOS 3 PC?


Veteran Member
Dec 9, 2009
I am contemplating using Laplink to make transferring software over to my old Zenith Z171 (5.25 floppies) a bit easier.
I believe you need to run Laplink software on both ends of the transfer serial cable - the target Zenith laptop and my PC sitting nearby.
I think it is clear that I can use Laplink 2.x vintage software on the Zenith. (in fact it was bundled with my Sharp PC-6220 laptop as well).
But, what to use on the PC?
* could use laplink 2.x if I was willing to boot my network attached PC into DOS. A bit inconvenient
* Windows XP is in use on that PC, or better still Ubuntu on another.

Would Laplink Gold work on Windows XP in this case?
Should I run something like a DOS emulator on either the Windows machine or the Linux machine?

I suppose that is the best answer. Any experiences with this would be helpful. thanks.
As far as I know, the bad news is that you cannot run DOS programs under Windows NT, XP and better that need to perform I/O operations. Windows simply won't allow the I/O operations.

First a solution I mainly used in the past:
What I did was creating a multi-boot PC that is able to run Windows 98SE and XP. Under XP I can access my main PC that still runs Windows 7, 32 bits. Whenever I needed to transfer a lot of files to a XT, I copied them over my network to this dual-boot PC in XP mode. Then I rebooted this PC, starting it up in Windows 98, but directly in DOS mode. In my case I use UFO, a Laplink equivalent.

A solution that works but I hardly used it: create a FAT32 partition on your HDD and fill it with the files that need to be copied. Then boot DOS using your floppy drive and start Laplink from floppy.

The next solution I use mainly now:
First I equipped most of my XTs with XTIDE and my ATs and better at least with the Universal BIOS. And second I equipped these machines with a free CF slot. Just fill a CF card with the needed files, stick it in the free slot, reboot the computer and copy the files from the CF card to your local storage.

Last chance:
All but one of my XTs use a CF card as main storage and this means I can directly copy the files from my main PC to this CF card. And I'm busy getting rid of this last HDD as well.

I hope this helps.
I’ve got a copy of laplink gold (ver 9 I think), and it doesn’t mention DOS anywhere.

I’ve tried the trial version of fastlynx and it works from a dos computer to a windows 10 x64 computer without problems. It looks like you can still buy a downloadable full version of their website if the limitations of the free trial version are too much. I decided that for me, using Ethernet was better for a permanent solution. But fastlynx was helpful trying to move a handful of files over when nothing else was available. Mainly because you can transfer the DOS client over serial using commands that are either builtin to or come with DOS.
https://minuszerodegrees.net/transfer/transfer.htm covers some of challenges of these connections.

I think the best Laplink method would be to boot both guest and host in DOS and use the same version of Laplink on both ends. Laplink Gold running on XP should work over a serial connection but I have seen cases where new Laplink versions won't connect to an old one.

Fastlynx gets mentioned above as alternate connection software. There is a trial version of Fastlynx which is limited to transferring only files smaller than 10 MB. Probably not an issue for a MS-DOS 3 system.
Thanks for these very useful replies!

I got started today on one approach, as follows.

Using Ubuntu on a modern pc
Running VirtualBox on ubuntu
Running msdos3.3 in VirtualBox
Running laplink III in msdos 3.3.

Transfer via serial cable

Vintage machines
zenith Z171 8088 with msdos 3.3.
sharp pc6220 80286 with msdos 4.
Laplink III on both.

Will see how it goes....
Tweener machines are a challenge if you don't already have one.

I have a feeling this little journey is eventually all about the mismatch in performance between new hardware and old software.

Maybe fast Lynx is the answer, but I don't really like that you control the process from the new machine and not the vintage machine. I have more than 1 always on Linux machine providing file share services. It would be ideal for me to get a service running somehow that let's me access what I want from the vintage pc.
Last edited:
If I am not mistaken I have successfully ran Laplink III over serial cable from my DOS machine to a Windows 7 machine with a real serial port and Virtual PC running XP. It's been a while since I have done this. I usually use Ethernet and mFTP these days. But I do still have that Laplink serial cable setup on my desk.

I think your setup above with Ubuntu and Virtualbox will work. Give it a try and let us know.

I tried to make a Laplink connection to my 286 from my Win7 using XP Virtual PC. It did not work. I have notes that seem to indicate I did this successfully once upon a time. But it doesn't work in XP. The COM port won't work. I also tried Laplink Gold in Windows 7. The COM ports also won't work. I seem to remember I played with the COM ports a while back while setting up a direct cable connection. I may have borked my serial ports on this Win7 machine. I can't remember what I did. But the consensus is that XP won't allow a DOS program to use the Serial ports.

The good news is that I was able to use mTCP's FTP program to access the Filezilla FTP server on the same Windows 7 machine. Of course, you will need an ethernet connection for that. But it works well.

I was able to use an in-between machine to use Laplink. I have a Compaq Win98SE laptop and I connected that to the 286 with Laplink with no trouble. Then I can connect Win98SE to my LAN with a PCMCIA ethernet.

Yeah... thanks.

I feel like a real tweener machine that, on the one hand can mount a network share and on the other hand can run Laplink over serial would be good.

The question is... how to build that on modern kit?


Honestly I'm surprised this isn't fully sorted.
It is fully sorted - use Kermit. It is quite literally built for transferring files between computers of different types over serial cables among other methods. Just link up two computers with a null modem cable, run Kermit on each end, transfer files. No tweener machine required - Kermit is available for all computers, both new and old.
Last edited:
It is fully sorted - use Kermit. It is quite literally built for transferring files between computers of different types over serial cables among other methods. Just link up two computers with a null modem cable, run Kermit on each end, transfer files. No tweener machine required - Kermit is available for all computers, both new and old.

I don't think Kermit meets what I think would be convenient. Probably why Laplink existed. Kermit might provide excellent transport for a single file, it isn't a convenient UI to browse a remote directory structure.
If I understand Kermit correctly, it would provide a command line for which I could get or send a single file. I could also get a remote directory, change directories etc.
So, appreciate the suggestion. yes it is valid to use Kermit, but I don't think it provides a nice UI. Am I wrong?
You're right, its UI for transferring files is more like that of a console-based FTP client. But I suspect that's about the most convenient UI you're going to get for transferring files between a modern and vintage system without putting it on the network and just accessing the files directly from a network drive.
Well, I have some news to report.
I have a (so far) got a working solution which turned out to be pretty simple.

- using Laplink III (bundled with my PC-6220)

Laptop end:
Zenith Z-171, Laplink III, MSDOS 3.3, 9600 baud
PC-6220, Laplink III, MSDOS 4, 115200 baud

remote end:
- fairly modern Core2Duo desktop with Ubuntu 16.04
- using DOSbox (latest distro)
- Dosbox set up as "386-slow" on CPU type with cycles = 500
- Dosbox serial port serial1=directserial realport:ttyS1
- Dosbox has a mounted drive which is network based so I can load software into that
- Dosbox has the MODE command from Freedos loaded and accessible
- Dosbox is also using Laplink III

Think that is it. With DOSbox all configured, starting laplink enables a connection.
Has to run slowly to avoid timeouts.
Seems to work! I'll do more testing.
One does have to figure out how to configure DOSbox. I edited the dosbox config file.

I had a feeling the Linux/DOSBox would work. I never tried it. My tweener setup works good for me. I have the Windows 95 desktop using WSFTP to my Win7 FTP server and then Laplink from Win95 machine to DOS machines.

To be fair, FTP does have a directory browser, even in DOS with mTCP FTP. Plus I can see the files on the Win7 machine anyway. With Mtcp FTP I have to make sure to name the files with 8.3 format.

This type of tweener setup, either with your DOSBox setup or Win95/98 is probably the best we can expect without using the LAN. With the LAN setup FTP is good, or even Norton Commander type file browsers that support ethernet connections.

Glad you got it working.

I'll have to try Kermit also. I've used ProComm over null-modem cable. I think Kermit may be a protocol supported in ProComm. But it's been a while since I've played with it.

Just for the record, mTCP works on serial ports too. To do that you just load a different packet driver that implements SLIP (Serial Line IP). It is documented in the PDF documentation on the mTCP home page.

Working on a serial port becomes especially cool when you have one of those WiFi modem devices. TheOldNet has a version with firmware that can be flashed to support SLIP directly, allowing you to use mTCP over the serial port via a SLIP connection, and then over WiFi as a full fledged machine on the network. This isn't simple "relay a serial character over a raw socket" type connectivity - you can Telnet, FTP, Ping, etc. over the connection. It's basically equivalent to a slow Ethernet adapter when used this way.

For casual usage any serial port will work. File transfer at 9600 bps is going to be slow (960 chars per second, not counting the TCP/IP overhead) but 286+ class machines can usually run their serial ports much faster than that.

The main reason I like to use the LPT port is that, even on a 8088 machine, the transfer speed is about 30-40 KBytes / second.
I went back to my 286 and attached a serial LapLink cable again. I connected it to the serial port on my Windows 7 machine. Then I fired up the Windows 7 machine and started the Windows XP Virtual PC. I remembered what I was doing with the serial port previously - I had it set up for a direct connection to my 486 for a serial connection using mTCP - probably what mbbrutman was referring to above. I removed that direct connection network interface and that freed up the serial port. I then double-checked the COM1 port setting in the XP Virtual PC and set them to default.

Then I started up LapLink (version 3) on the 286 DOS machine and then started LapLink (also same version 3) on the XP Virtual machine. It worked! I knew I had done this before.

It is not perfect. I had to play with the port settings to get it work without errors. But I did confirm that a LapLink serial connection will work between a DOS machine and an XP machine. So, in my opinion the general consensus about XP not working with DOS for serial port communications is in error.

I will try Kermit next.