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Video Card Drivers for DOS


Experienced Member
Apr 11, 2013
I have an old Pentium based laptop which has a NeoMagic NM2093 graphics card in it. This machine is running DOS 6.22. The laptop was made probably around 1998 or so, and I have it around because I'm into collecting older systems and keeping them running (I recently restored a 486 SX 25 MHz desktop system).

My question is a general one: for these older machines and video cards, do you have to have a DOS device driver to run games or do games from this era (mid 1990s) usually just access the video card directly and control it at a low level that way?

I ask this because I was unable to find a DOS version for this graphics card, and I'm seeing some problems with some software. King's Quest 1, for example, looks fine except for the text, which is distorted and unreadable. Tie Fighter shows the initial start-up screen but then freezes...

Anyone have ideas how I could troubleshoot what's wrong?

(p.s. please don't respond with any "why don't you just use dosbox?" comments - they drive me nuts - i'm more into the hardware aspect of this stuff. thanks in advance!)


Veteran Member
Jan 2, 2013
Marietta, GA
DOS programs usually did their own thing with regard to talking to the video, so no driver external to the application is needed. There are a few exceptions, such as TSRs that add support for Vesa 2.0 for BIOSes that don't support it.

The problem with some really early DOS games is that they do non-standard things with the video that later video cards do not support.

That happens to be the case with Kings Quest, and is a known issue: http://www.sierrahelp.com/Games/KingsQuest/KQ1AGIHelp.html#GarbledText


Experienced Member
Oct 19, 2011
You don't need a driver for DOS. If a game is designed to support VGA, that is 320x200@256 colors, it will work with every VGA compatible card in the same way. Problems might occur with old CGA games, as a VGA+ card might not render the color properly. In later DOS games, some titles wanted to use SVGA resolutions. In this case, the game might have a driver of its own for your SVGA and it usually does if your card is compatible with a popular chipset (Tseng Labs, Trident, S3). If it does not have a driver, then you can use a UNIVESA driver under DOS that works with most video cards (assuming the game supports univesa extentions (eg Pirates! Gold that I know, does and this was how I played it at 640x480@256 colors with my MXIC SVGA)).

And BTW, since at mid-late DOS times the 640K conventional memory was an issue, the more drivers you load under DOS, the less available conventional memory you end up with and usually games require plenty of it. I was in fact forced to create multi-boot scenarios in DOS, as some games wanted too much conventional, others wanted EMS (enabling it ends up with less available conventional than if you enable XMS only), others wanted no memory management utility present...