Re-visiting VM/386

So years ago I had won an eBay auction for 3 disks:


But pretty much everything I threw at it emulation wise came up with NOTHING but green bars when trying to enter a virtual machine. I’d always thought it was a video ROM thing but VGA type ROM I put in Qemu it’s always the same thing, green jail bars.

VM/386 in action

However, I tried it again on 86box, and YES it runs!

VM/386 VM status

You can see VMs running, where they are in memory and all that other fun stuff.

And even better you can run graphical PC programs on your advanced 80386, and seamlessly multitask them all, using the hotkey ALT+PRINTSCREEN to toggle between them all. Surprisingly creating and terminating VMs didn’t really mess with overall system stability. I have to imagine that had this program had a 32bit API, it would have killed OS/2 before it ever got a chance. Considering that version 1.2 is from 1988 there very well could have been a larger possibility.

It does have the ability for individual profiles to specify RAM or even where or how to boot, it has disk drivers for sharing of files (think file locking). It also has the ability to boot from floppy, or even ROM!

MS-DOS 3.30A booted under VM/386

Indeed there is a rather good review from PC Magazine: January 1988, that goes into many features, and compares it to other contemporary multitaskers of the era.

The one big drawback is there is no data exchange facilities. The one thing that Windows/386 had bridging the gap between MS-DOS & Windows applications.

So many products like VM/386 ended up finding their niche’s in attaching dumb terminals, and turning 386 classed machines into ‘micro mini’s’ witthout the power of Unix. It’s even out of this environment Citrix was born.

But there was so much potential here to be something so much larger, but sadly that was not to come. Perhaps 1988 was just a little too early in the sense of GNU GCC/GAS/LD and some Xenix COFF help. The world would have been a lot more stranger had Microsoft lost that second vital platform war.

Anyone crazy enough to want to try it in 86box, I uploaded my images on


So I picked up this old 386 multitasker on amazon called.. VM/386. I remember seeing ads on how awesome it was back in the day.

VM/386 diskettes

VM/386 diskettes


VM/386 1.2 splash screen

VM/386 1.2 splash screen

So much to my luck, I not only got 1.2 but 1.22! Even luckier all the disks read! However what ever magic they employed doesn’t work under any emulation … 😐

Sure it’ll load up, and let you do some options.. But this is all I get.

VM/386 in action

VM/386 in action

I’ve tried it on various Qemu levels, I’ve even used a real cirrus logic video ROM (from an ISA board, I’ll have to find a PCI cirrus logic ROM…) VMware, Virtual PC, and Virtual BOX.

Has anyone ever used this thing? I was under the impression it was multiuser as well as multitasking but it seems from what little I’ve been able to use that it’s only multi tasking…

Oh well I guess another sem-interesting update in MS-DOS multi-taskers.

— edit

And… I just got word of a copy of 2.0 and it’s being shipped.. 5 user version too!