Here at MacRetro we are avid MacOS converts, but we spent much of our youth playing classic DOS and windows games, and still enjoy playing those classics from the 90s and 00s today. We started MacRetro as a way of showing others how to make classic Windows games work on modern Apple architecture.
Until recently our preferred way of running classic Windows games was using the windows emulator WINE through the PlayOnMac emulator. Unfortunately the introduction of macOS Catalina removed support for 32bit applications, rendering PlayonMac and WINE useless.
We have also dabbled with commercial solution Crossover, which is also run on WINE. However, Crossover was also not ready for the introduction of Catalina, with Dreamweavers currently busy working on a solution.
One solution would be to not upgrade to macOS Catalina. However, our philosophy is around making old games work on new technology, and is not about holding development back to play old games. Also PlayOnMac and Crossover are not perfect solutions – many games will work, but not everything will. It was possible for instance to install Championship Manager 01/02 in WINE – but not to run many of the patches that the community have put so much time into maintaining the game.
Our solution is not free, like PlayOnMac – but it does work much universally. We are yet to find a game from the era that we cannot run. We decided to build a virtual Windows XP virtual machine. There are many pieces of software that you could do this in. We opted for Parallels Desktop Pro, and then Parallels Desktop Lite. There is very little cost or functional difference between the two – but Lite can be purchased through the App Store, and that allows us to run virtual machines on multiple computers from a single subscription. This costs around £70/year.
Other options to build your Windows XP Virtual Machine include VMWare Fusion and Desktop (not tested), which attract a similar cost to above, and VirtualBox, which does not.
So theoretically it is possible to implement this solution at nil cost too – though much more customisation is needed with the Virtual Box install that the Parallels installation assistant does out of the box. We could make this work in Virtual Box – but nowhere near as well.
The first thing that you need to do, is to head across to the App Store and download a copy of Parallels Desktop Lite, or otherwise your virtualisation software of choice.
Once you have installed Parallels and selected the free trial (or entered your account details) you will be presented with the installation assistant. Select to install Windows from an image file. You will need to have a windows XP installation iso or CD. You cannot buy XP from Microsoft as it is no longer supported. You can find Windows XP installation images on the internet, just ask Google.
Enter the installation key into the installation assistant. Again the key will be on your installation media. Otherwise you can find installation keys on the internet – just ask Google.
Tell the installation assistant that the installation should be optimised for gaming. This will configure your virtual machine for playing games, and for full screen.
Finally tell the Installation Assistant where to save the virtual machine file. We wouldn’t recommend saving it in a location that is synchronised to iCloud – the file will be prohibitively bid if you like playing old Windows games as much as we do.
That’s you ready to go. Click continue, and Windows XP setup will commence.
Watch and enjoy, while Windows XP installs itself. The Parallels installation assistant should ensure that video and sound devices are installed and functioning. Once Windows has installed some important final tasks need to be completed for security – which are discussed further below.
Towards the end of the installation you will note Parallels tools installing. That sets up the Parallels audio and visual devices and drivers, as well as keyboard and trackpad, to ensure that Windows XP functions properly on your Mac.
That is the installation complete – you will see the prompt below appear in the top right of the screen as the machine boots in to XP. If you want to unlock the dock, and Parallels menu, then you need to press control and option keys simultaneously – before navigating to the bottom (or top) of the screen.
In the application bar to your Windows XP window are some key items – in particular the virtual floppy and optical drives that you will need to attach disk images to.
It is important to make your virtual machine as secure as it can be.
Firstly, load the security centre and make sure the firewall is turned on.
Next, opt to update your Windows installation. From the update centre choose custom and install the available software updates. Keep checking and iterating through the extra updates that open up – there will be several cycles, as you install one set of updates the next batch opens up.
Install a more up to date browser than the internet explorer install within XP. No major browsers continue to support XP – Firefox was the last major browser to cease supporting XP and is therefore the most up to date.
Head over to AVG who still provide a free anti-virus solution for Windows XP. Install this, and make sure that it is set up.
Your Windows XP install is complete – you can now begin to install games.