Copyright April 2000 Tony Lawrence
$89.99 for single user license) is the same product as SCO Merge,
but for Linux. This is not at all like Wine; with Win4Lin you
actually install Windows 95 or Windows 98 (which means, of course,
that you have to own Windows 95 or Windows 98). After that, you
just run Windows- Windows thinks it is running on its own hardware,
thinks it is actually shutting down the computer when you choose
"shutdown",and has no idea that the applications you install aren't
installing on a Windows computer.
The product described here is the single user
version. There is also a server based product that allows multiple
I installed it on a Corel Linux (1.0) system. The initial
installation was extremely simple- just mount the CDROM and run an
install script which created a new kernel with the Win4Lin modules
included. The new kernel does boot a little differently than the
stock Corel- Corel doesn't show you what's happening; you remain in
a GUI environment while the machine boots. The Win4Lin changes
that, and actually I prefer it that way.
At the time of this review, Trelos says they have done
much more testing and debugging under RedHat. Although the problems
I ran into here might have more to do with Windows than Trelos, you
still might have an easier time on Red Hat or Caldera. In any case,
be sure to check Trelos's web site for up-to-date versions for your
The documentation is in html files on the Win4Lin CD, but
it's also at the Trelos web site, and I found that was the easiest
way to access it. You really should read through all the
documentation before installing- although no deep technical skills
are required, there are things you'll want to know about ahead of
time if you haven't worked with this before (if you've used SCO
Merge, go ahead and charge right in). For example, if you don't
understand that you do NOT configure Windows networking, you could
cripple the installation and waste a lot of your time. You also
want to understand how Win4Lin handles Windows printers, and you
should carefully read the application installation sections just so
you understand what could go wrong. Note that most of what could
screw up are the same kinds of things that would screw up in a real
Windows environment, but there are a very few things (VxD drivers,
for example) that can cause problems for Win4Lin.
After rebooting, the next step is to install Windows. You do
that as "root" (su'ing is fine), and the simplest way is to install
directly from a Windows CD. I used Windows 98 Second Edition, and
that also went very smoothly -just run "winsetup" in an X session,
choose "System Wide Win4Lin" administration, and then choose "Load
You can install Win95 or 98, but not 3.1, Windows 2000 or
NT. You cannot install from floppy disks; it has to be either from
the CD or from a directory on the hard drive. If the CD isn't
bootable, you'll be asked to provide your Windows boot install
You then have to do a "Personal Windows Setup" as a non-root
user. Neither Win4Lin or Merge will let you actually run Windows as
root; it's just too dangerous. This is also done with "winsetup",
and the experience is just like installing Windows directly-
indeed, Windows thinks that is what it is doing, but of course it
is actually running in an emulator under the control of "winsetup".
My install started fine, but I ran into problems immediately. The
installation stopped dead, saying that I either had insufficient
memory or that the file "w95el90x.inf" was corrupt. I didn't think
it could be corrupt, and I knew I had plenty of memory, so I was
pretty much at a loss. I gathered as much information as I could
and emailed it off to Trelos, not expecting an answer as it was
Saturday. To my surprise, however, I did get an almost immediate
answer from someone who said they'd need to dig into the details
more when they were back in their lab, but nonetheless did have a
few suggestions- basically, uninstall and start over, being sure
that /var and /tmp were large enough. As this system is just one
large 10 gig filesystem, they obviously were, but I tried
reinstalling anyway- no luck.
That particular file is a ".inf" that references 3COM NIC cards
that I don't even have in this machine. Also, Windows running under
Win4Lin or Merge doesn't use the network card anyway; it all flows
through the Linux networking. So I knew I didn't need this file.
It's already been copied from the CD to
/var/win4lin/dosroot/wincabs by the "Load Windows CD" step, so I
thought perhaps I could just remove it (after carefully making a
copy somewhere else, of course). That didn't work. The install
wanted that file, and would not proceed without it.
The next stab in the dark was to copy a different .inf onto
this. I could see by doing "ls -lut" of the directory that the
install had processed other .infs before crashing on this one, so I
picked another NIC .inf and just copied it to the w95el90x file. To
my great relief, this let the install proceed.
Well, not completely. If you've ever installed Windows, you know
that there is a point where it reboots- the Personal Setup of
course does the same thing (remember, the Windows setup program is
really running and it thinks it is really rebooting the machine,
but it's just "winsetup" giving it that illusion).
It's after that reboot that you are asked to identify yourself,
and the next screen after that is where you type in that long
Windows license number. Unfortunately, my install crashed with a
"5001" error right after entering my name. However, that was easy
to fix, though the messages on the screen (from Windows, of course,
not from "winsetup") are misleading- those say that Windows is
trying to access C:\WINDOWS\OPTIONS\PREDUP.TAG but actually the
problem is just that "license.txt" needs to be copied to the "help"
subdirectory (cp ~/win/windows/license.txt
After doing that, the setup (or install, from Windows point of
view) went fine- there was a very long "updating system settings"
where I thought it was hung, but checking "ls -lut" in
~/win/windows showed me that files were being modified, so I just
left it alone and it finished without further problems.
Unlike SCO Merge, Win4Lin does not add icons to your Linux
desktop, so you start Windows by running "win" (you of course can
add your own icons, add "win" to your menus, etc.). You can also
run "fwin" from the command line (it will start up its own X
display). Either way, you are now running Windows under
There's very little that you have to concern yourself specially
with in this environment. You do have to avoid configuring
networking- for example, assuming that your Internet connection is
already set up under Linux, you just fire up Internet Explorer,
cancel out of its Connection Wizard, and tell it not to run again
(note you don't even bother to tell it that you are on a local LAN-
you tell it nothing, it just works). Another area that is a little
different is adding a printer- you do it with the Windows "Add
Printer wizard, but you will have needed to have set up a default
printer under Linux first (before installing Win4Lin). If you have
that done, the Windows printer wizard already has your default
printer as a choice in its "ports" dialogue- you just choose that
and you are done.
Just about everything else works as though you were running
Windows on a stand-alone machine. You install software the same
way, and with most applications you don't have to worry at all. I
installed Office 97, Quickbooks 99 Professional, and Quickbooks 99
without any problem. However, it is possible that an unsupported
VxD driver could cause problems. Of course, since you are running
under another OS, you can simply restore the ~/win directory from
backup and put everything back to normal, but you also have some
ability to fix things outside of Windows- you might be able to just
rm the "bad" VxD from ~/win/windows/system and continue. That's an
advantage over a real Windows machine. Another useful perk is the
ability to cut and paste from Windows to other Linux applications
(by default, that's turned off because it uses more memory and most
people wouldn't use it regularly).
I had to do that on my SCO machine (running Win95 under Merge)
after attempting an upgrade of Quickbooks. The Quickbooks 2000
upgrade uses IE5 and the install of that failed, rendering my
Windows "unbootable" (the Merge startup failed).The same upgrade
was successful on Windows 98 under Win4Lin, so that's where I'm now
running my Quickbooks. I wouldn't necessarily say that this was
Merge's fault- the same upgrade might have caused problems for a
real Windows 95 machine.
While I'd like to someday reach the point of running no Windows
applications at all, I'm not there yet, so Win4Lin gives me at
least the comfort and convenience of running those applications I
still need without using a separate machine or rebooting. The
performance is quite reasonable on my test hardware- a 466 MHZ
Celeron with 64 MB (it might not be great on a low end machine, of
Jim Tom Polk had this to say:
I've been running it for about two weeks now, and
am ever so much impressed with it's performance and it's stability.
I still cannot get over how Windows 98 running as an *emulation*
under Linux, with just 64 MB, is more stable than running stand
alone with 256MB of RAM. (Shaking of head)
It has been a boost to my productivity to be able
to use some good Windows applications without worrying about
crashes leading to reboots.
It seems that the crashes were not due to the
applications themselves, but to the Windows networking. I don't
quite understand it, I'm just using it (gratefully).
But- Chad Lemmen had a great disappointment:
Well I bought Win4Lin and I'm not impressed so
far. Their tech support is terrible. They couldn't help me at all.
According to them Win4Lin will work on Corel 1.0 but not 1.1. I
can't return it either so I guess I just threw away $50 well
acutally $100 because I also bought Corel Deluxe for $50. I can't
switch to Linux unless I can run some Win apps on it. I just
thought you might like to know about this since you wrote an
article on their software.
However, a day later Chad had better news:
I thought I would give you an update on my
progress with Win4Lin. It is installed now and works fine. Although
I haven't tried installing any windows apps I can load windows and
use IE. I haven't tested anything beyond that. The problem with it
not working before is exactly what I thought it was. When
installing Corel Linux you have three options: 1)Take over the
whole hard drive 2)Install in separate partition 3)Install in
DOS/Windows partition. I had my original install in the DOS/Win
partition. What this does is put a root image of Linux in C:\cdl.
The kernel is also in that directory. So to boot Linux you first
boot to the DOS prompt by pressing F8 before Windows loads then run
C:\cdl\startcdl.bat. The batch file runs loadlin. As far as I can
tell it is impossible to boot a different kernel than the one
placed in there. So I was not able to boot with the win4lin kernel.
I copied the win4lin kernel to a diskette and then rebooted into
Windows and put the win4lin kernel in the C:\cdl dir and modified
startcdl.bat to load it, but it wouldn't boot that way.
So I purchased PartitionMagic so I could create a
new partition without losing my Windows partition. Then installed
Linux into the new partition. Win4Lin then installed without any
problems. I didn't have any of the problems that you ran into.
Maybe that is because I'm using Corel Linux 1.1. I'm still kind of
upset that Trelos support couldn't have told me this. If they would
of just said that Linux needed to be in its own partition I would
have been fine with it. Instead they told me to get a different
distribution. I hope they don't tell other people that because I
think Corel is the best dist for anyone coming over from
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© 2009-11-07 Tony Lawrence