Installing OS/2 Warp in a Virtual Machine

Installing OS/2 Warp in a virtual machine isn’t difficult, but there are a few pitfalls. The issues are easy to work around, but sometimes quite difficult to diagnose, especially for users not intimately familiar with OS/2. In general, the problems are the same one might encounter when installing OS/2 on a physical system.

The first issue is that OS/2 Warp (and older 2.1 and 2.11 releases) may hang immediately when the system starts booting, even before displaying the “boot blob”.  This problem was tracked by IBM as APAR PJ23092 (Faster Intel Machines fail to boot). IBM made updated OS2LDR files available in 1998, but those only reduce the incidence of the problem and do not fully fix it. At any rate, re-trying the boot usually helps.

The next problem is disk size. Using a disk larger than 2GB is not recommended unless the boot floppies are updated with newer disk drivers. However, a larger disk should not be necessary. For plain OS/2 Warp, there should be no other showstoppers—but read on.

For OS/2 Warp Connect and Warp Server, the second boot from the hard disk during installation may encounter the following (or very similar) error message:

SYS1919: The file D:\CID\LCU\SRVREXX.EXE specified in the RUN statement on line
81 of CONFIG.SYS does not contain a valid program.
Line 81 is ignored.
Press Enter to continue...

Pressing Enter allows the boot process to continue, but the system then hangs in the networking installation phase shortly thereafter.

The problem is caused by a bug in the OS/2 installer which does not automatically recognize all IDE CD-ROMs. The installer will successfully access the CD-ROM in the initial install phases but fails to add the IBMIDECD.FLT base device driver to CONFIG.SYS. That causes the above error message (D: should be the CD-ROM drive) and the subsequent hang.

The bug affects OS/2 Warp, Warp Connect, as well as Warp Server. However, in plain Warp, it does not cause the installation to fail; the CD-ROM is simply inaccessible after an otherwise successful install. The problem is likely caused by a hardcoded list of CD-ROM vendors; that would avoid problems on IDE-based systems at the time when OS/2 Warp was released, but fails on newly introduced CD-ROM models.

The remedy is very simple: In the System Configuration panel, make sure the “Non-listed IDE CD-ROM” entry is selected. That ensures the IDE CD-ROM driver will be installed and the installation will not fail.The final Warp Connect installation hurdle is that there the OS does not come with a driver for the AMD PCnet network card emulated by VirtualBox and an OS/2 PCnet driver must be provided by the user on a floppy (image).

Another potential networking-related issue is that OS/2 Warp Connect did not ship with a DHCP client. If TCP/IP networking is enabled, a static IP address must be used, or on some LANs OS/2 might be able to use BootP instead (a bootp utility did ship with Warp Connect). Alternatively, Warp Connect may be updated to the latest base OS and networking fix levels, which added a DHCP client.

In comparison, OS/2 Warp 4 is much easier to install. The disk size limitation is still there, but the boot loader is less likely to hang and the installer properly handles an IDE CD-ROM. A driver for AMD PCnet network adapter comes with the OS, and DHCP is supported which means easy TCP/IP configuration for the typical user.

With Warp 4, it is highly recommended to update to at least Fixpack 5 and enable the GENGRADD display driver (generic VESA driver). That allows OS/2 to use much better display modes (higher resolution and color depth) as well as display graphics significantly faster. Note that GENGRADD was already available in Warp 4 GA but the initial GRADD support was too buggy for general use.

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38 Responses to Installing OS/2 Warp in a Virtual Machine

  1. Andreas Kohl says:

    This all seems to apply to VirtualBox. With Virtual PC and Parallels Workstation most of this problems don’t exist. Only the missing NDIS driver for the emulated DEC network adapter in later OS/2 ACP/MCP is quite annoying. An floppy image with needed drivers should be created easily.
    Before applying the VPC additions to a Warp 3 guest it should be at the latest fixpak level. Some of this drivers also work with earlier releases (OS/2 2.x) – useful for folder sharing if networking is not available.
    I don’t know about floppy image support in VirtualBox. VirtualPC allows attachment of XDF images, but doesn’t support physical XDF diskettes. Some useful programs dealing with virtual floppies and converting between different image formats are EMT4Win and WinImage.

  2. michaln says:

    Thanks for the first non-spam comment on this blog!

    But according to this and common sense, you’re wrong when you say that the Warp installation problems don’t exist with VPC or Parallels. Most of the problems I described are problems with OS/2 Warp itself and no virtualizer can magically fix them. That applies to the lack of large IDE drive support, lack of DHCP, missing NIC drivers, and failing IDE CD-ROM detection. The occasional hangs before the boot blob can only be avoided by executing the guest code slowly enough; after all IBM itself acknowledged that the OS2LDR may hang on faster systems.

    I should note that the problems only really apply to OS/2 Warp 3; MCP has none of those issues (and in VirtualBox, MCP installation does not require the user to supply a NIC driver either, at least not for the AMD PCnet emulation).

    It’s true that Virtual PC is probably the only virtualizer which supports XDF images. However, who wants to install from floppies when CD-based installation is available…

  3. Doccus says:

    I’m just installing Warp 4 now via VirtualBox, and am scouring the web for advice BEFORE i screw up (!), and am happy to find a weblog or whatever that’s relatively current.. (most have threads at least 2 years or more old)..
    Still, i hope someone’s minding the store ;-).
    Although i expect I’ll have solved any issues by the time i get a reply, considering how difficult it was to find any info regarding OS/2 install on (the current release of) VirtualBox……..
    ….I’ll post my questions and solutions here, maybe it’ll help someone else.. if that’s OK…
    See right now I’m at the display options dialog and I can’t find out what type of display VBox emulates .. maybe pick plain VGA for now..

  4. michaln says:

    Correct. VirtualBox emulates a custom graphics chip which is VGA and VESA VBE compatible. It is possible to use the VBE capabilities in Warp 4, but that requires GRADD, and that needs at least FixPack 5; I’d go at least to FP9. So the initial install must be done with plain VGA (640×480, 16 colors), but resolutions up to 1600×1200 in true color may be used later.

  5. Doccus says:

    well it appears to have GRADD ..and in order to install tghe OS/2 additions, it has to be selected.. but after chamging it to the GRADD driver, (during which, i also installed the other optional components.. shame on me!).
    I now , after the basic desktop screen, get dropped down to a black screen saying “locked file device driver loaded’; and at just sits there.. I don’t recall installing any such lock, but what is it and can i bypass it?

  6. michaln says:

    Yes, Warp 4 “has” GRADD. But it’s completely broken in the GA version. Don’t even try to use it. Like I said, you need at least FP5, and better FP9. Otherwise stick to plain VGA.

    The VirtualBox Guest Additions were probably never tested with Warp 4 and may or may not work. The “locked file device driver” message is something the OS/2 installer uses when it’s updating in-use files. If the VM is stuck, it’s stuck – normal OS/2 problem recovery procedures apply. I highly recommend using snapshots after every successful step of the installation, so that you have something to go back to.

  7. Doccus says:

    OK ..recovery techniques.. can’t find out which they are..
    Tried out booting with the install floppies, but gets me a red screen..
    Can I reset the video driver at boot with some key combo?
    And IF i ever get it to boot normally again, and back on VGA, can I EVER switch to a higher resolution driver.. if so , which ?

  8. Doccus says: far as fixpacks is concerned, hobbes is closed down, temporarily, apparently.. but it’s been a whiile already, and i don’t know any other spot.. any ideas?

  9. michaln says:

    Try for service downloads (MPTS, TCP/IP, etc. fixes are there as well, in different directories).

    Resetting to VGA should be doable by holding Alt+F1 during boot (there may be very little time for that) and following the instructions. The Selective Install object is one way to switch display drivers after installation.

  10. Doccus says:

    Ahh..been away.. thought i’d do something relaxing and set up a hackintosh for my Dad..
    Anyways, after my breather.. i thought i’d install OS/2 in VMware instead.. can’t get past Fdisk
    …am i just a sucker for punishment.. or is it really not possible to create an OS/2 Virtual drive in VmWare 7..?

    Should i try the free M$ VPC 2007?

    i have some personal apps i REALLY want to get running in at LEAST warp 3..
    which i also have but shied away from installing, as i just HATE 60 odd floppy disk installs.. i’d have to image EVERY one on an external floppy drive and HOPE that they don’t suffer the ever present ibm floppy corruption menace ;-(
    ..suggestions? Thank you ..Doc.

  11. michaln says:

    Don’t waste your time with VMware. Virtual PC should work, but it isn’t any easier than VirtualBox. Warp 4 is simply hard to install on any modern hardware (less than 12 or so years old), including virtual machines. OS/2 Warp MCP2 is considerably easier to install.

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  13. AndroidsOfTara says:

    Great OS/2 blog!

    I have successfully installed Warp 4 into VirtualBox 4.04 running on Ubuntu 10.10 AMD64.

    I updated to FP15 immediately after the install and am trying to install the GENGRADD video driver, but am now a bit confused.

    After going through Selective Install and selecting the GENGRADD driver, it wants to copy files from the Warp 4 install CD at D:\OS2IMAGE and overwrite some of the FP15 files with older ones from the CD. I allowed it to overwrite with the intention of reapplying FP15 and it eventually brings up the “OS/2 Warp 4 Setup and Installation is complete” box.

    At this point, I can hit the OK button all day, but nothing happens. I’ve tried hitting the Cancel button or simply rebooting. Upon reboot, Selective Install has revered back to the VGA driver.

    So, what’s the correct procedure for installing the GENGRADD driver after applying FP15?

    Thanks for any help!

  14. michaln says:

    Letting Selective Install downgrade files is a bad idea. That said, you should probably use the separate GRADD package from IBM anyway – get it from . That package has its own installer.

  15. AndroidsOfTara says:

    Thanks for the reply.

    I’ve since revered back to a clean install with FP15.

    The GRADD package from IBM seems to be no longer available from their FTP site, but I found it somewhere else.

    After setting the LANG environment variable and typing “setup.cmd GEN”, I get the following:

    Installing gengrdbb
    REXX0004: Program interrupted

  16. michaln says:

    If you’re unable download the GRADD 0.83 package from the link I posted above, you should be very worried about your Internet connectivity. That link is valid as of today.

    I can’t help you with the REXX error; I was able to install an earlier GRADD 0.77 as well as the GRADD 0.83 package in a VM running Warp 4 with FP9. At any rate, you don’t need to set the LANG variable before running the script.

  17. AndroidsOfTara says:

    You’re right, the IBM ftp site is working now, but it was not when I tried previously.

    I finally had some success. I installed SP5 and was able to install the GENGRADD driver from the IBMSDD704 disk. I may revert back to an earlier snapshot and try GRADD 0.83 again.

    I think the problem was that neither IBMSDD704 or GENGRADD 0.83 would install on FP15.

    Thanks again!

  18. Steve says:

    Hi all, I have OS/2 2.11 working in an Oracle VM virtualbox, I am trying to install TCP/IP version 2.0. Does any one know of any IBM / 3com OS/2 2.11 drivers etc that are not LAN Server!? Most of the BBS sites are LAN Server only.


  19. AndroidsOfTara says:

    After a bunch of relearning stuff (I’ve not touched OS/2 since 1999), I finally have Warp 4 + FP15 + GRADD97 + VirtualBox Guest Additions running nicely.

    Now what? Perhaps I should put my old Maximus BBS back up…

  20. michaln says:

    VirtualBox emulates AMD PCnet (and Intel E1000) network chips, not 3Com. Also, network drivers for OS/2 LAN Server are just as usable by the OS/2 client networking software (not to be confused with LAN Manager drivers, those are slightly different).

  21. michaln says:

    You could always install Galactic Civilizations or something :)

  22. I just installed OS/2 2.0 on VMWare ESX… it seems the e1000 driver just crashes the OS out.. no fix available.. :’(

  23. michaln says:

    In my experience, VMware is about the least suitable “professional” hypervisor to run OS/2 2.x on… Virtual PC and VirtualBox are so much better. But I understand the fun of installing OS/2 2.0 on VMware anyway :)

    You might have better luck with the BusLogic emulation for SCSI. For networking, the OS/2 E1000 driver probably requires a newer version of OS/2… the PCnet emulation works much better for old OS/2 versions. In fact there are working PCnet drivers which can be used for LAN Manager 2.x running on top of OS/2 1.2 or 1.3 (been there, done that, should blog about it).

  24. Yuhong Bao says:

    It is interesting how Warp 3 was behind NT 3.5 released around the same time.

  25. michaln says:

    Yes, and one of the areas where Warp 3 was most behind was resource consumption and bloat. That effectively raised the cost of NT far beyond what most potential users were willing to pay.

  26. ampharos says:

    Just a tip with VirtualBox, VMware, and QEMU; they all emulate SoundBlaster 16s, or at least give the option to when configuring the VM. Set the multimedia device to the SoundBlaster 16 and it will be happy making noise.

  27. Bubba X says:

    Wow, what a surprise to see how this site has matured! I remember way-back when the OS/2 Museum just “opened”…

    The other day I found an .ISO of OS/2 Warp Connect 3 Red Box and then wondered whether it could run in VirtualBox. Ha, it does! Alas, I never got the OS/2 Guest Additions working; the VBoxGuest.sys kept giving an error about the KEE kernel extensions, which apparently need OS/2 Warp 4 and some Fixpack. I’m still amazed how well v3 runs in VirtualBox even without the Guest Additions.

    Incidentally, I found GRADD 0.83 problematic (wouldn’t install); using 0.97 worked perfectly. Thanks on the nice write-up (which is how I ended-up here) and maintaining the Museum!

  28. michaln says:

    I suppose no one was keen on writing lots of funky 16-bit code, so KEE is required, and therefore no Warp 3… FP13 was when KEE was introduced to Warp 4 I believe (first implemented in WSeB).

    And yes, the initial GRADD releases were pretty amazingly buggy. Even if it had installed, the results might not be great. The VESA driver especially had some interesting bugs in the early versions.

  29. EmilS says:

    Got a bout of nostalgia for simpler days :)

    I have two PC’s – one running Windows XP (32bit) and a laptop with 64-bit Windows7 on.

    On the XP PC, I installed Microsoft Virtual PC, which allows me to make use of floppy disk images (which one cannot do on Windows7.

    Anyway, I got OS/2 Warp v4 up and running. However, networking is still problematic.

    From the first posts above, it seems that I still have to install a NIC driver. Where can I get this NIC driver?

    And last, but not least, how do I get to apply fixpacks? It’s been a while since I’ve used OS/2, so a lot of things have been forgotten…



  30. michaln says:

    For fixpack information, this is a good starting point:

    I don’t know what NIC you need a driver for. For the one emulated by VirtualBox (AMD PCnet PCI), the driver is included in OS/2 Warp 4. Virtual PC IIRC emulates some sort of DEC NIC; I don’t know where to get the drivers.

    I don’t understand why you couldn’t use floppy images in Windows 7? I do that all the time…

  31. Lubomir Kotik says:

    It would be nice to release Warp V. 5 that would be fully up to date and ready for today’s PC’s. :-) what a dream. :-)

  32. Michal Necasek says:

    Yes, that would be nice indeed… OS/2 is increasingly difficult to install on bare metal. Part of the problem is evolving hardware and part of it is degrading x86 BIOS quality (at least on some systems, OS/2 won’t boot because of broken PCI BIOS).

    The problem I think is that it’s a lot cheaper to find hardware that can run OS/2 than get IBM to fix it :)

  33. Yuhong Bao says:

    To be more precise, degrading quality of the parts of the BIOS code that is not used by modern OSes thanks to for example ACPI replacing many of their functions.

  34. Kamau Mweru says:


    I happen to have the original installation CD’s for OS/2 Warp 3 Red. Not Connect!

    Is there any possibility to add drivers for networking to this version after installation?

    And if so, where can I find those?


  35. Michal Necasek says:

    As far as I recall, the non-Connect Warp only came with dial-up networking (and only TCP/IP support). So getting “wired” networking support was not just a question of installing a driver.

  36. You can install even OS/2 2.0 from the hard drive. It’s not all that tricky. They all work on VPC.

    You need a utility called os2hdd.exe. This will unpack your disk images. Unpack them to a directory, say d:\os2v200\disk0 to diskNN. (similar to what’s on the cdrom). Once you have all of your os2 versions ready, you configure a DOS diskette, with a fast xcopy thing, and network or cdrom support.

    The hard disk of 1 GB is more than ample. Make your partitions up in something like OS/2 2.0: a boot manager, a DOS partition, a data partition D: and several OS/2 partitions. Copy the intended setups to D:\os2vxxx\… (including all subdirectories).

    Now modify the config.sys on the diskette 1 to add the directory where the files are.

    set os2shell=sysinst2.exe d:\os2xxx

    Install. It runs quite smoothly, and you can eventually put all the OS/2 versions on the same cdrom.

  37. rfsenger says:

    Where can I find PCnet drivers which can be used for LAN Manager 2.x running on top of OS/2 1.2 or 1.3 as you told Michal? I tried the drivers from without success. Lan Manager 2.0 setup says “is not a valid drivers disk”. It seems that are NDIS drivers suitable only for OS/2 2.x and earlier.

  38. Michal Necasek says:

    The drivers do work, but the installation floppy must have the right layout. See for an example.

    Just about any AMD PCnet driver with PCI support should work. I’ve successfully used drivers distributed by HP before.

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