Yes, you can finally run Windows 3.1 on your iPad – here’s how

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While Xbox Game Pass has gone from an app to a link in Safari on iOS due to App Store rules, Apple apparently has no issues with an older version of Windows used on their products.

Thanks to an application called iDOS, you can easily install Windows 3.1 and use your iPad as if it were in 1993. There are no restrictions on this: it is the full operating system that some will remember, which means the games are also available here too.

Apple’s App Store rules allow more apps with different uses each year, but running games and certain apps within an app has always been a touchy subject, while media apps such as Netflix and Disney Plus had no problem.

How to install Windows 3.1

Since iDOS 2 supports file sharing, this means that Windows 3.1 installation files can be easily deleted from the Files app, as long as you have your own copy.

Make sure all the extracted files are in a folder and name it with an easy-to-type name for later.

Make sure you have a Bluetooth keyboard or keyboard case connected to the iPad, alongside a mouse, otherwise the next steps will be very frustrating.

Drop this folder into the iDOS 2 directory and come back to the application. Type in the name of the folder then “setup”, and you should be taken to a familiar screen.

Windows 3.1 setup screen on iPad Pro

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Make sure you follow the steps, choosing “full install”, and it will try to restart the computer. However, the setup won’t know what to do, so close iDOS from the multitasking menu and relaunch. Type ‘win’, and Windows 3.1 will launch on the desktop screen.

Windows 3.1 running on iPad Pro, on the desktop screen

(Image credit: TechRadar)

What can you do in 1993 on your iPad?

A lot, it turns out. From the built-in Minesweeper game to titles of its day, you can think of it as your retro gaming PC and try the following:

  • Duke Nukem
  • SimEarth
  • Civilization
  • LOSS
  • Simcity 2000
  • The Simpsons Cartoon Studio

While DOOM is already on iOS, Nintendo Switch, and anything else with a screen, there is something satisfying about playing the game within the confines of how it would have been played when it was first released.

With mouse support on the iPad, being able to install apps and even use PaintBrush is a snap. With the refined multitasking available in iPadOS 15, there’s something about multiple windows on a desktop that seems so much easier to manage on the tablet in 3.1.

Windows 3.1 running on iPad Pro, using PaintBrush

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Why Windows 3.1 but not Game Pass?

Perhaps the obvious answer is that Apple doesn’t view Windows 3.1 as a threat, and that’s understandable, unless it’s worried about the deminers market. However, this shows that there is a reluctance on the part of the company to simply make it easier for certain categories to get their apps from the App Store. Microsoft’s Game Pass was rejected on the grounds that each game should be its own app, and when you factor in how much is available on the service, that doesn’t make sense.

Take other categories, like movie or music streaming, and it’s basically the same function, just a different user interface. Imagine another timeline where you want to see Loki again, but Apple insisted on Disney that each show be its own app. Surely you could argue that it was once 15 years ago, when you were waiting to buy a new episode of Lost from the iTunes Store. But you would be able to download and own it, and you can download Loki for offline viewing. It does not disappear until the end of your subscription.

Which makes it all the more baffling that a full-fledged 1993 operating system could be installed on an application without a hitch, and has been doing so for over eight months with full mouse and keyboard support.

Notepad running Windows 3.1, in an iPad Pro

(Image credit: TechRadar)

While keyboard and mouse support for gaming has been enabled for almost a year now in iPadOS, we have yet to see many games taking advantage of it on the App Store. When you find yourself playing games like SimCity 2000 and Indiana Jones, you wonder what other games might be coming to the iPad.

According to whether Apple is kicking off iDOS soon, this is a geeky little time capsule from 1993, and also shows what Apple could actually do with apps on the iPad. In the case of Apple, is it finally time to license and authorize apps like Game Pass on the store, to give the user even more choice for their tablet?

Windows 3.1 running in the multitasking pane of iPadOS 15

(Image credit: TechRadar)


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