USB bootable OS/2?

OS/2 was technically far superior than any other desktop OS available at it’s time. The fact that it continued to be used in ATMs by banks, ticket machines, voice mails systems, PABXs and various other systems for years after IBM sales and support was discontinued says everything. Even though it was discontinued by IBM in 2006, it is still sold as eComStation, packaged with updated drivers for common hardware available today. According to eComStation’s site, it’s still in use by a number of major corporations.

I’ve spent probably too much time recently installing and playing around with OS/2, especially since ISOs of the install disks became freely available on the Internet Archive. This article about eComStation looking for help to build a version of OS/2 bootable from USB flash drives caught my attention. Interestingly though, from my experience recently trying to install OS/2 Warp on fairly recent PC hardware, I’d rather prefer to see updated drivers for today’s CPUs, motherboards and hard disks.

Installing OS/2 Warp on VirtualBox

Why? My first job after graduating college was working as a contractor for IBM UK in the software support centre (Basingstoke, UK) supporting OS/2 and various other apps (Comms Manager/2, DB2/2, CICS OS/2). For a number of years I think I had a stack of OS/2 install diskettes in a box somewhere, but they got thrown out as trash at some point.

A few points over the years I looked to see if once the product was discontinued if there would be a free download of the install disk images. Well, IBM officially discontinued the product in 2005 and support ended in 2006. I can’t remember what I was looking for when I run into this, but over on the Internet Archive site they now have disk image archives for most of the major versions – the OS/2 Warp 4 download disk images are here (other versions, Warp 3, 2.1, 2.0, 1.x are also in the archive).

Turns out Warp 3 installs pretty easy on Virtual Box: here’s a couple of screenshots of the installation:

OS/2 Warp 3 installation

OS/2 Warp 3 installation 2

The disk images for Warp 4 from the Internet Archive site didn’t work for me on Virtual Box. I read some posts this is because the disk image format (dsk?) for the install floppies isn’t a common/standard supported format.

I found another download that used the .img disk image format and this version installed just as easily:

OS/2 Warp 4 install

OS/2 Warp 4 install 2

So what now? Well, there’s a huge list of instructions here for installing the latest (and last) fixpacks, so maybe I’ll play around with this for a while…