I was very disappointed when one of my favourite fractal generators, Fractint, was not behaving nicely after I moved to Windows XP. No matter what I did, it refused to work. It sometimes barely worked in very low resolutions or something, but it used to lock up not too much after a few things were done.

After some Google searches (I’m not even sure if Google was so good in helping fixing things back then) I learned that it was because mostly of the lack of support for VESA graphic drivers starting with XP. What could I do? Nothing, or else try to use it with these low resolutions or these odd IBM presets (that somehow didn’t use the VESA I think, some of the presets at least) or the mysterious and unpredictable “render to disk” feature of Fractint.

Unpredictable? How so? It was unpredictable if you used it first instead of the 320 x 240 resolution (yes, it was that bad) to at least have a preview of your images then render them bigger using the render to disk. You pretty much were running in the dark if going straight to the render to disk option. If you didn’t have a preview first using one of these low resolutions, you would have no clue about how your image would be. Neither if there was a minor thing to be fixed you could fix it or if you wanted to change the colour maps – unless you moved back to that low resolution again. Which means… it was 320 x 240 or nothing. Or WinFract, which sucked as much as the constant freezing.

I still keep trying though, and fortunately (or not) it coincided with the period that I wasn’t really making much images even with UltraFractal. But I was still going back to Fractint and trying it… until another lock up – and sometimes the whole system used to get frozen, requiring a restart.

With Vista, things didn’t get much happier. I had a fast system (not that it made Fractint run that faster, I learned this later… read on), lots of RAM, a decent graphics card… but nothing could be done with Fractint. Same difficulties existed.

But before the Windows 7 came to light (which wouldn’t help anyway)… I found the solution! It’s a little software called “DOSBox“. It creates sort of a virtual drive where you can run just DOS stuff inside it. It’s light, easy to use (if you’re installing this to use a DOS software, you should be familiar with command lines, then it’s easy to use) and Fractint runs just like the old days. Not only Fractint, but (almost, I guess) any of your favourite DOS softwares including these lovely abandonwares.

It’s very simple to use. Install it, and its usage basically is resumed to a “mount” command. Just type “mount c (folder_name)” inside its window, where the “c” means that your new “drive” will be C: and “folder_name” is the name of the folder of your HD that you want to use with DOSBox. As Fractint’s content is all fit into the same folder (like many other DOS programs), just type “mount c c:\fractint\ and it’s done. DOSBox will then open a prompt (C:> as usual) and the content will be whatever folder you’ve chosen, DOSBox will keep the folder structure that you’ve selected, all the folders below that will be available as well. Just run Fractint as it used to by typing “fractint” in that command line and have fun. The DOSBox help is easy too, give it a try to learn other options like mounting a CD-ROM drive.

A final tip: if you have abandoned Fractint a long time ago, you don’t know what you’re missing with the new Evolution mode (I guess this is what it’s called). Get the newest version, if possible the “development” version. This one has a lot of new features, and despite being sort of a “beta” version, it’s quite stable, and nobody knows when and if the stuff it has will be ever added to a new “final” released version of Fractint.

Important edit, 11/29/10:

As this post seems to be visited a lot by people wanting how to make Fractint work in their newer Windows installations, there is another post here that describes an even better solution, and I’ll transcribe here what I’ve said and found about Fractint in Windows:

“Fractint 21 beta (actually it seems to be v. 20.99): YAY. Fast, Evolution method is available, big resolutions, works smoothly in Windows 7, which means… it’s all I ever wanted from Fractint to be. Now it’s time to install my alternative formula collections and my colour maps to that version and have some real good fun again. I couldn’t really be more pleased. Sorry but the project of testing all these other softwares will be stopped for a while, it’s Fractint time again!”

This is the ultimate fix for running Fractint in Windows. Get the Fractint 21 beta. It works without all that mess described above.

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