Sunday, November 20, 2016

Trying to get inside an old exe (LE 16/32 bit hybrid, I'm told)

So, new versions of windows support 32bit exes but not 16 bit and, additionally, even if the exe would run it will have been written assuming hardware access that modern hardware makes impossible.

Yes, DOSBox exists.

Still, resources exist to get stuff out of PE exes, some even to the point of even trying to recreated the source code into easily human readable stuff.  the LE format doesn't seem to have anything.

The "seem" is why this post exists.  Maybe here are resources for it, and I just don't know of them.

Thus, a question:

Anyone know anything that would help with looking inside an LE exe, preferably in a meaningful way?


  1. Binaries from the 16-bit era aren't necessarily going to have their resources standardized the way that later ones will. If you're looking to extract media resources, stuff like images, text or audio, your best bet is going to be something that can treat the file like a big old blob of data and search for the magic words that identify known file types, essentially the same sort of tools you use to recover data from an image of a corrupted filesystem. Though we're still talking about an era where a lot of stuff will be in weird undocumented formats. I found this (possibly outdated) wiki that mentions some tools that might be able to extract from various game formats:

  2. Yeah, I think Ross has the right of it - if it's not a packed-up zip or similar, chances are it's an entirely custom packing format and you wouldn't be able to follow internal pointers without basically running the whole thing under a debugger.

    Which I wouldn't recommend. I used gdb once, and I achieved what I needed to, but it felt like the software equivalent of working with a chainsaw that only had instructions in Finnish and no safety features.