Written and Maintained by Gregory Nacu

Power User, Meet C64 OS.

A new Operating System for the Commodore 64.
C64 OS enhances new hardware to get the most out of your C64.



C64 OS Printed User's Manual and SD Card.C64 OS Promotional Screenshots.

Purchase your copy of C64 OS

C64 OS is currently in beta testing. When it's ready you can purchase a copy right here.
Check back to this page for updates on the version 1.0 commercial release.


Read the weblog for the latest news and updates, and follow me on Twitter.



Guides and Documentation

C64 OS: Getting Started Guide.
Getting Started Guide
C64 OS: User's Guide.
User's Guide
C64 OS: Programmer's Guide.
Programmer's Guide


New or returning to the Commodore 64?

Are you new to the Commodore 64 and want to dive in and explore this culture–shaping classic computer? Or are you a returning user who had a C64 in your youth, and you've got the itch to relive old memories and start building new ones?

The Commodore 64 is a simple and fun machine, but it's a bit quirky and philosophically different from modern computers. Rather than read through old books to bring yourself up to speed, start with this:

  An Afterlife User's Guide to the C64.
An Afterlife User's Guide to the C64
 




Getting Started Guide

  1. Requirements  ⇢
  2. Installation  ⇢
  3. Configuration  ⇢
  4. Booting Up

What you need to run C64 OS

C64 OS lives to take advantage of new hardware that you can add to your Commodore 64. It starts with mass storage, but that's just the beginning.


Minimum Hardware Requirements

  • A Commodore 64 computer
  • A Joystick
  • An SD2IEC drive*
A C64 Breadbin. A standard C64 Joystick. One of many SD2IEC drives.

* C64 OS can access all your floppy disk drives, but a mass–storage device with support for native CMD–style subdirectories is required for the system drive. Check out the Commodore 8–Bit Buyer's Guide for a wide range of mass storage devices commercially available for the C64.


Recommended Hardware

  • A Commodore 64 or 128 computer
  • A 1351 mouse or compatible adapter
  • An IDE64, SD2IEC, CMD HD or RamLink
  • JiffyDOS KERNAL
  • A Ram Expansion Unit
  • A ZiModem WiFi Modem
A C128. A 1351 Mouse. One of many SD2IEC drives.
JiffyDOS KERNAL ROM Upgrade. A 1541 Ultimate II+ provides an REU up to 16MB. Link232 WiFi, highspeed WiFi Modem with ZiModem firmware.

Alternative Requirements

C64 OS can also be installed in the VICE emulator, and use VICE's support for an emulated 1351 mouse and CMD HD.

  • A Mac or PC
  • The latest version of VICE

How to Install C64 OS

Make a Backup First

A commercial copy of C64 OS ships on an SD Card. If you have a Mac or PC, you should make a backup of the contents of the SD Card first. Insert the card into an SD Card slot on your Mac or PC and copy all the files and directories to a folder for safe keeping.

Backups are for your personal use only. Help support software development on the Commodore 64, and don't share your backups. Developers — C64os.com

C64 OS can be installed on three main families of devices: SD2IEC, IDE64 or a CMD HD or RamLink. Follow the instructions for the device family you are installing to.

For installation on VICE, see Chapter 2: Installation of the C64 OS User's Guide.


Installation on SD2IEC

If you have an SD2IEC and you want to use it as your C64 OS system drive, the card is already ready for use on your C64. Insert the card into your SD2IEC device.

Load and run "c64os" from the SD2IEC device. It does not have to be device #8.

Load and Run c64os.

This runs the C64 OS Setup Tool.

C64 OS Setup Tool.

C64 OS is already installed on the SD Card, but the booter needs to be set up for the correct device #, partition # and system directory name. Press "c" to setup the installed location.

C64 OS Setup Tool - Change Installed Location.

Press return to accept the default values for device # and partition #. Press return to accept the default of "os" for the system directory name. To confirm that these are correct and continue, press "y".

C64 OS Setup Tool - Final Option.

As the final option, press "q" to Quit to BASIC.

Although C64 OS is ready to be booted, some configuration is recommended for your specific hardware before you boot C64 OS for the first time. This is described in the configuration section below.


Installation on IDE64

The SD Card contains two copies of C64 OS. One copy is already installed on the SD Card, ready for use on the C64 with an SD2IEC. The second copy is in the form of an installation archive file and an installer program.

If you have an SD2IEC but prefer to install C64 OS to IDE64, you can use SD2IEC to transfer the installation files to IDE64.

If you do not have an SD2IEC, you can transfer the files from Mac or PC to IDE64 via PCLink. Consult the IDE64 User's Guide for further information about using PCLink to transfer files.

Note about PCLink

If you use PCLink, you must run the ideservd server program with the -P or --allprg option. This ensures that the files transferred to your IDE64 get set as PRG type files.

C64 OS must be installed in the root directory of an IDE64 partition. Transfer the four files from the root directory of the SD Card to the root directory of the partition on your IDE64 where you want to install C64 OS. Only two directory entries need to remain in the root directory after installation is complete.

Filename Purpose Notes
c64os C64 OS booter. Transfer to root directory of IDE64 partition.
c64os setup Installation setup program. Transfer to root directory of IDE64 partition.
restore.car Installation archive file. Transfer to root directory of IDE64 partition.
c64restore Installer program. Transfer to root directory of IDE64 partition.

Note about File Types

Confirm that all four files are of type PRG on the IDE64 before proceeding. If they are not PRG type files, something went wrong and installation will not proceed correctly.


Load and run "c64os" from the IDE64 device. It does not have to be device #8.

Load and Run c64os.

This runs the C64 OS Setup Tool.

C64 OS Setup Tool.

Press "f" to begin a fresh installation.

C64 OS Setup Tool - Fresh Installation.

Press return to accept the default device # which is the device that was used to load the Setup Tool.

The partition # is not autodetected. Use the "+" and "-" keys to match the partition # in which you will install C64 OS, and in which the installation files are located. Press return to accept the partition # and proceed with the installation.

The installer program is run automatically. It states that it is opening the restore.car file, and outputs the name of each directory and file that is extracted from the installation archive.

When the installer is complete, you are returned to the READY prompt. Although C64 OS is ready to be booted, some configuration is recommended for your specific hardware before you boot C64 OS for the first time. This is described in the configuration section below.


Installation on CMD HD or RamLink

The SD Card contains two copies of C64 OS. One copy is already installed on the SD Card, ready for use on the C64 with an SD2IEC. The second copy is in the form of an installation archive file and an installer program.

If you have an SD2IEC but prefer to install C64 OS to a CMD HD or RamLink, you can use SD2IEC to transfer the installation files to the CMD device.

If you have an IDE64 but prefer to install C64 OS to a CMD HD or RamLink, you can use the IDE64 and PCLink to transfer the installation files to the CMD device.

If you do not have an SD2IEC or IDE64, an alternative method of transferring the installation files to your CMD HD or RamLink is required. SD2IEC is probably the easiest method for transferring files from a Mac or PC to a C64. SD2IEC devices are available in a variety of form factors and price points, most are reasonably inexpensive. Even if you prefer to use a CMD HD or RamLink as your C64 OS system drive, purchasing an SD2IEC is a solid investment.

C64 OS must be installed in the root directory of a CMD native partition, with at least 9000 blocks free. Transfer the four files from the root directory of the SD Card to the root directory of the partition of the CMD device where you want to install C64 OS. Only two directory entries need to remain in the root directory after installation is complete.

Filename Purpose Notes
c64os C64 OS booter. Transfer to root directory of CMD native partition.
c64os setup Installation setup program. Transfer to root directory of CMD native partition.
restore.car Installation archive file. Transfer to root directory of CMD native partition.
c64restore Installer program. Transfer to root directory of CMD native partition.

Load and run "c64os" from the CMD device. It does not have to be device #8.

Load and Run c64os.

This runs the C64 OS Setup Tool.

C64 OS Setup Tool.

Press "f" to begin a fresh installation.

C64 OS Setup Tool - Fresh Installation.

Press return to accept the default device # which is the device that was used to load the Setup Tool.

The partition # is not autodetected. Use the "+" and "-" keys to match the partition # in which you will install C64 OS, and in which the installation files are located. Press return to accept the partition # and proceed with the installation.

The installer program is run automatically. It states that it is opening the restore.car file, and outputs the name of each directory and file that is extracted from the installation archive.

When the installer is complete, you are returned to the READY prompt. Although C64 OS is ready to be booted, some configuration is recommended for your specific hardware before you boot C64 OS for the first time. This is described in the configuration section below.


How to Configure C64 OS

The C64 OS system directory contains a settings subdirectory in which are found most of the C64 OS settings files. In the settings directory is a program called "configure" that runs from the C64's READY prompt. This configures a C64 OS installation for your specific hardware.

On the C64 OS system drive and partition, change current directory to "//os/settings/". Then load and run "configure". The device in the examples is #12. Use the device # assigned to your C64 OS system drive.

Load and Run configure from //os/settings/.

Date and Time

The yes or no questions about date and time may be answered according to your personal preference.

If you have a storage device that provides an RTC choose the IEC RTC driver. You are given an additional choice either to specify the device # or to allow the driver to autodetect and use the first supported device. The storage device that provides the RTC does not need to be the C64 OS system drive.

If you are using an Ultimate 64, or have a 1541 Ultimate plugged in with the most recent firmware update, you may choose the UCI RTC driver. The Ultimate Command Interface must be enabled in the menu system of the 1541 Ultimate or Ultimate 64.

If you do not have a device which supplies a realtime clock, press "n" to select none of the above. For additional information about RTC configuration, see Chapter 3: Configuration of the C64 OS User's Guide.

Date and Time configuration.

Mouse Input

C64 OS comes with 4 built–in mouse pointer styles, choose whichever style you prefer.

Mouse pointer styles.

Following are several mouse accessibility settings. The defaults are reasonable and can be accepted by pushing return, but if you have special requirements you can adjust them using the "+" and "-" keys.

If you use a proportional mouse, like a 1351 or compatible adapter, mouse speed affects the acceleration of the pointer. If you use a joystick, mouse speed affects the maximum speed the pointer can attain.

The double click delay is the time that is allowed to pass between two clicks that still register as a double–click. If you have difficulty double–clicking quickly, this number can be increased.

The inner and outer colors of the pointer can be changed. The defaults are a pleasant black and light grey, but if you have difficulty seeing the pointer, you can adjust the colors to have a higher contrast against typical backgrounds.

The mouse can be configured for left–handed or right–handed use, which swaps the roles of the left and right buttons.

Mouse Input configuration.

Next you can select the input driver based on the hardware you have. If you have a 1351 or compatible mouse or a 1351 adapter such as MicroMys or MouSTer, choose the 1351 mouse driver. This driver requires the mouse to be connected to control port 1. If you only have a joystick choose the joystick driver, either for control port 1 or 2.

For additional information about mouse input configuration, see Chapter 3: Configuration of the C64 OS User's Guide.


Global System Settings

The CPU busy indicator is a clock animation that appears in the top left corner of the screen if the CPU is occupied for longer than a few seconds. It indicates that activity is taking place that could cause the user interface to become unresponsive. Press "y" to enable this feature.

There is then a series of questions about keyboard shortcuts that trigger system–level features. You can press "y" to accept the defaults. These options serve to show you that these features exist and how they can be triggered. You can customize them if the defaults are inconvenient.

Global System Settings.

The status bar has three display modes. You can choose which mode to start up in, according to your preference. If you do not have a preference, press "2" to select Application custom.


Expansion Memory

C64 OS makes use of expanded memory from a RAM expansion unit to enable fast app switching. You can choose how much memory to allocate to fast app switching and how much to reserve for applications to use for other purposes. C64 OS uses one 64KB bank for each fast–switched app and manages the use of space dynamically.

Model Size Banks Notes
1700 128KB 2 Very small
1764 256KB 4 Small
1750 512KB 8 Medium
1750XL 2MB 32 Large
Ultimate 64 / 1541 Ultimate Upto 16MB 256 Very Large

If you dedicate all available banks to fast app switching, then an application that can make use of expanded memory operates as though no REU is available. A happy balance would be to dedicate a few banks to fast app switching, and still leave some for use by applications that can benefit from more memory.

Press return to accept the default of 0 banks for fast app switching, or use the "+" and "-" keys to adjust the number of banks.

For additional information about fast app switching, see Chapter 4: User Interface of the C64 OS User's Guide.

Global System Settings.

The amount of available main memory is displayed at the right end of the status bar. The Utility that is opened when you double–click the available memory is configurable. Press "1" to choose the Memory Utility. The Memory Utility provides a visual map of how main memory is currently allocated.

For compatibility with IDE64, C64 OS needs a modified memory map. If you use an IDE64, even if it is not the C64 OS system drive, press "y" to select IDE64 compatibility. If you are not using an IDE64, press "n" to select the standard memory map.

Global System Settings.

Lastly, C64 OS displays memory quantities in various places. Choose whether you want to see memory represented as 256–byte pages, roughly the same as a disk block, or to see memory in kilobytes. Showing memory in kilobytes is less accurate than pages, but may be more familiar for users of modern computers.

You can run "configure" at anytime, to change your decisions. This may be necessary if your hardware setup changes. For example, if you switch from a mouse to a joystick or other input device.

C64 OS configuration is now complete and you are ready to boot up for the first time.


Booting Up C64 OS

You are now ready to boot C64 OS for the first time.

Load and run "c64os" from the root directory of the C64 OS installation partition and device.

Load and run c64os from the root directory.

You see a progress meter as the booter loads the system files. Next the settings files are loaded in, drives are detected and mapped, and expanded memory is detected and checked for available capacity.

C64 OS booting up. C64 OS booting up.

Once the system files are loaded in, C64 OS automatically opens the App Launcher. This standard splash screen is displayed while launching an Application, showing its installed path and custom icon.

C64 OS launching the App Launcher.

When the App Launcher is finished launching, you see a desktop with aliases to Applications and Utilities that you can open by double–clicking.

Note: The desktop that you see may not look exactly like the example shown below.

The C64 OS App Launcher desktop.

Congratulations

C64 OS is up and running on your Commodore 64. You can now explore the user interface and built–in applications.

To get the most out of C64 OS, be sure to checkout the full C64 OS User's Guide.



Last modified: Jun 21, 2021