Building a virtual Amiga for retrogaming in WinUAE (plus general WinUAE tips)

Amiga HD Workbench 3.1 desktop emulated on WinUAE

Last revised: 20 November 2019

Guide contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Before you start
  3. Building the system
  4. Changing the Workbench (RTG) display mode
  5. Setting up a shared directory with Windows
  6. Creating Amiga filesystem icons
  7. Changing wallpaper and tidying up the desktop
  8. Installing and running WHDLoad games
  9. Creating a WHDLoad games list with iGame
  10. Updating WHDLoad .slave files
  11. Game resolution and scaling (native display mode)
  12. Sound settings
  13. Choosing an input method
  14. What if the game I want to play isn’t available as WHDLoad?
  15. Can I use WinUAE’s save states?
  16. Troubleshooting and additional tweaks and settings
  17. Once you’re up and running
  18. Useful WinUAE keyboard shortcuts
  19. Useful resources

1. Introduction

These days, there are multiple ways to emulate and play classic Amiga games on your PC. The simplest method is to acquire the ADFs (Amiga disk format) of your favourite titles and run them through either FS-UAE or WinUAE using one of their configuration presets or through Cloanto’s Amiga Forever interface. In fact, FS-UAE connects to a handy online database that recognises your games and configures itself accordingly to provide decent compatibility for each one.

However, my preferred method is using WinUAE (the most fully-featured and configurable Amiga emulator available) to run games from a virtual hard drive through an emulated Amiga Workbench environment. Essentially this is a heavily-upgraded A1200 running Workbench 3.1 with a disk image containing the system drive (for booting/running the OS) and a “Work” drive that appears in Windows as a fully accessible and modifiable folder that allows me to effortlessly copy pre-installed WHDLoad versions of games over to my emulated Amiga.

The advantage of my current system is that it’s lightning fast, runs smoothly in fullscreen at my desktop resolution, outputs to 5.1 surround sound (which sounds great), and I can easily tweak WinUAE settings, when required, to improve compatibility with certain games/software. Once I boot my system I can quickly switch between the pre-installed games without ever leaving the Amiga environment or having to faff around with ADFs.

It’s also a doddle to capture screenshots and record gameplay footage using my preferred tools — MSI afterburner for screenshots and Nvidia Shadowplay for video capture. Plus WHDLoad game variants often come with essential compatibility fixes and quality-of-life tweaks (e.g. CD32 pad support) as well as options that allow you to skip intros/cutscenes, choose levels or enable all manner of cheats/trainers.

And of course, I get a nice, warm sense of nostalgia running my own virtual Amiga with a Workbench environment customised to my own tastes, a bit like in the old days when I used to own an A1200 with a 400Mb hard drive, Blizzard 1230 IV CPU expansion, 32Mb fast ram, and SCSI CD-ROM drive (why the hell did I sell it, why, oh why!!!)

Anyway, if you’re interested in running a similar emulation set-up, I’ve put together what I hope is an easy-to-follow guide for those who want to be able to play Amiga WHDLoad games without too much fuss or technical knowledge. This guide may also be useful to people just looking for some general WinUAE tips and tricks.

You may also want to read my General Overview to Emulating the Commodore Amiga or my guide to emulating Amiga CD32 games.

Oh yeah, feel free to ask questions, leave feedback or point out mistakes or omissions in the comments below.


2. Before you start

Before starting you will need to acquire both an Amiga 1200 ROM and some Workbench 3.0 or 3.1 ADFs, both of which are still copyrighted materials. You cannot emulate Amiga software or hardware without a kickstart ROM (regardless of method) and you cannot build a classic OS without the relevant Workbench disks.

The easiest way to obtain these legally is to purchase the plus (or premium) edition of Amiga Forever from Cloanto. This comes with all the Amiga kickstart ROMs and original Workbench ADFs, as well as some games and a selection of pre-installed Amiga systems/configurations that run through Cloanto’s own interface (which, to be quite honest, is a bit pants and hugely lacking in configuration/compatibility options),

Alternatively, you can rip the ROM from a real A1200 (e.g. using TransROM) and the ADFs from real Workbench disks (see the Lemon Amiga ADF creation guide), if you still happen to own these and have a floppy drive on your PC or a null modem cable.


3. Building the system

Fortunately, a nice chap called Bloodwych has done all the hard work so we don’t have to. Similar to Jaybee’s Amiga in a Box (AIAB), Bloodwych has put together a comprehensive and elegant-looking Workbench 3.0/3.1 environment, which features everything needed to bring the GUI up to date and make for a much more user-friendly experience than the original Workbench. This include Scalos Desktop, MagicMenu, Magic User Interface (MUI) and New Icons — most of which I used to run on my real A1200 back in the day.

Importantly, it includes Picasso96, an RTG (ReTargetable Graphics) that interfaces with uaegfx (a virtual Amiga gfx card) to provide support for 16/32-bit colour and modern desktop resolutions (e.g. 1920×1080, 1920×1200, etc) while running Workbench. As an added bonus, there’s also a tonne of other software, much of which you’ll probably never need, and a small selection of classic Amiga game tunes.

1. Install the latest version of WinUAE. Note that when I originally wrote this guide I was using version 3.0.0, but it’s usually worth updating to the latest version.

2. Download Bloodwych’s P96 ClassicWB and extract the files.

3. Move Bloodwych’s config file (“ClassicWB_P96.UAE”) into the WinUAE configurations folder, for me this in “C:\Users\Public\Documents\Amiga Files\WinUAE\Configurations\”. Check the “Paths” tab in WinUAE to find where yours is located. You can place “System.hdf”, which is the hard drive file, anywhere you want.

The WinUAE GUI paths tab
WinUAE “Paths” tab (click to enlarge)

4. Run WinUAE, go to the “configurations” tab, select Bloodwych’s config file (“ClassicWB_P96”) and click on the “Load” button.

The WinUAE GUI configurations tab
WinUAE “Configurations” tab (click to enlarge)

5. Select a ROM from the “ROM” tab. If I remember correctly, if you already have Amiga Forever installed, WinUAE will automatically detect the available kickstart ROMs that come with the package. Otherwise, you will need to direct it to where you have them stored in the “paths” tab (on my PC this is: C:\Users\Public\Documents\Amiga Files\Shared\rom). If you only have the Workbench 3.0 ADF, you will need to select “KS ROM 3.0 (A1200)”, otherwise select “KS ROM 3.1 (A1200)”

The WinUAE GUI ROMs tab
WinUAE “ROM” tab (click to enlarge)

6. In the “CD & Hard drives” tab, click on “Add Hardfile”, then the ellipsis (three dots) next to “Path:” and direct it to where you stored “System.hdf”. Type DH0 (that’s a zero) in the box labelled “Device:”. Then go back into the “Configurations” tab and save the changes.

WinUAE GUI hardfile settings
Selecting a hard file in WinUAE (click to enlarge)

7. Click on “Start” to boot the system and follow the instructions. When asked for the Workbench disk, hit F12, go to the “Floppy drives” tab and click on the three dots next to the “Eject” button for “DF0:” and direct it your ADF. If you have Amiga Forever installed, this will be somewhere like: “C:\Users\Public\Documents\Amiga Files\Shared\adf\”.

Inserting an ADF into one of WinUAE's virtual floppy drives
Selecting ADF (click to enlarge)

If using a Workbench 3.1 ADF, you will be asked if you wish to upgrade to Workbench 3.1. I suggest doing this (just type “y” and press enter), but you will need to provide it with the rest of the Workbench ADFs when prompted. At the end, you will be instructed to remove the Workbench disk and to reboot (hit F12, eject the ADF and press “reset”).

ClassicWB installation screen

If successful you should end up with something looking like this, displayed in an 800×600 window (to go fullscreen press CTRL + F12):

ClassicWB P96 800x600 desktop emulated in WinUAE

4. Changing the Workbench (RTG) display mode

I like to run my Amiga Workbench desktop in fullscreen at my monitor’s native resolution, but you can set it to your own taste/requirements. By the way, this is the RTG resolution, which is not the same resolution that your games will run in – for more on that head to the game resolution and scaling section.

To change the Workbench screen mode, double-click on the “Run” icon on the Amiga desktop and then click “Screen” from the button menu that appears; alternatively, open “System” drive, go into to the “Prefs” folder and double-click on “ScreenMode”.

Note that you need to click “Save” to make the screen mode permanent, “Use” will only apply it for the current session. Also, if you used the button menu to get to the display preferences, you will need to close this (and any other windows) before it can change the display (you will be prompted).

Changing the Amiga's display mode in Workbench
Changing display mode preferences (click to enlarge)

If you don’t see your desired resolution or colour depth available in the list, you will probably need to allocate more video memory to the RTG. This is done in the “Expansions” tab of the WinUAE interface (press F12 to return) by moving the VRAM slider. I’ve set mine to 256MB, which is a little bit overkill, but what the hell! Remember to save your changes by going into the “Configurations” tab. You will need to reset the Amiga for this change to take effect.

Setting the amount of VRAM in the WinUAE RTG tab
Increasing VRAM (click to enlarge)

If successful you should end up with something like this (we’ll sort out the slightly unsightly tiled wallpaper later):

Amiga Workbench desktop scaled to 1920x1200

If you want to start in fullscreen by default (rather than windowed mode), you need to go into the “Display” tab and set the “RTG” dropdown to “Fullscreen” and then save the configuration. If running at your desktop resolution, you can also choose to the have the display scaled when you switch back to windowed mode. To enable this, go back into the “Expansions” tab and check “Always scale in windowed mode”. Then go back to the “Display” tab and set a desired window resolution in the “Windowed:” box.

WinUAE GUI display settings
WinUAE display settings (click to enlarge)

5. Setting up a shared directory with Windows

Although you can browse the internet through your Amiga environment (e.g. using AWeb) and download games/software straight onto your system drive, it’s useful to create a shared directory. This provides a simple method for transferring files between Windows and Amiga, and the same directory can be used for multiple Amiga configurations.

To set this up, first create a new folder anywhere you like in Windows and give it a name. Then in the “CD and hard drives” tab of WinUAE click on “Add Directory or Archive”, direct it to this folder and then label it “DH1” in the “Device:” field. The “Volume label:” field is what the drive will be called on your Amiga; if you leave this blank, WinUAE will automatically name it for you.  Save the configuration and reset your Amiga, you should now see this folder mounted as a drive on your Amiga desktop.

Creating a virtual hard drive in WinUAE that can also be accessed through Windows
WinUAE adding a directory (click to enlarge)

If you want to create folders for this drive, it’s best to do it on the Amiga side. On the Amiga, folders are called drawers. To create a new drawer simply right click in the desired drive or directory and select New>Drawer; you will be prompted to give it a name.

Drawers created on the Windows side will not have an associated .info file, so they’ll not have an icon and you will only be to see them if you right click inside the window and select View>All Files.

Right clicking on an Amiga Workbench window and making all files visible
Amiga Workbench: view all files (click to enlarge)

6. Creating Amiga filesystem icons

If you want to give a drawer an icon (or any file for that matter), right-click in the window and select Icons>Filetypes. This should bring up two new windows. One window should display a range of icon styles, simply drag the desired icon to the “Source” box of the other window. Now drag the iconless drawer to the “Destination” box. This drawer should now have an associated .info file and you will be able to see it by default.

Creating an icon and .info file in Amiga Workbench
Amiga creating an icon (click to enlarge)

To improve icon support I also suggest that you install PeterK’s icon replacement library, which provides support for PNG icons, otherwise many of the games you download will have nondescript dots as icons. To do this open “Drawers” (next to “Run”), then navigate to “MyFiles\Install\Icons” and run “Install_Icons_Support”. Type “y” when prompted. The system will reboot twice during the installation process.

Installing PeterK's icon replacement library for Amiga Workbench
Installing PeterK’s icon replacement library (click to enlarge)

7. Changing wallpaper and tidying up the desktop & windows

Obviously, this step is not crucial. Ideally, your wallpaper needs to be the same size as your Amiga desktop as OS won’t resize the background so you may need to resize in an image editor. To support large image files, you may need to “RAM” tab of WinUAE and increase the amount “Z3 Fast:” RAM (e.g. to 256MB).

Increasing Z3 fast memory via the WinUAE GUI
WinUAE Z3 memory (click to enlarge)

The image will need to be a JPEG, PNG or GIFF (or IFF the default Amiga image format). Simply drop the image into your shared directory and then copy over to “System:Prefs\Patterns\”. Then double-click on “Run” to bring up the button menu and select Settings>Scalos>Pattern. Highlight the current pattern in the list and click the icon to the right of the text box below, you should then be able to find your image in the subsequent list.

Changing the Amiga Workbench desktop wallpaper
Changing wallpaper (click to enlarge)

To tidy up your desktop, simply drag icons into position, right click and select Snapshot>All. You can do the same for the contents of drawers. Be aware that if you have drawers or files with no associated .info, this will not save properly.

Tidying up the icons on the Amiga Workbench desktop
Amiga tidy desktop (click to enlarge)

8. Installing and running games

Fortunately, unlike the ROMs which are still under copyright, the vast majority of Amiga games can be legally obtained for free on the internet as abandonware. As a bonus, most are available in a pre-installed WHDLoad format, which means that you can simply copy them onto your Amiga’s hard drive and run from there without extra steps.

To able to run these you first need to install the WHDLoad user package. Bloodwych’s build already comes with this installed (v17.1), but it’s worth updating to the latest version, especially as the programme is now freeware (it used to be shareware). Download WHDLoad_usr.lha, extract (e.g. using 7-zip in Windows or on your Amiga by double-clicking and choosing an extraction path) and copy to your shared directory. Run the installer using the default options.

In order to work, WHDLoad games also require access to the Amiga Kickstart ROMs. However, a different naming system to the ROMs used in WinUAE must be used (as outlined on the WHDLoad website). Conveniently, the correctly named files can be found in Amiga Forever’s 3.x system drive. On my PC these are located in C:\Users\Public\Documents\Amiga Files\Shared\dir\System\Devs\kickstarts.

Once you’ve located these, they need to be copied across to “System:Devs/Kickstarts/” on your virtual Amiga via the shared directory. Be sure to copy across all files, including the “rom.key” file; however, the relocation (.RTB) files should already be in the “Kickstarts” drawer so you can ignore that part.

Copying across the WHDLoad kickstart ROMs
WHDLoad kickstart ROMs (click to enlarge)

Now it’s time to grab a game. Let’s head over to WHDownLoad to download a pre-installed version of Alien Breed II AGA, one of my favourites. Extract it and copy across to your shared folder.

Before running, it’s a good idea to create a quit key, otherwise, you may have to reboot the Amiga when finished playing. To do this right click on the game icon and select “info”, then click on “Tooltypes” followed by “Add new”. I want to use “Del” as my quit key, so I’m going type “QUITKEY=$46” into the text box and then press save. You can use anything you want (keyboard RAWKEY codes), but don’t choose anything needed to play the game!

Setting a quit key for WHDLoad games
WHDLoad quit key (click to enlarge)

Follow the same procedure for installing other games. Pre-installed WHDLoad games can also be downloaded using Turran’s WHDLoad Pack Downloader over on the English Amiga Board forums. These usually have more up-to-date slave files than the games available on the WHDownLoad website.


9. Creating a WHDLoad games list with iGame

If you end up installing tonnes of games (and why wouldn’t you!!!), you might want to checkout iGame. iGame is an MUI frontend for launching and managing WHDLoad games. Useful features include being able to quickly search your games catalogue, filtering by genre and creating a list of favourites. The best bit is, if you’ve been following this guide, it should already be installed on your system – you just need to point it in the direction of your games directory.

iGame is a great tool for quickly filtering and launching WHDLoad games (click to enlarge)

iGame can be found in the “Programs” directory of your “System” drive (where you’ll also find a detailed manual) or it can be quickly launched from the shortcuts tab of the Workbench/Scalos dropdown menu (right click at the very top of the screen).

iGame appears under the “Shortcuts” section of the main Workbench menu bar (click to enlarge)

Setting it up is simple. With the iGame window selected, right click at the top of the screen then head to “Game Repositories” under “Settings”. In the new window, click the directories icon (left of the “add” button), then navigate to your games directory (e.g. “work:games/”) – if need be, you can add multiple directories. Then, once again with iGame window selected, right click at the top of the screen and select “Scan Repositories” under “Actions”. This should start populating your list and may take a while depending on your emulation settings and the size of your catalogue. You will need to rescan when you add new games.

Adding game repositories to iGame (click to enlarge)

Typing in the box at the top of the iGame GUI will filter your catalogue in real time, you can also choose from a variety of preset filters from the list in the bottom right of the window.

To edit the properties of a game, select it from the list then either: right click and head to “Game” under “Game Properties” in the drop-down menu; or use the Right Amiga (usually the right Win key on Windows keyboards) + P shortcut. Here, you can edit the game’s name, add it your favourites, assign it to a genre/category or hide it from the main list (to see hidden games, right click and select “Show/Hide hidden slaves” under the “Actions” drop-down). You also edit the game’s tooltypes from here, but I don’t recommend it as it tends to mess up the icon.

editing game properties in iGame (click to enlarge)

Another neat feature is that iGame can also display a screenshot of your choice when you highlight a game. To do this you need an IFF format image named “igame.iff” present in the game’s directory. There are a couple of pre-formatted screenshot collections over on Aminet to get you started.


10. Updating WHDLoad .slave files

Occasionally when you launch a WHDLoad game, you will receive a message informing you that a newer slave is available (this is more likely to occur if you’ve updated to the latest version of WHDLoad). While not essential, updating the slave can improve compatibility or provide additional pre-game options (cheats, intro skip, controller hacks & other tweaks, etc).

To update the slave head over to the WHDLoad installers page and download the relevant lha package from the games section. These packages are meant for installing Amiga games from the original floppies onto a hard drive, but you don’t need to go through that process again. Simply open the archive and copy the .slave file (it will be called something like GameName.slave) over to the game directory on your Amiga hard drive. You will need to replace or rename the existing .slave file (its probably worth keeping the original file in case there’s a problem with the new one). Also, note that the name needs to be identical to original .slave file; so if the original was called AlienBreed2AGA.slave, then that’s what the new file needs to be called.

Note that if you’re using iGame, renamed old slave files may appear in your games list as an additional entry (usually suffixed with “alt”) when you scan for new games. I just change these to hidden through the iGame properties editor.


11. Game resolution and scaling (native display mode)

Resolution scaling/display emulation of classic Amiga games can be something of a divisive, not to mention complicated, issue. However, at the end of the day, it’s about choosing a resolution, scaling method, and filter that suits your own tastes or needs.

It’s worth pointing out here that with this system we’ve built, WinUAE will switch to the “Native” screen mode when you launch a WHDLoad game and then switch back to the “RTG” mode when you press the quit key and return to your Amiga Workbench desktop. This means that the resolution you set in Workbench can be different to one that your games use, which is set within the WinUAE GUI.

Original Amiga games used to typically run in lores at either 320×256@50Hz in PAL regions or 320×200@60Hz in NTSC regions (with an overscan area of up to 376×288) and were intended to run monitors and TVs with a 4:3 or 5:4 picture aspect ratio. Most of the classic games you come across will be in PAL lores. (I’ve included some references on Amiga display characteristics in the Useful resources section if you want to read more on this).

By default, WinUAE outputs at either 640×512 or 640×400 – i.e. hires, double lines. Obviously, this is tiny compared to what modern display hardware can output and significantly different in aspect ratio. This leaves you three main options:

  1. Run the game in a window and then size/scale as desired (720×568 or 720×576 are often recommended as a good PAL equivalent)
  2. Set WinUAE to a much lower fullscreen resolution, e.g. 800×600 (4:3) or 1280×1024 (5:4), etc (note that running at a screen mode below your monitor’s standard resolution may result in a less sharp or blurry image)
  3. Scale the game display area to better fit your monitor’s native resolution

To change WinUAE’s “native” output resolution, simply head over to the “Display” tab and select the desired resolution and bit depth from the “Fullscreen:” and/or “Windowed:” drop-down menu. Personally, I choose to set the “native” output to my monitor’s standard resolution.

If you want to run games in fullscreen by default, you’ll need to ensure the “Native:” mode is set to “Fullscreen”. By the way, if you’re running in fullscreen and still want to be able to see WinUAE’s on-screen display, then head to the “Miscellaneous” tab and check “RTG on-screen display” and/or “Native on-screen display”.

If you don’t have a G-sync or Freesync monitor and you experience jerky movement or scrolling in games, then you may need to enable vertical sync in the “display” tab. For PAL games you will need to set the refresh rate to either 50Hz or 100Hz, for NTSC either 60 or 120Hz (whichever your monitor supports). For the double refresh frequencies, you may want to check “black frame insertion” in the “Miscellaneous” tab to reduce motion blur.

Setting the resolution that Amiga games (i.e. the native resolution) will run at in the WinUAE GUI
WinUAE display Settings (click to enlarge)

To choose how the game is scaled relative to WinUAE’s output resolution (either windowed or fullscreen), head over to the “Filter” tab. Here you can set the horizontal and vertical scaling and screen positioning manually or you can choose from one of the options from the drop-down menu in the top right corner (make sure the one above it is set to “Native”).

There also some aspect ratio correction options, various scaling filters (including a PAL display simulation) and the ability to save and load custom presets. The drop-down menu in the “extra settings” box also allows you to apply and adjust post-processing effects such as scanlines and bilinear filtering. If you choose the PAL filter, you can additionally tweak brightness, contrast, saturation, gamma, blurriness, and noise.

Setting the scaling for Amiga games in the WinUAE GUI
WinUAE scaling (click to enlarge)

Personally, I usually set WinUAE to either “Automatic scaling” and disable the filter and aspect ratio options. This will normally fill my entire screen (without black bars) and be correctly centered. It works well for most games and, in my humble opinion, looks good (check out my Amiga videos or some of the screenshots taken in one of my retrospective pieces). Some may disagree with my heathen ways 🙂

If you want something more in-line with a vintage CRT output (i.e. less stretched horizontally), then try loading the “D3D Autoscale” preset (which enables automatic scaling and automatic aspect ratio correction). This should give you an approximately 4:3 game output with vertical black bars for widescreen resolutions. Setting “scanline opacity” in the “extra settings” to something between 15 and 100 will also provide a nice CRT scanlines effect.

Check out the gallery below to get an idea of different scaling/filter possibilities on a 16:9 fullscreen display (all images 1920×1080). Unscaled and integer scaling (the last two images) should be the closest to the original Amiga pixel aspect. Anyway, don’t be afraid to experiment with the various filter options to get the look you want — you can even set the horizontal and vertical scaling factors and position the output manually.

And remember that you may need to adjust tweak options for individual games — not all developers made full use of the standard display area, whereas as a handful of others intentionally exploited the overscan region (eg The Settlers).


12. Sound settings

There is also a range of sound settings (in the “Sound” tab) that can be tweaked as desired. If you’re feeling particularly nostalgic you can emulate the floppy drive sound, which will click loudly at regular intervals until you insert a disk, but this becomes extremely annoying after say five seconds (just like it did in the old days!). These are the settings I normally use:

  • Channel mode: 5.1 Channels (or cloned stereo)
  • Frequency: 48000
  • Sound Buffer Size: 6
  • Interpolation: Anti
  • Audio filter: Always
  • Stereo separation: 70%
Chaning the sound settings in the WinUAE GUI
WinUAE sound settings (click to enlarge)

13. Choosing an input method

WinUAE is compatible with a range of controllers including the Xbox 360 pad (my personal preference) and these can be selected in the “Game ports” tab.

For increased functionality, you can try setting the drop-down menu below the controller to “CD32 pad”. In some games, this will allow you to use additional joystick buttons and is obviously important if you’re actually playing a CD32 game! Some up-to-date WHDLoad game versions also add support for a CD32 pad (e.g. Pinball Dreams).

If you don’t have a controller, you will need to select a suitable keyboard layout (such as arrow keys or numeric keypad) for games that require a joystick. It’s also possible to completely remap joystick/pad and keyboard controls to your own preferences in the “Game ports” and “Input” tabs respectively.

For two player games, you will need to either change “Port 1:” (your mouse by default) to a second controller or a preferred keyboard layout once in the game. This is equivalent to disconnecting the mouse and plugging in a second joystick on a real Amiga. Note that some games also have their own options for choosing or customising keyboard controls for additional players.

Setting up joysticks, controllers and keyboard inputs in the WinUAE gameports tab
WinUAE controller set-up (click to enlarge)

14. What if the game I want to play isn’t available as WHDLoad?

Sometimes you can find the WHDLoad game installer but not a pre-installed version. For this, you will need to acquire the ADFs (jump to the resources section below). Simply run the installer, choosing a suitable installation location, and provide the required ADFs through the “Floppy drives” tab when prompted.

If you can only find ADFs for the game you want to play, you can still use your configuration to boot from these. Simply insert the ADFs into the virtual drives through the “Floppy drives” tab. You can set-up up to four disk drives to reduce disk swapping. If you’re having compatibility issues (usually with really old A500 games), then you can use WinUAE’s “Quickstart” function to effortlessly set-up a standard A500.


15. Can I use WinUAE’s save states?

Technically, WinUAE’s save states function is not supposed to work with hard drive configurations. However, I’ve found that it does work with a surprising number of WHDLoad games (but not all). Pressing the game’s quitkey will usually cause the emulation to crash, but trying out save states will not harm your Amiga system (still, it’s always worth backing everything up!).

To create a save state head to the “Miscellaneous” tab, press the “Save State” button (or press SHIFT + END + F5) and then give your save a name. You load save states from the same location (or with END +F5). Before loading, ensure that you’ve first loaded the correct configuration into WinUAE first. Sometimes it also helps if you run the game first before loading the save state.


16. Troubleshooting and additional tweaks and settings

Remember that emulation is rarely perfect or flawless (though WinUAE does a very good job of emulating the Amiga) and from time to you may experience brief glitches with the speed, sound, and graphics of a particular game. Or even crashes, freezes or the dreaded “Guru Meditation”, which is the Amiga’s rough equivalent of a BSOD. If you are having issues, here are a few things you can try.

General game issues

With general issues, such as the game running too fast or simply not working properly, the best thing to try first is enabling “Cycle-exact (Full)” in the “Chipset” tab.

Doing this will automatically:

  • enable “cycle-exact (DMA/memory access)” in the “Chipset” tab
  • disable “JIT” (Just-in-time) in the “CPU and FPU” tab
  • switch CPU Emulation Speed in the CPU and FPU tab from “Fastest possible” to “Approximate A500/A1200 or cycle-exact”

This will slow down the emulation resulting in longer Workbench load times but can significantly increase the compatibility of certain games.

You can also play around with the above settings individually (including the “Cycle-exact CPU Emulation Speed”) to see what effects they have on the game or program you’re trying to run.

It may also be worth simplifying your memory configuration. Bloodwych’s original WinUAE configuration well exceeds the needs of most users and games. I find my system runs perfectly well with just 8MB of Chip RAM and 32MB of Z3 Fast. In fact, I could probably get away with less Chip RAM. Some older A500 games may benefit from adding 512Kb of Slow RAM.

Graphical issues

If you’re experiencing graphical corruption, head into the “Chipset” tab and check “Wait for blitter”. This will fix most graphical issues.

Sound issues

If you’re having audio issues, it may be worth disabling “Interpolation”. For choppy or distorted sound, try increasing the “Sound buffer size”. If you’re getting audio lag/delay, try reducing the buffer.

You may also experience choppy or distorted sound in RTG mode if the refresh rate differs from the Amiga’s display output. Generally, it’s best to set the RTG refresh rate to “chipset”.


17. Once you’re up and running

Now that you’ve set-up your virtual Amiga, why not celebrate by launching Eagleplayer and listening to some classic Amiga tunes. Oh yeah, and don’t forget to back everything up 🙂


18. Useful WinUAE keyboard shortcuts

Some handy keyboard shortcuts:

  • F12 – brings up the WinUAE interface
  • CTRL + F12 – toggle fullscreen and windowed mode
  • Middle mouse button – returns you to the Windows desktop with WinUAE still running in the background
  • CTRL + F11 – quit the emulation
  • SHIFT + F12 – opens WinUAE’s debugger
  • PRTSC – copies WinUAE’s current screen to the clipboard
  • END + PrintScreen – save screenshot file (to a location specified in the “Paths” tab
  • END + F5 – brings up the load state window
  • SHIFT + END + F5 – brings up the save state window
  • PAUSE – pauses the emulation
  • PAUSE + END – activates warp mode (i.e. speeds up the emulation), press again to return to normal mode
  • END + F1, F2, F3 or F4 – change floppy disk (ADF) in the corresponding drive
  • SHIFT+END+ F1, F2, F3 or F4 – ejects floppy disk (ADF) in corresponding drive

It’s also worth noting that in WinUAE, the left and right Amigas keys are mapped to the left and right WIN keys on your keyboard. So if you want to do a soft reset, you can press CTRL + LWIN + RWIN. Also, the Amiga’s HELP key is mapped to PAGE DOWN. These keys can be remapped in the “Input” tab.


19. Useful resources

Other guides by me:

For finding games:

  • WHDownLoad – a repository of pre-installed WHDLoad games
  • Turran’s WHDLoad Pack Downloader — this is a tool for downloading pre-installed WHDLoad games from the English Amiga Board’s FTP site. These often have more up-to-date slave files than the games available on the WHDownLoad.
  • WHDLoad – official WHDLoad site, which also contains a repository of game installers (note that these are not pre-installed like above and you need the ADFs to install the game to your hard drive)
  • Vintage Is The New Old (formerly Commodore is Awesome) – general retrogaming resource with a heavy focus on all things Commodore; includes downloadable Amiga games
  • Amiga TOSEC – a free downloadable 37GB (yes 37GB!!!) archive containing multiple sources of nearly every Amiga game, demo, programme and cover disk ever made (excludes Workbench disks and Kickstart ROMs)
  • EmuParadise – huge catalogue of classic games, including downloadable Amiga ADFs and CD32 disk images
  • Planet Emulation – a French site hosting a large number of Amiga games
  • The Game Archives – a privately-hosted preservation site that includes Amiga games


Understanding Amiga display characteristics/modes:

56 thoughts on “Building a virtual Amiga for retrogaming in WinUAE (plus general WinUAE tips)

  1. Thank you for the guide, it is really helpfull. I have a problem concerning the improved icon support. When I open drawers and navigate to “MyFiles\Install\”, I don’t have the “icons” and therefore I cannot run “Install_Icons_Support”. Any idea why is that?


      • Hi there, thanx for the comment.
        I did copy over to my files and did the installation, but I got an error message which i didn’t catch up and then i couldn’t boot to my amiga anymore…
        Fortunately I had backed up the configuration and I just copied to my winuae amiga files and i saved it :))
        Anyway, i’ll give it a try again some point later.
        I have another question if you don’t mind. I want to open the games I load from WHDload, with the igame. This WB has already installed the igame. So, as I understand, I copy the games to the System, into the drawer “games”, and then I run igames and go to ‘actions’ -> scan repositories. Am I correct?


        • Well, good luck. For the igames, I believe that is correct, but I run all my WHDload games directly from my shared directory where I store them – this makes it easier to transfer my games between different configurations.


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  4. VERY cool and looks beautiful. I’ve had all kinds of problems trying to run this in Windows 10. I love the look, but am such a novice. At the end of finally getting almost everything to work it talks about the Picasso RTG libraries not being able to load. Used to LOVE the look of Amiga in a Box way back in the day too. Anyway, thanks for the blog post. 🙂


    • Thanks. I have no experience of WinUAE in Windows 10, still using 8.1, so can’t really help. Probably worth checking that you have the latest version of the emulator. Hope you sort your problems.


  5. Thanks very much for this guide. I’m a total novice and have found it easy to follow so far. I’m now at the point of trying to change my wallpaper and have set up a shared folder and created a new background image in it. The problem I’m having is that I can open them in the shared folder without issue from the Amiga side, but I cannot move them to any other Amiga location without them ‘changing’. Instead of the image icon it changes to the tools icon, and the file can no longer be opened. I’ve saved it as several different file types – one as a JPG, one as an IFF, and one as a PNG – but they all do the same thing. An ideas what might be going on there? Am I missing something really obvious? Thanks very much, Mark


    • Thanks, glad it’s useful. I think you may need to create the relevant .info file. The Amiga does this by default, but you need to do it manually for the PC. Easiest way to do it is to copy one from another file.

      I explain how to do this under the “Setting up a shared directory with Windows” section:

      “If you want to give a drawer an icon (or any file for that matter), right click in the window and select Icons>Filetypes. This should bring up two new windows. One window should display a range of icon styles, simply drag the desired icon to the “Source” box of the other window. Now drag the iconless drawer to the “Destination” box. This drawer should now have an associated .info file and you will be able to see it by default.”


      • Thanks very much for the quick reply. I’ll try that tonight and report back. I’m hoping that I can actually get the games to work after all of this effort – I haven’t actually got so far as to try that bit yet!! Thanks again, Mark


          • Hi again. Your previous advice worked thanks – wallpapers now working!

            I have got stuck with the ROMs now! I’ve got them from AmigaForever and put them in the right place with the correct naming formats. I can’t find a rom.key file anywhere in the AmigaForever files though. Some games seem to work fine like this (e.g. Cannon Fodder) but when I try to boot some (e.g. Beneath a Steel Sky) I get a WHDLoad window pop up saying:

            DOS-Error #205
            (object not found)
            on reading “devs:kickstarts/kickstart34005.a500

            Is this because the rom.key file is missing? Or have I missed something else too?

            If you could point me towards the rom.key so i can re-try I’d be very grateful.

            Thanks again for all your help, it’s really appreciated. Can’t believe someone in the comments had the nerve to be rude when you’ve gone to all this effort to help others!!


            • Glad that helped. Yes you need to have the relevant kickstart files and different games require different ones. Do you have Amiga Forever? You can find them all in the AF install directory. For me that’s: C:\Users\Public\Documents\Amiga Files\Shared\rom. Just copy them all across to your shared drive then copy again into the devs:kickstarts folder on the Amiga’s system drive.


              • Thanks for the quick reply. I’ve got all the ROMs in the right place – the one that Beneath a Steel Sky can’t find is there. I don’t have the rom.key file you refer to though – I can’t find it anywhere and wonder if that’s what’s causing the problem? Thanks again, Mark


                  • Thanks, but I’ve already renamed as per that guide, as you’ve explained in the tutorial above, and the relocation files are also present. Is the missing rom.key file the problem? Thanks very much, Mark


                    • Yes, then that’s probably the issue. The rom key should be in the Amiga Forever roms directory. Copy that into the same folder.


  6. Sorry, me again!

    2 last questions – promise!!

    1. Is there a way to get WinUAE to boot up straight to the Amiga screen with my config pre-loaded? When i run it currently each time I have to go to the configuration tab, load my configuration, then click start. Can I automate/bypass all of that somehow?
    2. Is there a way to save Amiga window (drawer screen) sizes so that they stay the same when re-opened another time? I have my Amiga games looking all pretty in my shared folder – – but every time I open it I have to stretch it out to full screen as it opens in a tiny window. I’m guessing it’s just an Amiga quirk with no workaround but here’s hoping!

    Thanks very much


    • Hi again!

      1. If you double click on the config file in the list it loads immediately, without having to also press load and then start. I’m not sure if you can set it up so it loads by default when you start WinUAE.

      2. Yes. Right click in the relevant window and select snapshot>all.


      • Thanks Steve.

        1. I found a way of doing this. Rename the config file as ‘default’. In the misc menu untick ‘show gui at startup’, and on the quickstart menu untick ‘start in quickstart mode’. Works pretty well, though for some reason the emulated hardware shown on the quickstart menu seems to reset to A500 sometimes.

        2. Thanks for that. I was hoping for a solution that saved even after exit and restart of WinUAE, but think I’m perhaps being unreasonably demanding with that one!

        Thanks again


        • 1. That’s cool, didn’t know you can do that. Although I have multiple configurations that I switch between such as super fast ones and slower more compatible ones. If you encounter issues with the really old games you may need to slow down the emulation or check “wait for blitter”. I also have one set-up for running the CD32; mostly for playing the CD versions of The Chaos Engine and Diggers.

          2. Yeah, it’s a bit annoying having to manually save the size, position and layout of each window! But what I always loved about Workbench is that there is no shutdown process, you could just literally pull the plug and everything would be fine when you booted it back up.


          • Yeah, I’ve had a few compatibility issues (sound and graphics going a bit dodgy) and so have been trying to make a second config file for the A500 by tweaking the A1200 one I set up using your guide but don’t really know what I’m doing. I got one working by adding the KS ROM v1.3 to my WinUAE folder, using the default A500 settings from the quickstart menu, and adding my system.hdf as DH0, and it boots to the white 1.3 screen with the hand on but there are no desktop folders and so I can’t load my hard drive games from there, just those I insert through the floppy drives in the gui. Am I missing something basic?


            • That system won’t work well/properly using an A500 rom. When I’m having issues, I slow down the emulation and enable some of the compatibility options. You’ll find these mostly in the “CPU and FPU tab” and “Chipset” tab.

              In Chipset check the “Wait for blitter”, “Cycle-exact (FULL)” and “Cycle-exact (DMA/Memory accesses)” options. The blitter option usually works well when experiencing graphical corruption.

              In the CPU tab make sure JIT and 24-bit addressing are disabled and that the CPU emulation speed is set to “Approximate A500/A1200 or cycle-exact”. You may also want set the CPU frequency as low as 2x (A500) – though this will take ages to load the desktop and you will need to be patient. However, the compatibility is very good. Also some games will run too fast, even if set to A1200 speed. For instance, Jaguar XJ220 is hilariously fast if you have the CPU frequency too high.

              Anyway, you can experiment with different combinations of these options to find the best compromise between emulation speed and compatibility.

              For one or two games, you may need to resort to running them from floppies (ADF) using a basic A500 set-up. You can use one of the quickstart configs for this and tweak to your taste (and then save after for repeated use).


              • Thanks Steve, that’s improved things for the majority of games – you’re right about the loading of the desktop being slooooooow though! Maybe I should try XJ220 at speed, give myself a challenge. I just ran North and South at high speed and the guy at the start blows his trumpet faster than I’ve ever seen anyone play an instrument! Haha! Still can’t get the sound right on one or two – I used to love Putty and Banshee but the crackling and distortion makes them horrid to play. Shame, but following the death of my Amiga (RIP) I’m just pleased to be able to play things again! Cheers, Mark


  7. Does anyone know how to save game states from within the emulated Amiga? Obviously saving adf states are not going to work in this instance… Please help!


    • As far as I know you can’t, unfortunately. That is certainly one drawback to running games from a virtual HD instead of ADFs. But you can pause indefinitely by either pressing pause or F12 and then leaving WinUAE running in the background. Though far from ideal!


        • I’ve never used a CF card, but I assume it’s the same. I used to run an A1200 with an actual hard drive and there was no way I know of to save states like you can for ADFs in WinUAE.


  8. Hello,
    i my eyes is AmigaSYS a bit better, even despite that is outdated.

    I was more hardcore and installed Vanilla WB 3.1 and installed all these items alone and to be honest without Amiga knowledge is task for 2 weeks.


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  10. It’s out of date now a bigger 11/11/2006 version is up for AMIGA on the TOSEC via same source and another update since on EAB file server under TOSEC Updates and Retroplay WHDLoad updates.


  11. About updating that “WHADLoad.slave” file you wrote to go to “”. There are “Applications”, “Demos”, “Games, “Magazines” and “Cracktros” (I guess it was looking different here 2 years ago). It can’t be in the last 4 ones and under “Applications” there are only 3 other entries. I went to “Search” and looked for “slave”, but there are 3267 matches. Any hint where the find that “newer slave” file? (Is it just one file or more files, because in the title of point 9 in your tutorial you wrote about updating “files”…)



    • Hi, sorry, I should have made it clearer. On that page ( you should see a section called games which is broken down into alphabetical groups (eg Am-aq). Click on the group that matches your game name, you should then see a list games ordered alphabetically.

      When you click on the name of your game, it should download an lha archive file. If you open this archive (I do it in Windows with 7-zip) you’ll find a folder containing a bunch of files. The one you’re interested in will be called something like “GameName.slave”. That’s the file you want to copy across to the game folder in your Amiga game directory.

      When you copy it across it needs to have exactly the same name as the old one on your Amiga (it’s worth keeping the old file just in case; you can rename it something like “GameName.slaveold”). So, for instance, if the original slave file was called “AlienBreed2AGA.slave”, then that is exactly what the new slave file should be called.

      Also, you only need to update the slave file if you a get a message when you launch the game telling you that a newer slave file is available.


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  13. Pingback: Tasty Amiga Pi: a quick overview to building a mini Amiga | the cake is a lie: indie and retrogaming

  14. Are questions still answered. My setup is to use on an actual 1200. I completed a setup of a 3.1 system and all works fine; including the Scalos(?) Buttonmenu etc. iGame loads from whatever selection. It is all put on a CF card and bootable from there with no problems. Next was to setup a 3.9 system. At the beginning it asked for a ‘zip’ system file but what was in the directory was the ‘hdf’ file. Originally I used the OS3.9 CD version and installed from there but since it didn’t include WHDLoad etc I went and used that instead. To get to the point, I did finally get that installed with all the options, except this setup doesn’t have Scalos. In all this I’m only left with one issue. You have the dropdown menus and buttonmenu functions which will bring up WHDLoad, and from there select iGames but that doesn’t do anything. I had thought the issue was iGames wasn’t setup but it Will open with the program itself. Using the Buttonmenu application the link is: “WBrun A-Programs:iGame/iGame”. The assign is “A-Programs: sys:Programs” I do believe. So I’m at a loss why the application won’t run from Buttomenu or the drop-down menu. Any ideas.


  15. I knew it Had to be something simple. So, I’m using DOpus to browse startup files etc. and noticed there is NO WBRun in the ‘C’ folder. It IS WBRun2. After changing all the links to That, now it works. It didn’t register that no other selections in that menu worked either. They were all using the wrong Run. The install on this OS 3.9 didn’t work in the same way as previously and I’m not even sure How it worked and what I did to make it work. Evidently the install didn’t do everything it should have, likely because it didn’t operate as it normally would have. I do think it was all due to that system file being ‘hdf’ and not ‘zip’. The bad part is I have so many configurations and system files through trial and error that now it’s a mess.


    • Hi. I have very little experience of OS3.9 and it’s very difficult for me to follow the thread of your comments. I think you’d probably have more luck taking your problem to one of the Amiga forums, such as the EAB:

      Sorry I can’t be of more help.


    • Hi. I have no problem typing these characters in Shell and Final Writer on my emulated Workbench environment. I just use the corresponding keys on my keyboard.

      You may need to set the locale preferences in Workbench to match the country of your keyboard. For example, I’m using using a British keyboard, so have the locale set to United Kingdom.


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