In this guide I’ll take you through the process of customising the Workbench 3.1 operating system for the Commodore Amiga. The standard Workbench installation is very basic but there is a large selection of 3rd party software to enhance and modernise the experience. There are several popular pre-made packs for the Workbench OS (like ClassicWB), but it can be very informative to go through the process from scratch. You’ll also get more opportunities to customise the Workbench installation and not be stuck with unmaintained ‘all in one’ packs that have not been updated in years.
This guide was written for a 68020 CPU Amiga with 2MB of chip-RAM and 8MB of fast-RAM (specifically, I used my Amiga 600 with Furia card). At the end of the guide I’ve included some ideas on other software to use with faster Amiga hardware.
I will assume the reader has some basic working knowledge of the Amiga to keep the total length of the guide down. If you’ve got no clue what you’re doing, it might be an idea to spend some time playing around with a virtual Amiga with WinUAE. The AmigaDOS documentation is really useful too.
To use this guide, you’ll need a set of Workbench 3.1 installation floppy disk images, relevant motherboard ROM image file for use with WinUAE and a way to connect your Amiga HDD to your PC (usually a USB memory card reader).
At many points in this guide, temporary files will need to be created (e.g., when unpacking archives). I will use
Work:Temp/ as a temporary working location. If you want to use a different partition or drawer name, you will need to replace references to
Work:Temp/ below accordingly. At the end of the guide, this temporary folder can be deleted. Equally, my Workbench installation partition will be labelled
Generally you should reboot the Amiga between each of the sections below, but I’ll point this out where it is essential.
The first step is to prepare your HDD, Compact Flash or SD card for use with an Amiga. I am using a 16GB SanDisk SD card, connected to my PC using a cheap USB memory card reader.
A small (<2GB) Workbench partition will be created followed by one or more larger partitions for personal files. The modern PFS3 filesystem will be used instead of the legacy FFS filesystem. If you’re not familiar with the constraints on Amiga partitioning, have a look at the very useful partitioning FAQ on the EAB forum.
The “16-bit Dust” blog has a really good guide on how to partition a drive using PFS3 for the Amiga. Follow the guide to prepare your drive, then return here (but use the newer PFS3 version 19 from Aminet rather than the one referenced on the blog).
At this point you should now have a partitioned Amiga drive and a working WinUAE emulator environment on your PC.
The basic Workbench environment must now be installed on to the newly partitioned and formatted SD card (or HDD, etc.). I prefer to perform this step on a real Amiga to test the partitioning done above worked properly, but it can also be completed inside WinUAE using ADF floppy disk images.
Boot the Workbench 3.1 “Install” disk to start the installation wizard and complete the process. I’m using the Cloanto 3.X ROM with the Cloanto updated Workbench 3.1 floppy disk set, but the classic disks and ROMs will work fine too. Complete the installation and reboot.
If you installed Workbench on a real Amiga, return your SD/CF card to the PC and WinUAE. The updated
system.device driver used above when partitioning the drive needs to be copied to the Workbench drive. Follow this 16-bit Dust blog posting on installing the updated
scsi.device driver (I am using version 44.20). After completing this step, any larger partitions on your drive will become usable within Workbench.
The rest of this guide must be completed using the SD/CF card connected to your PC and running Workbench inside the WinUAE emulator. If you followed the 16-bit Dust installation guide you should already have a suitable WinUAE configuration profile to use. I modified the WinUAE profile to match my real Amiga’s specifications, except the CPU speed was changed to “Fastest Possible”.
Within the WinUAE configuration, create a new directory mount point called
PC and point it to a new folder on your PC where the software packages used in this guide will be downloaded to.
Tip: WinUAE includes some Amiga utility programs. I copy the
winuaeclipprogram in to the PC’s shared folder so that it can be run from inside Workbench. This makes it possible to copy and paste the commands in this guide in to an AmigaDOS shell using
Ctrl+Shift+V. Remember to tick the necessary clipboard sharing option on the “Miscellaneous” settings screen in WinUAE.
BetterWB is a small pack of essential programs and updates for Workbench 3.1. Download the installation disk image set and the v4.3 update disk from the Lilliput website.
In WinUAE, mount the “Misc” floppy disk image first and run the installation wizard.
Tip: You can backup your Amiga SD/CF card by creating a HDF image of it from the WinUAE disk properties screen.
When the BetterWB installation has finished and the system has rebooted, check the
scsi.device driver has not been downgraded by BetterWB using the
version command. It may be necessary to repeat the steps performed earlier to re-install version 44.20 of the
LHA is the most common archive file format on the Amiga. A version of the archive utility is installed by BetterWB, but it is not the CPU specific version. A faster 68020 version will be installed.
From your PC, download
lha.run from Aminet and place it in the folder that is mounted in WinUAE as
In WinUAE, open an AmigaDOS shell prompt and unpack the files:
Several CPU specific versions of the LHA program will be unpacked to the
Temp directory. Copy the version appropriate to your CPU model to the
C: mount point:
lha command from a shell should now show it is the 68020+ version (or 68030, etc.) instead of basic 68000 version.
MUI is a 3rd party set of GUI libraries used by many popular Amiga programs. Download the installation package from Aminet to your PC shared directory.
Open a shell and unpack the MUI archive:
If you have a MUI key file, copy it over to the Amiga:
Go to the unpacked MUI folder in the
Temp directory and double-click the
When prompted, select the
Intermediate installer mode. Ensure that the installation destination drive is set to
System:. Click through the remaining prompts to complete the installation.
Reboot the Amiga when the installer has finished.
Inside Workbench, go to the
System:MUI directory and double-click the
MUI application icon to open the preferences dialog. Right-click on the top left of the screen and from the menu select
Project and then
Open. Select the
Stuntzi.prefs file and click OK. Then click the Save button in the MUI preferences dialog.
HighGFX provides two higher resolution screen mode drivers which are useful when using compatible displays.
Download the HighGFX package from Aminet to your PC shared directory.
Unpack and install the files with the following shell commands:
If you have a capable display, you can now reboot and change to a higher screen resolution using the ScreenMode preferences applet. Regardless of the resolution, change the colour depth to 16 colours using
ClassAct is another 3rd party set of GUI libraries used by various programs.
Download the ClassAct package from Aminet to your PC shared directory.
Unpack the package:
Run the installer script that was unpacked. More information can be found on the Aminet page linked above.
Now download the ClassAct update archive from Aminet to your PC shared directory.
The update archive’s internal structure matches the layout of the
System: partition, so it just needs to be unpacked directly as follows:
Overwrite all files when prompted, except for the two
icon.library included with BetterWB is out of date and like
LHA is not a CPU specific version.
Download the latest version from Aminet to your shared PC directory.
From a shell prompt on the Amiga, unpack and install the updated files:
The included (and very useful)
CopyIcon program is not copied over as it is already installed by the BetterWB update pack.
Glow Icons provides more colourful system icons. Go to the
System:Prefs/ folder and double-click the
IconSet program. When prompted, select the Glow Icons option and reboot.
The default drawer icon will now be changed to a GlowIcon drawer icon. Start the
System:Tools/IconEdit program. Right-click the top left corner of the screen and open the
System:Prefs/Presets/Iconsets/Glowicons.info icon file. Then from the IconEdit menu, select the ‘set as default icon’ option and exit IconEdit.
Now is a good time to also download additional icon sets to the
Iconsets directory for later customisation.
Download the AB-GlowIcons_Suite from Aminet to your PC shared directory. Unpack it:
Repeat this process for any other GlowIcon compatible icon sets you can find on the Internet. The
CopyIcon utility installed by BetterWB can be used for changing icons with a simple drag-and-drop interface.
BetterWB includes a number of useful Workbench ‘commodity’ programs which provide small enhancements and modifications to the default Workbench environment, like ‘click to focus’ for windows.
System:Prefs and run the
WBStartup program. Enable the commodities that are shown in the screenshot below:
Save the settings and reboot the Amiga.
QBoot turns the usually black boot screen in to an informative loading progress screen. It is very useful when troubleshooting modifications to the system start-up screens and makes the boot process a bit more interesting.
Download the QBoot package from Aminet to your PC shared directory.
Unpack and install the QBoot software with the following commands:
Using either the
redit text editor, add the following line to the start of
s:startup-sequence immediately above the existing
Now customise the QBoot configuration file
At a minimum, comment the
PROMPT line so that QBoot exits from memory after the system has finished booting. Optionally, uncommenting the
PROGBAR line at the end of the file gives a more verbose output as shown below:
FBlit moves some OS functions out of chip-RAM and into fast-RAM, speeding up certain aspects of Workbench.
Download the FBlit package from Aminet to your shared PC directory.
Unpack and install FBlit:
s:startup-sequence file using
redit and add the following line near the end before the
user-startup script is called:
KingCON is a replacement shell program which provides numerous extra features including tab completion.
Download the KingCON package from Aminet to your shared PC directory.
Unpack the archive:
Run the included installer. Answer ‘yes’ when prompted about ‘a more permanent installation’.
The last time I tested this guide from start to finish, at this stage, the
C:Installer program provided by BetterWB had mysteriously disappeared. If this program is missing on your system, reinstall it as follows.
Download the Installer package from Aminet to your PC shared directory.
Unpack and install the software:
MCP (Master Control Program) is a set of Workbench tweaks and enhancements.
Download the MCP package from Aminet to your PC shared directory.
Unpack the software:
Run the installer program that is extracted to the
Temp directory. Click through the defaults in the installation wizard until the preferences window appears. The default options are good, but feel free to enable/disable modules to your liking. Click Save and then reboot the Amiga.
Directory Opus is a file manager tool which is very popular for manipulating the Amiga filesystem. We will use the more popular (older) version 4.16 rather than version 5+.
Download the Dopus package from Aminet to your PC shared directory.
Unpack the software:
Run the installer in “Intermediate User” mode. Install to either
The Dopus interface is highly configurable. Many premade Dopus configuration files exist on the Web. If you’re stuck for ideas, you could unpack the ClassicWB pack and borrow the Dopus configuration from there.
SysInfo is quite dated but it’s still a popular system benchmarking tool.
Download the SysInfo package from Aminet to your PC shared directory.
Unpack the software directly to the desired installation root folder:
FileX is a binary file editor (hex editor). It can occasionally come in handy.
Download the FileX package from Aminet to your PC shared directory.
Unpack the software:
Rename the extracted FileX folder to simply
FileX and move to the desired install location (e.g.,
Workbench ships with an Emacs text editor. Let’s put that right and install a port of Vim.
Download the Vim package from Aminet to your PC shared directory.
Unpack the archive. Vim can be placed in to its own application drawer in
Work:, but I like to place it in
C: so that it can be easily invoked from a shell prompt:
In the following section the seminal WHDLoad package will be installed. However, for that to work properly, various Commodore Amiga kickstart ROM images need to be present inside the
As these are copyrighted files you will need to source these on your own. More information is available on this WHDLoad.de page. Remember to include the
.RTB files also.
WHDLoad allows retro Amiga games that were never shipped with HDD installer programs to be installed on the HDD and launched from inside Workbench. If you want to do any gaming on the Amiga this is an essential tool.
Download the latest “usr” package from the WHDLoad website to your PC shared directory.
Unpack the software:
Run the extracted installer, selecting Intermediate User mode when prompted. Click through the wizard, all default answers are okay.
At this point you should create a
Games folder somewhere (or maybe you created a
Games: partition earlier) and populate it with your WHDLoad games collection. If you’ve not got any WHDLoad games at the moment, check out the Killer Gorilla WHDLoad game archive. Use Dopus to unpack the ZIP archives.
iGame is a popular frontend to the WHDLoad system. It provides an easy way to browse all WHDLoad games installed on your Amiga.
Unpack the downloaded files as shown below. The iGame software does not have an installer so is just unpacked to
The user interface for iGame uses MUI, so the fonts etc., can be heavily customised using the configuration dialog within iGame.
ToolManager is an icon dock program similar to the AmiDock program that is included with AmigaOS 3.9. This section is derived from a detailed howto guide by Marios Filos, so if anything is unclear, refer there.
First, install the “icondt” file, which will allow ToolManager to use normal icon files in addition to its normal brush files:
Now, unpack the other archives:
Run the ToolManager installer that was unpacked to
Work:Temp/Toolmanager/. Reboot after the installation wizard has finished. After rebooting, ensure that
ToolManager exists inside
Start the ToolManager configuration program from
System:Prefs/ToolManager. Dock buttons for your favourite programs must now be created. Programs are defined on the “Exec” tab. Icons for the dock are defined on the “Image” tab. On the “Docks” tab the programs and images defined on the previous tabs are combined to construct one or more icon docks. Now create your own custom icon dock (if you’re new to ToolManager there are more detailed instructions on Marios’ blog).
If your real Amiga has a hardware accelerator card, now is a good time to copy over to the Amiga any turbo card support files, drivers or utilities. I am using the Furia card in the Amiga I wrote this guide for, so will make some Furia specific changes. Only follow this section if you also use the Furia 68020 card.
Unpack the downloaded files:
Run the Furiatune GUI installer wizard which was extracted to
s:startup-sequence file using
redit. Add the following line to the file before the
What this does is patch the ROM’s
card.resource driver with an update that makes it fast-RAM friendly. If there is already a LoadModule line in your
s:startup-sequence, you need to add the argument to that line rather than create a second
At this point the core of your customised Amiga Workbench installation is complete. It’s now up to you to put the finishing touches on the system, like changing the fonts, icons and wallpaper. Installing other applications like music players and graphics tools are largely personal preference so also left as an exercise to the reader.
Tip: If you backup your Amiga SD/CF card (or HDD) to a HDF file with WinUAE, it can be written back to the SD/CF card using the WinImage shareware.
Below is a screenshot of my Amiga 600 Workbench installation, built with this guide:
I hope this guide was useful and you learned more about how the Amiga Workbench OS functions along the way. Once I have my Indivision ECS Mk2 installed I’ll put some videos on YouTube of this machine in action.
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