How to Download and Install the Open Watcom C/C++ Compiler

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Download the Watcom C/C++ Compiler

Watcom has been around a long time. I wrote applications with it in 1995, so the hardware/software requirements (listed below) to use it should not prove difficult.

  1. IBM PC compatible
  2. An 80386 or higher processor
  3. 8 MB of memory
  4. Hard disk with enough space available to install the components you require.
  5. A CD-ROM disk drive

Download Watcom

The download page is on this page. Note this is an Open Source system and if you wish to donate anything to pay for hosting, development etc, it is possible to do so here. However, it is optional.

The download page holds multiple files with a date and size but no easy way to guess which you require. The file we need is open-Watcom-c-win32-X.Y.exe where X is 1, possibly 2 or higher and Y is anything from 1 to 9. At the time of preparation, the current version was 1.5 dated April 26, 2006, and is 60MB in size. Newer versions may appear. Look down the list until you see F77 (Fortran 77 ) files. The file you want should be the one before the first F77 file.

 [ ] open-watcom-c-win32-..> 07-Apr-2006 03:47 59.2M
[ ] open-watcom-c-win32-..> 13-Apr-2006 02:19 59.2M
[ ] open-watcom-c-win32-..> 21-Apr-2006 02:01 59.3M
[ ] open-watcom-c-win32-..> 26-Apr-2006 19:47 59.3M <--- This one
[ ] open-watcom-f77-os2-..> 18-Nov-2005 22:28 42.7M

There is a documentation website for this product in the form of a Wiki at here.

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How to Install the Open Watcom C/C++ Development System

Double Click the executable and you will be presented with a list of options. There is no need to change any - press next twice and the compiler will install.

After installation, it will ask about modifying environment variables and the default selected middle option (Modify local machine environment variables) should be selected. Click the Ok button.

You will need to reboot so the environment variables are correctly set.

At this point the Installation is complete.

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Open the Watcom IDE

Once you've installed Open Watcom (OW), you should see Open Watcom C-C++ on the Windows Program Menu. Click the Start button then move the cursor over Programs, The Open Watcom entry has a sub-menu and you want the fifth menu item, which is IDE. When you click this, the Open Watcom Integrated Development Environment (IDE) will open within a second or two.

The Watcom IDE

This is the heart of all development using OW. It contains project information and lets you compile and run applications. It is a bit dated looking and not a slick modern IDE like Visual C++ Express Edition, but it is an excellent and well-tested compiler and debugger and is ideal for learning C.

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Open a Sample Application

With the IDE open, click the File menu and then Open Project. Alternatively, you can click Ctrl + O. Browse to the Watcom installation folder (the default was C:\Watcom then Samples\Win and open the mswin.wpj file. You should see about 30 C projects that you can open.

You can compile all of these in one go. Click Actions on the menu then Make All (or just press the F5 key). This should whizz through and compile the lot in under a minute. You can view the IDE Log window. If you want to save this window, right click on it then click Save As.

The Image shows the log after compiling.

If you make the same mistake as I did, and click Window/Cascade on the IDE menu, you'll end up with a diagonal stripe of minimized windows. To find the right project, click Window then (right at the bottom) ​More windows...

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Load, Compile and Run a Sample Application

Click the IDE Window menu and at the bottom of the drop-down menu, click More Windows ...

A popup form will appear, scroll down the list of projects until you find life\win 32\life.exe. Select this and click the OK button.

You'll see a list of all the project source code files and resource files. Click on this window and hit the F5 key. That will make the project. Now click the running man icon (it's the 7th icon) and the application will run. It's another version of the Game of Life that I featured in my blog.

That finishes this tutorial but feel free to load up the remaining samples and try them out.

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Your Citation
Bolton, David. "How to Download and Install the Open Watcom C/C++ Compiler." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, Bolton, David. (2020, August 26). How to Download and Install the Open Watcom C/C++ Compiler. Retrieved from Bolton, David. "How to Download and Install the Open Watcom C/C++ Compiler." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 10, 2023).