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Subprocesses on Windows 95 and NT

Emacs compiled as a native Windows application (as opposed to the DOS version) includes full support for asynchronous subprocesses. In the Windows version, synchronous and asynchronous subprocesses work fine on both Windows 95 and Windows NT as long as you run only 32-bit Windows applications. However, when you run a DOS application in a subprocess, you may encounter problems or be unable to run the application at all; and if you run two DOS applications at the same time in two subprocesses, you may have to reboot your system.

Since the standard command interpreter (and most command line utilities) on Windows 95 are DOS applications, these problems are significant when using that system. But there's nothing we can do about them; only Microsoft can fix them.

If you run just one DOS application subprocess, the subprocess should work as expected as long as it is "well-behaved" and does not perform direct screen access or other unusual actions. If you have a CPU monitor application, your machine will appear to be 100% busy even when the DOS application is idle, but this is only an artifact of the way CPU monitors measure processor load.

You must terminate the DOS application before you start any other DOS application in a different subprocess. Emacs is unable to interrupt or terminate a DOS subprocess. The only way you can terminate such a subprocess is by giving it a command that tells its program to exit.

If you attempt to run two DOS applications at the same time in separate subprocesses, the second one that is started will be suspended until the first one finishes, even if either or both of them are asynchronous.

If you can go to the first subprocess, and tell it to exit, the second subprocess should continue normally. However, if the second subprocess is synchronous, Emacs itself will be hung until the first subprocess finishes. If it will not finish without user input, then you have no choice but to reboot if you are running on Windows 95. If you are running on Windows NT, you can use a process viewer application to kill the appropriate instance of ntvdm instead (this will terminate both DOS subprocesses).

If you have to reboot Windows 95 in this situation, do not use the Shutdown command on the Start menu; that usually hangs the system. Instead, type CTL-ALT-DEL and then choose Shutdown. That usually works, although it may take a few minutes to do its job.

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