WordStar 3.x for DOS displays @@@@ in the top left of the screen when run from a hard drive. The PC has a large hard disk, or is using MS-DOS 7 (Windows 9x) and FAT32.

WordStar 3.3x uses File Control Blocks (FCBs) to manipulate files (open, close, rename, delete, etc.), which is why it can't deal with files that aren't in the current working directory on each drive letter. The @@@@ signifies that WordStar can't find its overlay files.

FCBs are not fully supported in a DOS-emulation window in Win9x and don't work at all when you boot to DOS (command prompt only).

On FAT32-formatted drives, FCBs aren't supported even as well as that when running in real mode or 'Restart in MS-DOS' mode. WordStar 3.3x will fail to find any files (including its own overlays) if it is looking on a FAT32 drive.

With a default configuration WordStar is trying to find its overlays on A: because it can't see them on C: (a large, or FAT32 partition) even though that's where its installed. Configured to use C: as the 'system' drive, WS.COM doesn't look on A: and still can't see them on C:, so you get the @@@@ in the upper left.


To run WordStar 3.3x under Win9x, you should boot into real mode or reboot to DOS mode, and stay on a partition that uses the FAT16 format. Any partition under 512MB should meet this latter requirement.

Running WordStar from a floppy will also work and will save the need for repartitioning a FAT32 disk. However, some problems still exist:

  • It still won't work in a DOS-emulation window.
  • It won't work if you try to edit files on a FAT32 drive, even in real mode.
  • You can, of course, boot into real mode and copy the files you want to edit to a floppy that has WordStar 3.3 on it, but then you run foul of an entirely different problem, which is that the BIOS code that handles floppies can corrupt floppies if the program does frequent disk writes.
  • Floppies are slow.


Set aside a 20-120MB FAT16 partition for use with WordStar 3.3. If the disk is already partitioned, use Partition Magic to make space for such a partition. Note that this may cause drive letters to change - especially of CD drives, etc. Partition Magic includes utilities to help correct for this.

Applicability to Other Versions of WordStar

Later versions of WordStar - WordStar 4 onward - use file handles to manipulate files and do not have these problems. They work properly in a DOS-emulation window so the above is not necessary.