Running sparks on a 64-bit Machine Table of Contents Introduction

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Running SPARKS on a 64-bit Machine


Table of Contents

  1. Introduction

  1. Install DOSbox

  1. Install SPARKS

  1. Exception- Backup


The following steps will guide you through the installation, configuration, and use of Sparks on a 64-bit Operating System by using an open-source software emulator called DOSbox. 


This works for both Vista and Windows 7 64-bit computers.  (You may use the regular Sparks installation for 32-bit Operating Systems, i.e. Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7 32-bit.)


ISIS Support recommends contacting your in-house IT Staff before proceeding so that they are aware of the need and expected usage of both DOSbox and Sparks.  Note that ISIS has never recommended running Sparks on a network.


Please contact ISIS Support with any questions, concerns, or requests for help regarding this procedure.

NOTE:  If you wish to run MedARKS on this computer as well - two programs using DosBox - you will need to do a different style of installation.  Please contact


Install DOSbox:

  1. Go to the official DOSbox page and choose to Download the appropriate version for use on your computer.  To download the version for Windows, click this direct link to the file. 

    NOTE:  If you are using IE6, you must visit the homepage and download the file using the Download link and menu.

  1. After downloading, run the DOSbox file and choose where to install DOSbox on your system. Using the default installation choices are fine.  A DOSbox icon will appear on your Desktop when complete.

  1. For more information, please visit the DOSbox Wiki.  You may also check their manual at 


Install SPARKS:

NOTE:  If you already have an installed copy of Sparks on another computer that you wish to transfer to this one, skip to Step 2.  Create the ISISDosBox folder, and then use a memory stick to move the existing Sparks folder, including any studbook folders, from the other computer to this location.  Skip to Step 4.


1. Contact ISIS Support to receive a copy of the Sparks Install files. 


2. Use Windows Explorer to create a folder called C:\ISISdosbox.  Click on the Local Disk (C:) folder and pick File > New > Folder from the menu.  Name it ISISdosbox.  



Click on the ISISdosbox folder and again pick File > New > Folder to create a subfolder under the ISISdosbox folder.  Name it Sparks. (If you already have a working copy of Sparks on another computer, use a memory stick to move a copy to this location.)


3. Open the Sparks ZIP file that you received from ISIS Support and Extract all of the Sparks program files into the Sparks folder you just created.

4. If there are no studbooks folders yet, use Windows Explorer to create a studbook folder under C:\ISISdosbox\Sparks.  The name can be up to 8 characters long and should contain no spaces, i.e. LION or PENGUIN or COBRA.  Extract your studbook data files into it from a ZIP file.  You may also use a memory stick to move an entire studbook folder to this location from another computer.  You may have multiple studbook folders under the C:\ISISdosbox\Sparks folder.


5. Using Windows Explorer, look in the c:\Program Files (x86)\DOSBox-0.74 folder.  Find a file called Dosbox0.74 options.bat   Open this file with NotePad.  At the very bottom of the file, add these lines.  Save the file.   [Note that you may need to type    sparks16    if installing that version.]

      mount c c:\isisdosbox  
      cd sparks

6. Find the DOSbox Icon that was created on your Desktop when you installed the DOSbox software from the download site.  Right click on it, pick Properties.  On the General tab, replace the name in the box at the top of this window with a name like DosBox Sparks. On the Shortcut tab, click on the Change Icon button, go to the \ISISDosBox\Sparks folder and pick the Sparks.ico file. Pick OK at the bottom of the window to save.


You will have a Sparks icon.

7.  Double-click on the icon. DOSbox will first open a window that looks much like Windows DOS, and then will open a second window for Sparks on top of the first window.  This is normal operation.

You may see your studbook data, if it is already loaded, or you may see something similar to this screen (which is trying to find Chinese leopard data).  Press any key to continue if needed.



If you see this message, pick Ignore by typing an I. (It is trying to open a studbook dataset which isn't in this computer.)



If you see a notice about printers, ignore it (not an actual problem) and press any key to continue. 



If Sparks asks you to confirm today's date, type a Y to confirm the date and continue.



If Sparks stops and asks for an Access Code, your Access code is your ISIS institution code.  Check with your registrar, ISIS representative or with ISIS.

If you get a warning about "No studbook data for CHLEOP_I found to open..." or any other dataset, press any key to continue.

If you get a warning about "You may be running two copies of Sparks or need to change studbooks...", press any key to continue.

You will then see the main Sparks menu.  You may choose Change Studbooks to load a studbook that is already present under the \ISISdosbox\Sparks folder.  If there are no studbooks yet, you may use Windows Explorer to create a studbook folder under c:\ISISdosbox\Sparks.  Extract studbook data files from a ZIP file.

Enter data into Sparks as normal.  When you are finished with your work, return to the Sparks main menu and type an X to exit.



Exception- Backup:

Sparks works well in DosBox.  However, the one thing that no longer works is System Utilities > Backup because Sparks is set up as a subfolder.  You’ll need to do a backup separately.  There are several good options:

     Use Windows Explorer and a memory stick - slide a copy of your studbook folder(s) onto it.

     Use Windows Explorer.  

  • Go to the studbook folder.  Click on Edit > Select All.  Right click in the middle of the blue-ness.

  • Pick Send To > Compressed ZIP file and it will create a ZIP file containing of the files in this folder.  It will have a temporary name.  

  • Name the file something sensible, like     Cheetah

  • And remember to MOVE this completed file to a memory stick or CD or DVD, so that when your computer crashes, gets stolen etc, you will have a copy of the data. 

  • Repeat for the next studbook.

      Any other zip/compression utility you happen to own will work as well.



LBL   14 June 2011


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