For some of you, Screen Antics (aka Johnny Castaway) might be a little before your time.  It’s even before my time, but it was introduced to me by my dad back when I was a little kid, and I thought it was the coolest screen saver ever.  To this day, anyone who knows what Screen Antics is, would agree that it’s probably the best screen saver in existence.  But there’s a problem:  Screen Antics was originally written for Windows 3.1 – it’s a 16-bit program.

While Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7 all have 32-bit versions which will run 16-bit applications, Microsoft didn’t find the need to include the 16-bit subsystem on x64 systems.  Fortunately, there is still a way to get Johnny to run on your machine if you have a 64-bit Windows installation. There’s actually more than one way if you have Windows 7 Professional or better running on hardware with VT (virtualization technology) capability, but a majority of people won’t fall into that category at this point, as VT is relatively new.

How to get Johnny to run:

If you are running a 32-bit version of Windows, you have it easy, as those versions of Windows include 16-bit support, so all you have to do is grab Johnny Castaway from the link below.  For 64-bit verions of Windows, we will have some hoops to jump through, and we will have to use a virtual machine to get 16-bit support, and unfortunately, you cannot set Johnny Castaway as your “default” screen saver (unless someone knows how to use a guest VM’s screen saver as the host’s default screen saver), however we can still get it to run.  As I mentioned before, there are two methods we can use to get Johnny Castaway to run on a 64-bit Windows installation.  Whether you have Windows 7, Windows Vista, or Windows XP, you will need a type of virtual machine software.

What you’ll need:

  1. VM software – There are a few different options for this.  Personally I would recommend using VirtualBox or VMWare.  If you do happen to have Windows 7 Pro or better, you could go for the Microsoft solution and setup XP Mode on your system.
    Downloads for Virtual Machine:

  2. Windows – A *legit* installation disc/image for a 32-bit version of Windows XP (or Vista), 98, 95, or even 3.1 if you wanna bring back some memories. Sorry, no download link for this ;)
  3. Screen Antics – For this part, you have two options that I have been able to find.  You can go with the original, old-school Screen Antics installation, which will run at any resolution but retain it’s original size at 640×480, or you can grab the rebuilt version designed to be more compatible with modern systems.  The modern Johnny Castaway automatically resizes your desktop to display Johnny fullscreen, but when you come back to windows, all your open windows will be resized to fit the resolution as well (all your VM windows, that is).

Install Johnny:

Once you have everything above, you can install Johnny Castaway on your 64-bit system.  After you’ve installed your virtual machine software and setup a virtual machine for Screen Antics to run on, you can go ahead and install whichever version of Screen Antics you chose to go with.  Note:  If you are using VMWare or VirtualBox, you may wish to install “VMWare Tools” or “Guest Additions” to allow “Unity” or “Seamless” mode when running your VM.

If you went with the new installer, much of the process is automatically done for you.  After running the installer, just make sure the screen saver is selected in your desktop properties and you’re good to go.

If you went with the original Screen Antics setup, then double click on ‘johncast.exe’ (you may want to put this in a separate folder for easier cleanup) and you should see a screen similar to this:

johncast.exe inflating setup files

Now you can double click the ‘SETUP’ file that’s created after the files are all inflated.  The installer will install Screen Antics and the files it needs to run in all the right places, and will finally display a message that doesn’t completely make sense, but lets you know that the installation was successful.

screen antics inatallation success message Scrantic screen saver

All you have left to do now is configure your screen saver options and select ‘Scrantic’. In some cases, this is all you have to do and everything is fine.  However if you click “Preview” and nothing happens, or there is no “Scrantic” option to select in your screen saver dropdown, here’s the quick fix that allows Johnny to show up properly:

Open up a command prompt, via Start > Run or Press <windows key> + r, and type cmd and press enter (note: for Vista and Windows 7 users, you will need to run an elevated command prompt).
In the command prompt box enter the following:
ren %windir%\SCRANTIC.SCR ssSCRANTIC.SCR
and you have Johnny Castaway, 13 years later, still trying to get off that damn island.

Screenshots:

screen antics running in virtual machine

Screen Antics running in VMWare Player

modern screen antics running fullscreen

Modern Screen Antics running fullscreen in Unity/Seamless Mode

original screen antics running fullscreen

Classic Screen Antics running fullscreen in Unity/Seamless Mode