How to Make Old Programs Work in Windows Vista and 7

Many good programs and games that were written for Windows XP have problems in Windows Vista or Windows 7. There are two approaches to getting older applications to work in the more recent operating systems and they are the subject of this tip.

Compatibility Mode

Compatibility Mode is a way of trying to run a program as if it were in a different operating system.

  1. Right-click the icon or executable file for a program
  2. Choose  "Properties"
  3. Click the "Compatibility" tab
  4. If desired, click the button “Change settings for all users”
  5. Put a check by “Run this program in compatibility mode for:”
  6. In the drop-down menu, choose the older operating system that applies
  7. Click “Apply” and “OK”

With luck, this will get your application to work. However, Compatibility Mode does not succeed much of the time and there is another, more advanced approach.

Microsoft Application Compatibility Toolkit

A different way to attack compatibility problems is to download and install a free program from Microsoft called the Application Compatibility Toolkit. The download page is here. This toolkit has a number of features and a good tutorial on how to use it is given at TechRadar. Getting an old application to run properly may take some effort but it could be worth it to keep an old standby working.

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This tips section is maintained by Vic Laurie. Vic runs a Windows blog called The PC Informant and also operates a computer education website.

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by Dj Bobby (not verified) on 9. June 2011 - 6:53  (73529)

Can someon ep lease help me. I have a program called 2710 Dj, they dont make it anymore, it works on XP and VIsta, but not 7...ive tried, and nothing works....can someone help!!!!.......

by Randy Knowles (not verified) on 3. April 2011 - 4:18  (69389)

Hello everyone,

I live in an area of the country where there are many elderly people. Many of these wonderful people still have old computers that are running old software. However, little by little they are beginning to upgrade their computers and Operating Systems to the latest and greatest 64-bit Windows 7 – but they want to keep using their beloved old software. Therein lies the problem!

The other day I set up a new Windows 7 machine for a client. He and his wife had used [commercial software] programs for years and they couldn’t live without them!

Well as you can probably imagine, these two programs would not install. Both of these older programs are 16-bit and will not install on the 64-bit Windows 7 OS. If my client had purchased a computer running 32-bit Windows 7, he could have run his programs in Compatibility Mode but this function will not work in 64-bit Windows 7.

So, the guy was very disappointed but I stayed as “cool as a cucumber” because I knew that there were several, great, free virtual machine programs that will allow you to run these older 16-bit programs on Windows 7 64-bit.

These are the programs that I recommend:

1) DOSBox (DOSBox is a DOS emulator and only runs 16 bit MS-DOS programs and not 16 bit Windows Applications).

2) VirtualBox (a “virtual machine” that allows an unmodified operating system with all of its installed software to run in a special environment, on top of your existing operating system).

3) VMware Player (a “virtual machine” that will run legacy Windows applications on top of your existing operating system without interfering with the original OS).

Professor Randy says: 64-bit Windows 7 is great but it does have it’s drawbacks – it will not run 16-bit software. Not to fear though, because there are several great free programs that will run your 16-bit software within Windows 7 64-bit. You can truly then “have your cake and eat it too!”

[edit] Commercial software references removed

by Jorpho (not verified) on 18. March 2011 - 12:28  (68146)

I reckon probably the biggest problem afflicting Windows 7 users is that many of them are now running the 64-bit version of Windows 7, and unlike 32-bit XP, there is no way whatsoever to persuade 64-bit Windows 7 to run 16-bit programs. XP mode (or VMware) is really the best way to go.

(And of course if it's a really, really old application, DOSBox is the way to go. DOSBox can even run Windows 3.1 if you're so inclined.)

by RV (not verified) on 18. March 2011 - 12:06  (68143)

I like VMWare's VMPlayer for issues like this. It's essentially XP Mode offered by M$, but you can use different OS's. The downside is you have to have a normal OS installation CD, which most people probably won't have since most computers come with "restore" CDs or images. Having a multi-core CPU is also advisable.

The up side is once you have the virtual machine setup, you backup two files and the entire "computer" is backed up. No more spending hours to rebuild a computer. Just restore those two files.

by Roman Sokol (not verified) on 18. March 2011 - 9:51  (68140)

There is third level of complexity from M$ and is called "XP Mode" for Virtual PC. As I read it is intended for those who need older apps and are unable to get it to work with these you tell us about. In fact, I was unable to get "XP Mode" to work :-) It ended with BSOD all the time. But my win7 is somewhat nonstandard, "steroided" by tons of utils including those ported from Linux, so I can't say "it's not working, don't try it". I recommend you to modify your tip and add this third way for try.
BTW there is also level zero, which should be assumed obvious, but from my personal experience isn't. Yeah, ofcourse I mean trying if it is able to run normally, without any modifications :-). I have old Rally Championship, which I was able to play only on my old buddy with Win98. Newer with XP was unable start mipmapping etc. and game looks really ugly, no matter what I did. On my newest nb with win7 I tested it automatically with different compatibility settings and not suceeded. After that, not at first place, just as last try, I tested it without any and it works perfectly. I didn't expected that it is possible in newer windows when older ones was unable to do it. M$ tells everything improvement, but sometimes it is true. In this case have Win7 better backward compatibility then WinXP.
Have nice day

by v.laurie on 18. March 2011 - 14:31  (68153)

XP Mode is only available in more expensive versions of Windows 7. It is not available in Vista or in Windows 7 Home Premium.

by steel.i.span (not verified) on 19. March 2011 - 3:35  (68163)

Also, XP Mode will not run on some older CPUs.

by Roman Sokol (not verified) on 22. March 2011 - 20:41  (68357)

Both you and Jaurie before are right. But this can be mention inside of tip. Let imagine "There is another way to get older apps running for users of Windows 7 from version ...". I'm sure it's better than ommit it completely.

by v.laurie on 23. March 2011 - 0:12  (68361)

I appreciate your point. But the format of these tips is to keep it short. That means things are often omitted that a full article would include. That is why the comments are a valuable adjunct. Windows is complex and supplementary information is often provided in the comments, just as you have done by mentioning the virtual Windows XP option.

by Roman Sokol (not verified) on 22. March 2011 - 20:43  (68358)

v.laurie ofcourse :-)))
sorry for temporal blindness

by Michael Connor (not verified) on 17. March 2011 - 18:10  (68106)

This software will run old programs, and new ones! Safely!!!

Regards....Mike Connor

by Rob (not verified) on 18. March 2011 - 14:15  (68151)

You did not mention that it is FREE for home use.
I instinctively would shy away from MS Win7 XP mode, as they long ago forgot about 'KISS'
I would be interested to hear from users of Evalaze.

by boristhemoggy on 22. March 2011 - 7:26  (68305)

I tried it last night with a copy of Irfan View and it didn't work.
As soon as I ran Irfan view I wanted to batch resize a whole folder of images.
It simply would not open the dialogue box to do this. When I installed irfanview proper it opened instantly.
So really, Evalaze didn't work on the first program I tried it on.

by Pablo65 (not verified) on 20. March 2011 - 4:48  (68199)

Hi Rob,

I use MS Win7 XP mode and found it very easy to setup and configure to run some legacy programs I have.

I wouldn't say my computer knowledge is advanced or anything like that.

I will give this Evalaze thing a try also.



by Michael Connor (not verified) on 18. March 2011 - 21:58  (68158)

I only ever mention freeware here. That's what the site is about.

Everybody I have talked to who uses Evalaze, ( and more and more people are using it),say it is the best option available for software virtualisation.

Certainly the best I have ever used, and I have used just about all of them for various things.

The actual software virtualisation, although important, is actually secondary to the sandbox function.

Regards...Mike Connor

by boristhemoggy on 22. March 2011 - 7:28  (68304)

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