Making XP-incompatible applications work

Learn about how to make some old programs meant for earlier versions of Windows work on XP.

Some older applications, including old games and programs written specifically for an earlier version of Windows, might not run properly or run at all under XP. But there's a lot you can do to make sure they run, including running an automated Compatibility Wizard and using a little-known Microsoft tool to solve compatibility problems.

If you find a program that won't run under XP, start with the easiest step. Run the Compatibility Wizard:

 

  1. Choose Start
  2. Select Help and Support
  3. Select Fixing a Problem
  4. Click on Application and software problems
  5. Under the Fix a problem label, select the Getting older programs to run on XP option
  6. Scroll down and click Program Compatibility Wizard.

You'll be prompted to choose the software you want to fix and then you will be asked a series of questions, including the operating system for which the software was written, or on which it last ran properly, and the screen resolutions recommended for the program. Once you've made your choices, the wizard applies those settings and tries to run the program. If the settings work, the wizard will let you specify to always run the program using them. If they don't work, try different settings until you get them working properly.

Sometimes you'll find a program won't even install on your system. In those instances, run the Compatibility Wizard on the installation or setup program, which commonly goes by Setup.exe or a similar filename. Then, after it installs, see if it works properly. If it doesn't, run the Wizard again, this time on the installed program.

If you're not a fan of Wizards, there's another way to set the program's compatibility settings. Right-click the program's shortcut icon and choose Properties and select the Compatibility tab. Then you can manually configure compatibility settings as per your requirements.

Please let us know how useful you find this tip by rating it below! If you have a useful Windows tip, timesaver or workaround to share, submit it to our tip contest and you could win a prize!

This was first published in September 2006

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