Running Older Software On Your Newer System

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One of the great tools in the Windows operating system is the compatibility mode. Many people don't even realize they have this feature. Microsoft made it pretty standard starting with Windows XP.


At the time, Microsoft was on a roll, putting out patches and new versions of Windows quickly. They realized they needed to make the operating system usable with older software that was made for Windows 95 and 98 (even Windows for Workgroups and DOS). The term in the computer industry is "backward compatible".

If you have an operating system that is backward compatible then you can run older software that you already own instead of being required to go out and buy new. This was especially true for Microsoft Office which for a good long time (and probably still is) was a pretty pricey package.

Here is what you do, there are a couple ways you may have to set up backward compatibility. There are also packages of software that may have your OS listed as compatible, but the software doesn't work as well as it did on your old operating system. You can set it up under compatibility mode, as well, and see if it does better (Wordperfect was famous for this).


Put your software in your CD Rom drive and see if it starts trying to install. It may pop up a window that says this software is not compatible with this version of Windows. Click the Okay button or Exit button and close the window.

If it doesn't spit out your CD go to Windows Explorer (Start - Programs - Accessories on most Windows OS) click on your CD Rom drive and it will show you the files on the CD. There is usually a "setup" file within these files. Right click on this file and select "properties" in the selections. A new window will open which has tabs across the top of the provided information. One of these tabs will be "compatibility". Click on this tab.

Within the compatibility window you have 3 sections: compatibility mode, settings, and privilege level. If you click in the box for compatibility mode it will give you access to the drop down which lists several Microsoft operating systems. Pick the one that your software was designed for.


Now look at settings. If your software is older you may have to select some setting for it to run properly. For example, a friend of mine wanted to run Zork which is a really really old computer game. It wasn't designed for lots of colors so her current monitor would not be compatible. We knew the game was designed for 256 colors so after we set the compatibility mode we clicked on the box for 256 colors. Click "Okay" and you're off.

Now, once the program installs you may have to do the compatibility mode all over again. The first time was for the "setup" program to work. Now you have to do the same thing for the installed program. If the setup put a shortcut on your desktop you can set the compatibility setting to the shortcut and it will transfer them to the main program.


If it did not set up a desktop short cut you need to go to: Start - Programs, then find the program, right click it, select properties and compatibility. If you want to have a short cut on your desktop you can drag the program to your desktop holding down your right mouse key and (after you let go of the key) you can select "create shortcut here". Set the compatibility settings to the short cut and you're good to go.

Now if at the beginning of all this, when you tried putting your CD in your drive and it said it was not compatible, do the following. After you click Okay or Exit, if it spits out your CD then complete this extra step.

If when you put the CD in your drive and it popped up with a window asking if you wanted to continue installing this software you can click "no" and it may not spit out your disk.


If it went straight to installing your software then when you put the disc in you need to hold down, okay I forget, it is either your CTL key, your ALT key, or your SHIFT key. One of them over rides your automatic play settings for your CD drive. Maybe someone knows this little part of the trick and can confirm what to do for everyone. :) Hey, I can't know it all, I've slept since then.

I hope this helps people, it definitely opens the door to playing older games on your PC that were never updated to the new operating systems.

Disclaimer: I have never used Windows 7 so I don't know if it has Windows compatibility mode. The one thing that has always impressed me about Microsoft products is they almost never take away a software's functionality. So if they hold true to form, Windows 7 has this function as well. The steps may be different to set it up, but I'm almost certain it is there.


Source: Learned growing up with Microsoft products (since pre DOS 5.0)

By Suntydt from Tazewell, TN

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October 9, 20110 found this helpful

Thanks for this information, Suntydt! My friend has an older version of Doom that he wants to play on his new laptop (Windows 7) but hasn't been able to make it work. It has something to do with being a 32-bit program & a 64-bit OS. Your tutorial just might help him. I'm copying it & printing it out to give to him & hopefully he'll be able to enjoy his game!

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