How to Run Old Windows or DOS Software on XP or Vista

Do you have old software that you can't run on XP or Vista? If that ancient (e.g., Windows 95 or 98, or even DOS) but favorite gaming, financial, or educational software will not run on your computer running Windows XP or Vista, here are a few options for you to try to run it:

For Old Windows Applications, Use Compatibility Mode

Both XP and Vista offer a built-in feature called Compatibility Mode. This allows the user to try to run the program in an old Windows mode. The steps to run Compatibility Mode are:
  1. Right-click on the file that starts the old program. This usually will be a file with an .exe or .com extension. If you cannot view the file extensions follow these steps:
    • In XP, go to My Computer > Tools > View tab > Files and Folders section under Advanced Settings and uncheck "Hide extensions for known file types" and click OK.
    • In Vista, open a folder or open Explorer then click the Layout button > click the View tab > uncheck "Hide extensions for known file types" and click OK.
  2. Click on Properties on the context menu.
  3. Click the Compatibility tab.
  4. Under Compatibility Mode use the drop-down box to select the appropriate compatibility mode for the program to open in. If an option doesn't work well, try the others and see if that fixes the problem.
If nothing works, you'll have to try to find a spare computer to run an old operating system on. Or you can wait until my tutorial on using a virtual machine to run the old operating system within your current Windows set up.

For Old DOS Applications, Use a DOS Emulator

I have a few old games that run only on DOS. I run them in DOSBox, which, you guessed it, emulates an Intel x86 computer. I just run DOSBox on my computer running XP and I run my DOS games in DOSBox. It's easy to install and run; the DOSBox Wiki has all you need to know about installing and running it.

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