Windows 7 : Getting Older Programs to Run - Quick-and-Dirty Program Compatibility, Using Windows XP Mode

9/1/2012 9:24:42 PM

1. Quick-and-Dirty Program Compatibility

The Program Compatibility Wizard provides an easy way to choose and test settings for program compatibility. Those settings are stored on the Compatibility tab of the program file's Properties sheet. You can use the wizard to change compatibility settings, or you change settings manually right in the Properties sheet by following these steps:

  1. Click the Start button, choose All Programs, and get to the startup icon that you'd normally click to run the program.

  2. Right-click the program's startup icon and choose Properties.

  3. In the Properties dialog box that opens, click the Compatibility tab. 

  4. Choose Run This Program in Compatibility Mode For and then choose the operating system for which the program was written. If the program installs and runs, but exhibits other symptoms (such as display problems), leave this option unselected.

  5. If you are having problems with the program's display, choose appropriate display settings in the Settings group.

  6. If the program seems to have permission problems, select Run This Program as an Administrator.

  7. If you want to apply the settings for everyone who uses the program, click the Change Settings for All Users button to open a similar Properties dialog box, and set properties there as needed.

  8. Click OK.

The compatibility settings will stick to the program. So you can just start the program normally, from the All Programs menu, at any time. Just keep in mind there's no guarantee that you'll be able to force all programs to run in Windows 7.

2. Using Windows XP Mode

Microsoft recognizes that many small-to-midsize business users need to continue to run applications designed for previous versions of Windows on Windows 7, and that the compatibility features in previous versions of Windows were only a partial solution. To provide a better solution, Microsoft has developed a new compatibility platform that leverages new hardware virtualization technologies. This new platform is called Windows XP Mode and is part of the latest version of Windows Virtual PC.

Windows Virtual PC makes it possible to run virtual operating system instances under a Windows 7 host operating system. For example, given enough memory, you could run a Windows XP and a Linux virtual machine at the same time on one computer. In this example, Windows 7 is the host operating system and Windows XP and Linux are the guest operating systems. The guest OSs run in their own environments separate from one another and from the host OS. However, they can use the host's hardware, such as USB ports, printers, and so on.

Figure 1. Compatibility settings.

Windows XP Mode runs the applications that you specify in a Windows XP virtual machine. The application running in Windows XP Mode appears to be installed like any other application on your desktop, but instead runs in the Windows XP virtual machine when launched.

To take advantage of Windows XP Mode in Windows 7, your computer's CPU must support either the Intel™ Virtualization Technology or AMD-V® feature, and that feature must be enabled in the computer's BIOS. To determine if your computer's CPU supports either of these features, first determine what type of CPU it has. Click Start, right-click Computer, and choose Properties. The resulting System applet shows the processor type. Look for either Intel or AMD to determine which type of CPU you have.

Next, visit and follow the appropriate link to download either the Intel or the AMD compatibility checker. These tools check your computer to determine whether the CPU supports the required virtualization technology.

If you computer meets the virtualization requirement, the next step is to download and install Windows Virtual PC from Then, download and install Windows XP Mode from the same link. With both of those installed, you should see a Virtual Windows XP item under the Windows Virtual PC item in the Start menu. Clicking this launches the Windows XP virtual machine for the first time, and you are taken through a wizard that configures the XP environment where you specify whether to enable Windows updates, user account credentials to use in the virtual environment, and a few other items.

When the virtual environment finishes configuration and loads, you'll see a Windows XP desktop running in a window, complete with its own Start menu, taskbar, and other Windows XP elements. Next, in the Windows XP virtual machine, install the applications that you need to run in Windows XP Mode. After the installation is complete, you'll see a shortcut for the application in the Windows XP virtual machine's Start menu, and also in the host Windows 7 Start menu. You can launch the program from either shortcut.

To learn more about Windows Virtual PC and Windows XP Mode, visit the Windows Virtual PC site referenced previously.

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