Hack 81 Force XP-Incompatible Applications to Run


Don't throw away your old programs that can't run under XP. Use these hacks to force them to work.

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.

9.3.1 Use the Compatibility Wizard

If you find a program that won't run under XP, start with the easiest step. Run the Compatibility Wizard: choose Start Help and Support Fixing a Problem "Application and software problems" "Fix a problem" "Getting older programs to run on XP," then scroll down and click on Program Compatibility Wizard.

You'll be prompted to choose the software you want to fix and then 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. Figure 9-2 shows the wizard in action. The wizard then 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, try different settings until you get it working properly.

There may be some instances in which a program won't even install on your system. In those instances, run the Compatibility Wizard on the installation or setup program, commonly called 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.

Figure 9-2. Using the Compatibility Wizard

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 Compatibility. You can then manually configure compatibility settings, as shown in Figure 9-3. You can change the same settings as you can using the wizard. You may have to try several different settings before you find one that works.

Figure 9-3. Setting compatibility settings directly in the Compatibility dialog box

At the bottom of the Compatibility dialog box shown in Figure 9-3, you'll notice a setting that lets you turn off "advanced text services." That setting is applicable if you use speech recognition and text services, so if you use them in the application that won't run, try turning them off for this application to see whether it helps. If the program doesn't use these services, don't bother using the setting.

If the Compatibility Wizard doesn't work, try these steps:

  1. Check the software manufacturer's web site to see if an update, patch, or fix is available.

  2. Use Windows Update to see if a fix is available, by choosing Start Control Panel Windows Update.

  3. Update your sound card and video card drivers by checking the manufacturer sites and downloading new drivers.

  4. If the problem program is a game that uses DirectX, upgrade to the newest version of DirectX by going to http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/ and clicking on the DirectX link or searching for DirectX.

9.3.2 Use the Application Compatibility Toolkit

If the wizard doesn't work, turn to a more powerful tool, a little-known free program, the Application Compatibility Toolkit from Microsoft. It will automatically apply fixes to hundreds of programs to enable them to run under XP. You can find it in the \Support\Tools directory of the XP CD, though a much better bet is to download it from http://www.microsoft.com/windows/appcompatibility/default.mspx because newer versions are always being made available online.

Turn off your antivirus program before installing the Application Compatibility. The program makes many changes to numerous Registry entries, and antivirus software often interprets those changes as a malicious script.

After you install it, you don't have to do anything to fix the programs; the analyzer does it for you. It won't fix every program, though. To see if it fixed yours, go to C:\Program Files\Microsoft Windows Application Compatibility Toolkit\Applications\Compatibility Administrator, run Compatadmin.exe, and go to \System Database\Applications. You'll see a list of hundreds of programs that the toolkit has fixed. Scroll to see whether your problem application is on the list and, if it is, to see what fixes were applied. Figure 9-4 shows the fixes it applied to the MusicMatch Jukebox music software.

Figure 9-4. The Application Compatibility Toolkit

9.3.3 See Also

  • [Hack #82]