Understanding Compatibility Settings

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated April 11, 2016)

1

When a program is created to work with Windows, it is typically created to work with a particular version of Windows. For instance, I have an older graphics-editing program that was designed to be used with Windows XP. It worked very well, and I became quite attached to the program. It did everything that I needed it to do, so there was no need to update it to a newer version. (The only thing added in the past decade for the program has been bells and whistles that I would never use.)

When I installed the program under Windows 7, it didn't work quite right. So, I took advantage of a rather esoteric Windows feature called the Compatibility Wizard. This feature configures an operating environment for older programs (such as my graphics-editing program) so that the older program thinks it is running in the older operating system. In other words, my graphics-editing program now thinks it is operating under Windows XP—even though it is really running in Windows 7—so it is happy and does its work well.

Don't make the mistake of assuming that my experience with the Compatibility Wizard means that it is only available in Windows 7. It is also available in later versions of Windows, as well.

You may never have the need to use the Compatibility Wizard, but it is good to know it is there and ready to help. It won't work in all instances, particularly with programs that relied on low-level function calls and older drivers. However, it is something to try if your old, faithful programs are no longer as faithful as you want.

How you actually use the Compatibility Wizard is covered in a different tip.

 This tip (5851) applies to Windows 7, 8, and 10.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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What is two minus 2?

2016-04-11 12:07:48

Henry Noble

Allen's mention that "It won't work in all instances,..." is important. The Compatibility Wizard resolves only superficial problems.
I have tried Compatibility settings many times over the years, but never have they solved a compatibility problem for me.
To keep valuable older programs running, I use one of three strategies:
1. If you have an old PC sitting around, install on it the old OS and old program. To remove the potential for security threats, simply disable Internet connectivity and use the program in a stand-alone mode.
2. Similar to the above, dual-boot, or multi-boot, into the older operating system. This requires a little more skill to set up, but reduces hardware clutter.
3. Create a virtual machine on your primary system and run the older OS in the virtual machine. This requires the most skill to set up, but provides immediate access to the old OS and program because no reboot is needed. However, it may not work with really old DOS programs that requires direct access to the hardware. For those programs, only 1 or 2 will work.


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