How to run older programs in Windows 10 using compatibility settings

At its core, Windows 10 is very similar to Windows 8.1 and Windows 7, although it’s also very different from older operating systems like Windows XP. Most of the desktop apps that were developed for Windows 8.1 or Windows 7 will likely work just as well in Windows 10. On the other hand, it’s unlikely that apps which were developed for Windows XP work well on Windows 10. Regardless, if you have an older program that crashes on Windows 10 and you must use it no matter what, you can try to run it using Windows 10’s compatibility settings. They can make old apps work, even if the apps weren’t designed to function in Windows 10. Read this guide to find out everything there is to know about Windows 10’s compatibility settings and how to use them to run old programs:

A word of caution

Although compatibility settings are a very good way of making older programs functional in Windows 10, it doesn’t mean that you should apply them to any old software programs. For instance, it’s highly advisable that you don’t apply compatibility settings to programs like old antivirus/security programs or disk management utilities. Using compatibility settings on software that deals with security products can mean that they don’t function at their fullest and, as such, may not protect you as they should. On the same note, using compatibility settings on disk software means that the software is not working like it should, which is not something you’d want for programs that deal with such important things as your hard drives. For instance, a disk utility that runs in compatibility mode can do unexpected things like corrupting your hard drive’s master boot record.

How to run the Program Compatibility Troubleshooter

The simplest way of applying compatibility settings to an older program that doesn’t work as it should on your Windows 10 computer, is to run the Program Compatibility Troubleshooter wizard.

To launch it, right click or tap and hold the executable file or the shortcut of your old program. Then, in the contextual menu, click or tap “Troubleshoot compatibility .

The Program Compatibility Troubleshooter automatically checks for possible issues, and then it offera you two choices: “Try recommended settings” and “Troubleshoot program”.

Here’s how compatibility settings are applied, depending on the option you choose:

  • “Try recommended settings” - the wizard tries to apply and use compatibility settings that are automatically selected by Windows 10. After choosing this solution, the wizard tells you which compatibility settings it used and lets you test the program to see if it now works. If everything worked well, you can save the compatibility settings and close the wizard. If not, you can go back and try different settings or you can report the problem to Microsoft and search for a solution online.

  • “Troubleshoot program” - walks you through a shorter or longer series of questions designed to help Windows 10 understand what issues are stopping the program from functioning properly. For instance, you can tell Windows 10 that “The program worked in earlier versions of Windows but won’t install or run now” or that the “Program starts in a small window (640x480 pixel) and won’t switch to full screen”. Based on your answers, Windows 10’s Program Compatibility Troubleshooter can set the appropriate compatibility settings that are needed by your old program in order to function.

The Program Compatibility Troubleshooter should be able to help you apply the appropriate compatibility settings that are needed by just about any old desktop application. However, if the wizard didn’t do the job for you, or if you prefer doing things the old way, you can also change compatibility settings manually. Read the following section of this tutorial to see how.