How to Make Old Programs Work on Windows 10
Programs Work Most of your older Windows apps should just work on Windows 10. If they worked on Windows 7, they’ll almost certainly work on Windows 10. Some older PC applications won’t just work, but there are many ways to get them working again.
These tricks cover a variety of applications, from Windows XP-era apps and old PC games that require outdated DRM to DOS and Windows 3.1 applications.
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Run as Administrator
Many applications developed for Windows XP will work properly on a modern version of Windows, except for one little issue. During the Windows XP era, average Windows users typically used their PC with an Administrator account all the time. Applications were coded to just assume they had administrative access and would fail if they didn’t. The new User Account Control (UAC) feature mostly fixed this issue, but there were some teething problems at first.
If an older application isn’t working properly, try right-clicking its shortcut or .exe file, and then selecting “Run as Administrator” to launch it with administrative permissions.
If you find that an app does require administrative access, you can set the app to always run as an administrator using the compatibility settings we discuss in the next section.
Adjust Compatibility Settings
Windows includes compatibility settings that can make old applications functional. In Windows 10’s Start menu, right-click a shortcut, select “Open file location” from the context menu
Once you have the file’s location, right-click the app’s shortcut or .exe file, and then select “Properties” from the context menu.
On the “Compatibility” tab of the app’s properties window, you can click the “Use the compatibility troubleshooter” button for a wizard interface or just adjust the options yourself.
For example, if an application doesn’t run properly on Windows 10 but did run properly on Windows XP, select the “Run this program in compatibility mode for” option, and then select “Windows XP (Service Pack 3)” from the dropdown menu.
Don’t be shy about trying the other settings on the “Compatibility” tab, too. For example, very old games may benefit from “Reduced color mode”. On high DPI displays, you may have to check the “Disable display scaling on high DPI settings” to make a program look normal. No options on this tab can hurt your app or PC—you can always just turn them back off if they don’t help.
Install Unsigned Drivers or 32-bit Drivers
The 64-bit version of Windows 10 uses driver signature enforcement and requires all drivers have a valid signature before they can be installed. 32-bit versions of Windows 10 normally don’t require signed drivers. The exception to this is that 32-bit versions of Windows 10 running on a newer PC with UEFI (instead of regular BIOS) often do require signed drivers. Enforcing signed drivers helps improve security and stability, protecting your system from drivers that are malicious or simply unstable. You should only install unsigned drivers if you know they’re safe and have a good reason to do so.
If old software you want to install does need unsigned drivers, you’ll have to use a special boot option to install them. If only 32-bit drivers are available, you’ll have to use the 32-bit version of Windows 10 instead—the 64-bit version of Windows 10 requires 64-bit drivers. Use this process if you need to switch to the 32-bit version, downloading the 32-bit version of Windows 10 instead of the 64-bit version.
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Run Games That Require SafeDisc and SecuROM DRM
Windows 10 won’t run older games that use SafeDisc or SecuROM DRM. These digital rights management schemes can cause quite a few problems. Overall, it’s a good thing that Windows 10 doesn’t allow this junk to install and pollute your system. Unfortunately, it does mean that some older games that came on physical CDs or DVDs won’t install and run normally.
You have a variety of other options for playing these games, including searching for a “no CD” crack (which are potentially very unsafe, as they’re often found on shady piracy sites), repurchasing the game from a digital distribution service like GOG or Steam, or checking the developer’s website to see if it offers a patch that removes the DRM.
More advanced tricks include installing and dual-booting into an older version of Windows without this restriction, or attempting to run the game in a virtual machine with an older version of Windows. A virtual machine may even work well for you, since games using these DRM schemes old enough now that even a virtual machine can likely handle their graphics demands.