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Old 05-07-2008, 01:04 PM   #1
Japo
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Default Games for older Windows versions

The ideal solution is getting old Windows games to run natively in your version of Windows, and it can sometimes be managed. First of all try just running it with no modifications; there can result a number of outcomes.
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It may happen that it fails immediately and you see something like



(If it's not this message what you see, click here to skip this part.) This means that your Windows is 64-bit and, either the program is for MS-DOS (6.x or lower) or for Windows 16-bit (Windows 3.x or earlier, really old). So make sure you know which is the case. The sure way to know is to try to run it in DOSBox or DOS: a Windows program will show a clear message: "This program cannot be run in DOS mode."

If the program is for DOS, refer to the DOSBox tutorials. If it's for Windows 16-bit there are two possible solutions:

- Install Windows 3.11 on DOSBox easily, courtesy of Mr. Horseman, so this kind of games can run natively inside DOSBox's emulation.

- Install Windows 95, 98 or Me on virtualization software such as Virtual PC. The good thing about these versions of Windows is that they run both 32-bit and 16-bit Windows programs natively, so it should cover everything that DOSBox and your own Windows don't. On the other hand in Windows XP and higher 32-bit (and NT), 16-bit Windows programs are run in emulation, not natively, even if they may work fine; and in 64-bit versions of Windows they can't run at all, as we've seen. Besides, Windows NT, 2000, XP and higher introduced user accounts with access restrictions, even if little used in practice, that could cause problems with programs for Windows 9x and earlier which had no such thing.

And Virtual PC is really fast and efficient (except for leveraging your graphic card), and very easy to set up.
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It may also happen that the game doesn't work right but such a clear message isn't shown. There's something simple you can try. Right-click on the game's executable or shortcut and select "Properties":


In the ensuing dialogue box select the "Compatibility" tab, enable the option "Run this program in compatibility mode for", and just below select the Windows version that the game was made for, from a list that will depend on the Windows version you actually have:


If when starting the game there's still an error because the game doesn't change the colour depth on its own, enable the 256 colours option as well; and if the image size isn't correct enable the 640x480 resolution option.

Windows 3.x isn't available (see the previous step to learn how to run games for Windows 3.x), but most games for that version work fine most times, at least in 32 bits newer versions. On the other hand the more recent versions of Windows (95 and later) can't be installed in DOSBox.
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Oftentimes, programs made for old versions of Windows (and even programs made recently with poor technique) have trouble running without full administrator access, that is in a limited or the guest accounts in XP, or even in an administrator account if UAC is enabled in 7 and Vista. A sure sign of this is a message saying "access denied".

But many programs may fail silently, giving you no information. In this case try the compatibility mode first (click here to read about it), and if that doesn't help, read on here below.

(Please NOTE that you must not do this if you don't trust the origin of the particular program. Running untrusted software with administrator access is a security risk, and it would give virus and other malicious software free rein.)

To see if this is the cause of the problem, if you have Windows 7 or Vista, right-click on the program and choose "run as administrator" (you may be asked for a password, if you're not logged in as admin). If you have XP (or 2000 or NT) right-click on the program and choose "run as..." and enter the credentials of an administrator account. But running a program as another user can only be done if this user has a password (otherwise if allowed any automated virus could do it); if the admin account doesn't have one, just log onto it directly and try running the game from there. In Windows 7 and Vista you MUST choose the "run as administrator" option even if you're logged in as such.

If this solves the problem, the "run as" options can be made the default double-click action by right-clicking on the program or shortcut, selecting "properties" and then clicking on the "advanced..." button.

Be warned that a program may have several problems in a newer Windows version, for example it may be necessary to use both admin access and the compatibility mode to make it run well.
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If we're still having problems after trying all this, the ultimate solution is to install the version of Windows that the game is for on virtualization software such as Virtual PC. Click here to learn how.

Last edited by Japo; 10-03-2012 at 12:29 AM.
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Old 05-07-2008, 01:10 PM   #2
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Heavy warning: when installing anything which is Windows related VIA DOSbox, never ever mount your original c:\ drive. Mount a subfolder under another drive name instead.

Mounting your c:\ drive and installing any version of Windows will rip appart your current Windows system, registery files and the like. Try this at your own risk.
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Old 05-07-2008, 01:24 PM   #3
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it won't if your system is on different drive than c
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Old 05-07-2008, 01:48 PM   #4
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A last-case scenario is to simply buy a small hard drive an install Windows 98 on it. Since that system was supported up to 2005, any hardware produced before that date should have Windows 98 drivers available either on its support CD or from the producer's website.

It's not a solution for those faint of heart, but some old games just ain't going to work on XP no matter how hard you try.
Windows 98 in Virtual PC on a 1,7 gHz machine = agonizingly slow.
Windows 98 on a 1,7 gHz machine = smooth and fast.
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Last edited by The Fifth Horseman; 05-07-2008 at 01:52 PM.
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Old 05-07-2008, 01:51 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by _r.u.s.s. View Post
it won't if your system is on different drive than c
How interesting _r.u.s.s., and what about the sys bootfiles?
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Old 05-07-2008, 01:53 PM   #6
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what? you can have hdd without any boot files or os-es
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Old 05-07-2008, 02:02 PM   #7
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On c:\ in Windows? That will be the day.
And don't say some crap as external drive please.
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Old 05-07-2008, 03:47 PM   #8
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You can mount any directory in DOSBox as you want. If you absolutly need a c:\ drive, then simply mount another directory than c:\ as your own virtual c:\.

As long as you don't mount your real c:\ drive!
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Old 05-07-2008, 04:20 PM   #9
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I'm using Virtual PC to play Baldur's Gate for Win95, and Civ2 and Col for Win3.1. The good thing about Win9x is that it runs Win3.x programs natively as well as DOS ones. I could install Win3.x programs in my real XP machine but they would use ntvdm.exe with huge processor usage, and they need admin rights.

VPC runs Win98 as fast as a real machine in my computer (2.8 GHz dual core, enough RAM assigned to the virtual machine). I'm not sure but dual core might be very advantageous to run virtual machines; anyway assigning enough physical RAM to each virtual machine is enourmously important to get decent performance. I've been observing less processor usage since I updated my VPC 2007 with its SP1.

A virtual machine is very handy and it lets you make manual system restore to any machine, just backup its virtual hard drive file. Keep in mind that a virtual machine on a virtual hard drive file can have two levels of fragmentation (in the virtual drive and in the file on a real drive that contains the virtual drive), and both at the same time would have multiplied effects. You can defragment your virtual hard drive file without need to defragment your whole real drive every time, with programs such as Contig. And of course keep your virtual hard drive defragmented with a defragmenting tool installed on the virtual system (any version of Windows includes one that's good enough). Of course you only have to fix defragmentation after installing new software etc.
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Last edited by Japo; 17-01-2011 at 06:45 PM.
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Old 25-05-2009, 06:25 PM   #10
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The suggestion for a Virtual PC is very handy! I installed my old copy of Windows 98 using Parallels which, if you have the money for it, is a very nice way to go. I think Parallels is available for PC, although I use it for Mac.

Mac users also might try Crossover to run old PC games, but generally my success with Crossover has been very limited.
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