Gaming Windows

How to Run Old Games & Software in Windows 8

Chris Hoffman 05-08-2013

One of Microsoft’s big strengths — and weaknesses — is their focus on backwards compatibility. Most Windows applications will work just fine on Windows 8. This is especially true if they worked on Windows 7, as Windows 8 is very similar to Windows 7. Some old games and software, particularly ones designed for older operating systems like Windows XP, Windows 98, or DOS, may not work properly out of the box. Whatever type of software you’re dealing with, whether it’s a PC game or a piece of business software, performing a Google search for the name of the game along with “Windows 8” or the exact error message you received will probably help. The below tips apply to all different types of software, but finding information specific to your buggy program is always a good idea.


Why Games & Software Might Not Be Compatible

There are a variety of reasons why programs and other software may not work properly on Windows 8.

  • Bad Programming Practices: Some software may depend on administrator access, which was taken for granted on Windows XP, and break when running as a standard user on newer versions of Windows. Some software may have depended on issues in older versions of Windows that have since been fixed, resulting in the application breaking on modern versions of Windows.
  • Dependencies on Old Versions of Software: Some software may depend on old libraries, like the .NET Framework version 3.5, which is not installed by default on Windows 8.
  • 16-bit Software: 64-bit versions of Windows no longer contain the compatibility layer for 16-bit Windows applications. If you have a 16-bit application written for Windows 3.1, you’ll need to use the 32-bit version of Windows 8 to run it.
  • DOS Software: Windows 8, like all versions of Windows back to Windows XP, no longer runs on top of DOS. While some DOS software still runs, advanced DOS software — like PC games written for DOS — doesn’t work in the Command Prompt environment.

Before Upgrading

Microsoft has some information you can consult before upgrading. You can download and run the Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant, which will scan your computer and let you know if your software and hardware will work properly under Windows 8. This won’t detect all programs that won’t work properly, but it still provides some useful information.


Microsoft also provides a Windows Compatibility Center website that lists whether games, other software, and hardware will work properly on Windows 8. The website also provides a discussion feature so you can see what other users say about their experiences.



Update Your Software

If the software won’t run on Windows 8, you should update it to the latest versions with whatever patches are available. For example, an old game may not run properly on Windows 8 when installed from disc, but the game’s developer may have released a patch that allows the game to run on newer versions of Windows. You should also try updating related software. For example, many games using Microsoft’s own Games for Windows Live don’t run properly on Windows 8 until an update for GFWL is installed.


You may also need to install old libraries that your software depends on. For example, Windows 8 only includes version 4.5 of the .NET Framework. If you receive a .NET Framework-related error, you should visit the control panel and install the .NET Framework 3.5 package, which allows software that depends on .NET 3.5, 3.0, or 2.0 to run.


Run as Administrator

Fixing a problematic application could be as simple as running it in administrator mode. Windows normally detects when applications require administrator access and deals with this, but it may not always work. To run a program in administrator mode, just right-click its shortcut and select Run as administrator.


You could also fix this by disabling User Account Control entirely. We don’t recommend disabling UAC, as it’s an important security feature The MUO Security Checklist: What You Need To Do Right Now To Be Safe Security can be an overwhelming subject – there are so many potential problems we need to think about when securing our computers, our online accounts, and our wireless networks. This list should help simplify things... Read More and it shouldn’t bug you too much — UAC has improved a lot from its sorry state in Windows Vista. Almost every Windows program will work fine with UAC enabled.

Enable Compatibility Mode

Windows 8 includes a Program Compatibility Troubleshooter along with compatibility options you can tweak. Just right-click the shortcut for the program you’re having problems with, select Properties, and click the Compatibility tab. From here, you can run the compatibility troubleshooter to have Windows walk you though choosing settings that my fix your problem. Alternatively, you can try to trick the program into thinking it’s running on a previous version of Windows, such as Windows XP or Windows 98. This may solve problems with programs that worked on previous programs but no longer work. The Compatibility tab also allows you to always start programs in administrator mode — useful if they must be run as administrator.



Use DOSBox

If you have an old DOS application that isn’t working properly in Windows — likely an old DOS game like the original DOOM games — you can run it in DOSBox How To Get Old DOS Computer Games To Run On Windows 7 Read More . DOSBox is a free application that runs a full DOS environment in a window on your computer, allowing you to run DOS software. It’s much more compatible and full-featured than the Command Prompt included with Windows. DOSBox works so well that many game developers bundle DOSBox with their own games — if you buy a game like the original DOOM or Quake games on Steam 8 Things You Didn't Know About Steam Steam started out as an annoying program that came with Half-Life 2, but it’s grown into the PC game store of choice for most PC gamers. Although some people aren’t fans and prefer alternative stores,... Read More , they’ll come bundled along with DOSBox.


Use a Virtual Machine

Virtual machines What Is a Virtual Machine? Everything You Need to Know Virtual machines allow you to run other operating systems on your current computer. Here's what you should know about them. Read More will allow you to run software that ran on previous versions of Windows. With a virtual machine, you can install a previous version of Windows — like Windows XP — and run it in a window on your computer. You can then run your old software in the virtual machine. Windows 8 no longer includes Windows 7’s Windows XP mode How To Configure & Use Windows 7's XP Mode Read More , but you can get basically the same feature by installing Windows XP in VirtualBox or VMware Player. Virtual machines aren’t ideal for games, as they’re a bit slow and 3D graphics don’t work amazingly well inside them. However, they do have some limited support for 3D graphics, so if you have an ancient PC game, it may play just fine in a virtual machine. You may also run into problems if your software needs direct access to certain hardware devices — you can connect USB devices to your virtual machine, but software that depends on direct access to certain pieces of hardware may not work.



Tips for Troubleshooting Specific Games

Windows 8 users will likely run into the most issues with games, as so many old games are still work playing, while old software is generally replaced and upgraded. If you’re running into issues with any specific game, try looking the game up on the PC Gaming Wiki. This website provides detailed information for fixing issues with many games — not only on Windows 8 but on other versions of Windows and other operating systems, too.


Do you have any other tips for making old software make on Windows 8 or even Windows 7, which works similarly? What software have you had trouble with, and how did you fix it? Leave a comment and share your experiences!

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  1. Anonymous
    August 23, 2016 at 10:50 pm

    Hey guys, if you wanna create a Windows XP Virtual Machine from the Windows XP Mode installer all for free, just follow the instructions on one of these two websites


  2. Panagiotis
    June 18, 2016 at 10:34 am

    I finally have Warhammer Mark of Chaos along with its expansion Battle March which both used to work perfectly on my old Windows XP desktop. However, now that i have a Windows 8.1 machine i've been trying to get this game to work and it won't. It goes smoothly until the splash screen dissapears, and normally where the screen would go black and later the game companies would start doing their "magic" with their logos before moving on to the does absolutely nothing. Even the background says that the application is not kinda is like the game stops running itself after the splash screen and i always get the same error over and over again in the debug log...I tried running it in multiple compatibility modes but nothing...I think it may be because of my graphics card which it cannot read as the game is already 10 years old and the company which made it shut down 6 years ago and my PC is so far 2 years old...

  3. Anonymous
    July 13, 2015 at 9:12 am

    Cuban missile crisis the after math.

    That game is cold the colder war .

  4. Peto Ignác
    May 31, 2015 at 7:48 am

    I have trouble installing vampire masquerade. The installation process crashes in the middle and window pops out Wrong function. What should I do? Sorry for my english i m from slovakia.

  5. W Anderson
    April 16, 2015 at 5:09 am

    Victor, have your read the article? There were several suggestions, like installing vm, dosbox, etc. as well as cod alterations you could try. Do you have a win98 or win2000 disk you can try in a vm?

  6. Victor Castillo
    April 16, 2015 at 1:17 am

    does anyone know how to run a win xp game on win 8? im trying to play Cuban missile crisis the after math. my dad gifted it to me through amazon but he doent know much about computers so yeah. i would really like to be able to play it.

  7. Nikunj
    March 9, 2015 at 7:48 am

    i have Delta force bhd game.....& it starts only in win xp...but now my pc has win 8 then how i access that??

  8. Rocco Marotta
    February 4, 2015 at 2:54 am

    This is how I was able to get Windows Vista's Solitare program to run on Windows 8:

    I copied the files "solitare.exe" (from program filesmicrosoft games/) and "cardgames.dll" (from windowssystem32) from my Vista's hard drive to a folder on my Windows 8 system (put both files in the SAME folder).

    I then used Notepad++ to open the .exe file and edited it with the Hex plugin (you can use the hex editor of your choice) to modify the imbedded "version check' code.

    I searched for the following sequence of bytes:
    7D 04 83 65 FC 00 33 C0 83 7D FC 01 0F 94 C0
    ...and changed them to:
    EB 04 83 65 FC 00 33 C0 83 7D FC 01 0F 94 C0

    The program now runs on Windows 8.

  9. Jource
    January 30, 2015 at 7:02 am

    I have trouble while running my NBA Live 2005 on my Win 8. The game immediately closed. Any suggestion ??

  10. Rekrul
    January 29, 2015 at 5:23 pm

    So if you want to run DOS games you use DOSBox, and if you want to run Windows XP games, you use a virtual machine.

    Well, it's a good thing that there were no games published for anything else between DOS and XP...

  11. Melanie
    December 6, 2013 at 7:31 pm

    I have tried to run the Sims Medieval and it will come up to the start up screen and then not load

  12. James
    December 6, 2013 at 3:55 am

    i want to install roller coaster tycoon 2 and Backyard football 2002 on my windows 8 but it wont pop up with an install button

    • VirginHUNTER
      March 9, 2019 at 8:45 am

      Install the game in safe worked for me

  13. Martin Da Badass GAMer
    November 13, 2013 at 7:57 pm

    i want to play "Borderlands 2" i downloaded on but it's keep saying "Borderlands 2 is stop working" but if i launch other game i will play.
    I did every thing but it's not workin

    i have windows 8

    please help :(

  14. ranjeet
    November 8, 2013 at 2:29 pm

    how to use a software working under win xp and not working under win 8 ?

    i have winwedge which was working under windows xp but now i have upgraded my pc with windows 8 pro preinstalled, can somebody help ?


    • Tina S
      November 8, 2013 at 8:05 pm

      Did you try the tips shared in the article above? You can try compatibility mode or installing a virtual machine with an older version of Windows. The solution for old software is essentially the same as for old games.

  15. Pooky J
    August 29, 2013 at 9:01 am

    A weird issue I have when running Age of Empires III on Windows 8 x64 is that I have to switch the compatibility OS around every time I want to open it.

  16. Chinmay S
    August 6, 2013 at 4:18 am

    How do i run Dos games on Windows 7?

    • likefunbutnot
      August 6, 2013 at 12:46 pm

      DOSBox, just like with Windows 8.

      The biggest challenge for legacy gaming is found with a narrow range of 3D-enabled titles that were released in the early days of DirectX that specifically lack compatibility with Windows NT (e.g. Mechwarrior 2). Because they're 3D titles, they don't virtualize well if at all and for most people it's not trivial to set up a Windows 9x virtual machine in the first place. You can get Win98 running in a DOSbox session and even a modest phone or tablet has the hardware to keep up with whatever you might need to do with it... with the possible exception of 3D gaming.