Program Compatibility Assistant: Why You Might Need It & How To Get Rid Of It [Windows]

Craig Snyder 18-11-2012

program compatibility assistant serviceMicrosoft has a knack for persistence in ensuring that any applications you download on the Windows OS meet their compatibility standards. Some of you may be very thankful for that security measure and others may find it intrusive and completely unnecessary. I’ve personally avoided it in every way possible, but I’m sure there are others out there who are making good use of it.


Windows 8 features Microsoft’s own take on the “app store” model, and anything coming in has to meet a list of stringent compatibility and certification standards. Predating this measure is the Program Compatibility Assistant. You may not remember it, but if you’ve installed a lot of applications then I bet you’ve seen it once or twice. In this post, we’ll take a closer look at this Windows feature.

What is it?

Here’s what the Program Compatibility Assistant looks like to a user running Windows Vista or XP:

program compatibility assistant service

Straight from the Microsoft website, here is how they describe the Program Compatibility Assistant:

The Program Compatibility Assistant detects known compatibility issues in older programs. After you have run an older program in this version of Windows, it notifies you if there is a problem and offers to fix it the next time you run the program. If the compatibility issue is serious, the Program Compatibility Assistant might warn you or block the program from running. If that happens, you’ll have the option to check online for possible solutions.

Basically, the PCA (as I’ll abbreviate it from here on) interacts with Windows to help create the smoothest environment possible for outdated applications. The PCA will take measures to bypass or change User Account Control for an application or run the application in a mode that simulates an older version of Windows.


Unlike the Program Compatibility Wizard (yet another similar feature), the PCA is run automatically and cannot be run manually in any way. You’ll also catch a lot of false positives through the PCA, causing it to be an annoyance for some.

If you’re a novice, I recommend keeping this feature around. You may get a few false positives, but it could save you a big hassle. Power users can get rid of this feature if you find it as ineffective as I do.

How Do I Get Rid Of It?

If the PCA is causing you more trouble than what it’s worth or you’re just trying to juice every bit of available resources out of your computer then you should consider disabling the service.

To do this, type services.msc into a Run prompt or the Windows Search field at the Start menu. From there, find Program Compatibility Assistant.


windows program compatibility assistantwindows program compatibility assistant

Right-click the item and go to Properties. From here, set the startup type to Disabled.

program compatibility assistant service

Click Apply and your changes will be saved. If you’d like to immediately stop the service (rather than wait until a reboot), click the Stop button.


In short, Windows’ PCA is a good way for the amateur PC user to make sure that the applications that they install are completely compatible with their current version of Windows. For more experienced users, the false positives can become overwhelming and the service is more of a nag. Has the Program Compatibility Assistant done much for you? Let me know in the comments!

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  1. Steve Makovec
    February 20, 2019 at 3:55 pm

    The PCA caused the CPU on this PC (running Windows 10 on an HP with an I5 Intel processor) to stay at 100% after running for 30 minutes upon startup. It would not subside, so I disabled it and the CPU immediately relaxed to less than 34%.

  2. Clyde
    November 22, 2016 at 4:58 pm

    Thank you for the article. I maintain a small 4 computer network for our town and this thing has become a big aggravation to me and our users since we installed 2 new computers. I am on my way to thier office to get rid of it and I will just keep an eye on what is or is not installed on the computers since I am the only one who does that. Thanks again.

  3. Bernardo Delapasion
    November 21, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    windows will not be happy with this one

  4. Douglas Mutay
    November 19, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    Oh! very interesting. I have always get false positive and always wonder how to get rid of this annoying feature. Thank you very much because I have always thought it was impossible. ;-)

  5. Kamruzzaman Chowdhury
    November 19, 2012 at 10:37 am

    It is a very useful step. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Abhay Pathak
    November 19, 2012 at 9:40 am

    nice tool..

  7. ha14
    November 18, 2012 at 10:10 am

    on windows 7 in the start menu type program compatibility, launch it, get the list of applications and choose the one facing problem.

  8. Lisa Santika Onggrid
    November 18, 2012 at 4:09 am

    Nope. I've never found a way to use it. I have a WinXP PC and a Win7 laptop so I can just test the softwares right away to see which version is able to run it properly.

    • Florin Ardelian
      November 18, 2012 at 2:22 pm

      Same here. I only got false positives.