How To

How to use old Windows programs on Windows 8

Markus Kasanmascheff


When switching from Windows XP or Vista to Windows 8, some old programs don’t work anymore. This is especially painful for expensive specialized software. There are, however, ways around it.

This problem seems to affect software developed for Window XP more than others, as WinXP is very different from Windows 8. In many cases, you’ll be able to install programs in Windows 8, but you’ll get an error message when you try to launch it.

How to use old Windows programs on Windows 8

If you rely on legacy software, you have two options: the compatibility mode in Windows 7 and Windows 8, or a virtual machine.  Compatibility mode is fairly easy, but using a virtual machine is a bit more complicated. Check out both options below if you want to use older programs on a newer OS.

Execute programs with Windows Compatibility Mode

With Windows Compatibility Mode, you can modify the program to make it think it’s using an older version of Windows and provides some specific functions.

1. Open Properties

With the right mouse button, click on the program icon and then click Properties.

2. Enable the compatibility mode

Go to the Compatibility tab and enable the compatibility mode box.

Windows compatibility mode

3. Select the desired compatibility mode

You can select the OS you used to run the software on. If it still doesn’t work, you can try Vista or Windows 7 instead of Windows XP. Accept the setting with OK and close the window.

Your old software should also work on Windows 8. If the compatibility mode doesn’t help, you can try Windows XP mode as an alternative solution.

Alternative: The free XP mode as a virtual machine

I found issues moving to Windows 7 with old programs no longer working. I tried XP Mode, which is Windows XP functioning through a virtual machine, and it seemed to work quite well. This means that Windows simulates a complete computer, along with hard drive, CPU, memory, graphics card, and other hardware. There isn’t an XP mode for Windows 8, but there are way around it using programs like VMLite.  Check out the tutorials below if you want to run XP Mode on Windows 7 or 8.

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