This article describes how to troubleshoot the most common program compatibility issues that you may experience on your Windows XP-based computer. Program compatibility issues are often called "application" compatibility issues.
To troubleshoot program compatibility issues, try one or more of the following methods:
Check the Internet for updates or fixes
Check the Web site of the program's manufacturer to see if an update or fix is available. Visit the following Microsoft Windows Update Web site to determine whether a fix is available for the program:
Use an administrator account to install the program
Many programs must be installed by using an administrator account. This is because many programs were written for use with Microsoft Windows 95, Microsoft Windows 98, Microsoft Windows 98 Second Edition, or Microsoft Windows Millennium Edition. These operating systems did not have an administrator or limited user account.
Log off all users except the account that will install the program
The Fast User Switching feature is new to Windows XP, and most older programs were not designed to support this feature. If multiple users are logged on to your computer, log off everyone except the account that will install the program.
Use the Program Compatibility Wizard
You can use the Program Compatibility Wizard to test your program in different modes (environments) and with various settings. For example, if the program was originally designed to run on Windows 95, set the compatibility mode to Windows 95, and then try running your program again. If the program runs successfully in that mode, the program will start in that mode every time. The wizard also prompts you to try different settings, such as switching the display to 256 colors and the screen resolution to 640 by 480 pixels. For additional information about how to use the Program Compatibility Wizard, click the following article number to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
301911 How to use the Program Compatibility Wizard in Windows XP
Use the most current version of the Microsoft Virtual Machine (VM) for Java
If the program uses the Microsoft Virtual Machine (VM) for Java, you may have to download the most current version of the VM.
Issues with software that is listed as being compatible with Windows XP
If you upgraded to Windows XP from Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows 98 Second Edition, Windows Millennium Edition, Microsoft Windows NT or Microsoft Windows 2000 and you are having problems with software that is listed as being compatible with Windows XP, follow these steps:
Remove the software.
Reinstall the software.
If the issue is not resolved, contact your software manufacturer to inquire about how to manually remove the program. For example, you would have to know how to delete the folder for the program and the registry entries that were made by the program. Also, ask your software manufacturer about the availability of a fix for this issue, and then reinstall the program.
Use the Application Compatibility Toolkit, Version 2.6
Application Compatibility Toolkit 2.6 contains documents and tools that will help you diagnose and resolve program compatibility issues with Windows XP. Contact your software vendor to inquire about the availability of an upgrade of your program if it does not run correctly after you test it with Application Compatibility Toolkit. For additional information about the Application Compatibility Toolkit, click the following article number to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
294895 How to obtain the Windows Application Compatibility Toolkit.
How to troubleshoot issues with games
To troubleshoot issues with games, use one or more of the following methods:
If you installed a game by using an administrator account, you may have to log on with an administrator account before you can play the game.
Some games do not run or do not run well unless you install the whole game on your hard disk. The issue may be resolved or game performance may improve if you install the whole game on your hard disk.
Some programs, such as DVD players and games, require support for the OpenGL standard for three-dimensional graphics display. When you try to run these programs on your Windows XP-based computer, you may experience some or all of the following symptoms:
The program does not run.
The display appears jagged.
Pure color is missing.
Different shades of color are not displayed to give the three-dimensional look.
Some or all colors are displayed incorrectly.
To resolve this issue, update your video adapter driver.
If the program is a game that uses DirectX, make sure that you are using the latest version of DirectX. Additionally, check the Web site of the manufacturer of your video adapter or sound card to see if newer drivers are available for them. Generally, whenever you can obtain newer drivers for your devices, you may want to do so.
For additional information about related topics, click the following article numbers to view the articles in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
292533 How to use Windows Program Compatibility mode in Windows XP
285912 Programs that require OpenGL support may not run in Windows XP
286575 "Designed for Microsoft Windows XP" Application Test Framework
283576 An error message is displayed when you attempt to install or remove or play a game
294895 How to obtain the Windows Application Compatibility Toolkit
301455 Unable to log on to Web site or gain access to some Web site services
301494 Some programs may not create shortcuts for all of the Fast User Switching users
290249 Programs display incorrectly after you use Fast User Switching
298336 Your program or game can transfer its sound to other users
300820 Certain programs do not run simultaneously on multiple user accounts