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How to use the Program Compatibility Wizard in Windows XP

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This article was previously published under Q301911
This article describes how to use the Program Compatibility Wizard. The Program Compatibility Wizard prompts you to test your program in different modes (environments) and with various settings.

For example, if the program was originally designed to run on Microsoft Windows 95, set the Compatibility Mode to Windows 95, and then try to run your program again. If the program runs, the program will start in that mode every time. You can also try different settings. For example, you can test with a 256-color display and a screen resolution of 640 pixels by 480 pixels.

Most programs run correctly on Windows XP except for some older games and other programs that were written specifically for an earlier version of Windows.

If you are experiencing problems with a program that worked correctly on an earlier version of Windows, the Program Compatibility Wizard helps you select and test compatibility settings that may fix those problems. If a program does not work as expected, run the program in one of the compatibility environments.

Warning Be careful when you use Compatibility Mode to bypass version warnings in installation programs. Some programs are designed for a specific operating system. By design, such programs prevent the use of later versions. Typically, these programs are system tools (such as antivirus, firewall, CD-burning, disk management, or backup software) that run at a very low kernel mode. These programs can cause serious problems if you install them.


How to start the Program Compatibility Wizard

To start the Program Compatibility Wizard, click Start, click Run, type hcp://system/compatctr/compatmode.htm, and click OK.

How to test programs in compatibility mode

To test programs in compatibility mode:
  1. Start the wizard, and then click Next.
  2. When you receive the following prompt, click one of the selections:
    How do you want to locate the program that you would like to run with compatibility settings?"

    A. I want to choose from a list of programs
    B. I want to use the program in the CD-ROM drive
    C. I want to locate the program manually
  3. Click the program that you want to fix, and then click Next.
  4. When you receive the following prompt, click one of the compatibility modes, and then click Next:
    Choose the operating system that is recommended for this program, or that previously supported the program correctly:

    Microsoft Windows 95
    Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 (Service Pack 5)
    Microsoft Windows 98 / Windows Me
    Microsoft Windows 2000
    Do not apply a compatibility mode
  5. When you receive the following prompt, click the appropriate display settings, and then click Next:
    Choose the settings that are recommended for this program, or that previously supported the program correctly:

    256 colors
    640 x 480 screen resolution
    Disable visual themes
    By default, Windows XP uses visual themes that may change the appearance or the behavior of other programs.

    Note Frequently, these options apply to games or to educational programs. If your program is not a game or an educational program, you likely do not have to select anything on this page.
  6. When you receive the "Did the program work correctly?" message, click one of the following options, and then click Next:
    Yes, set this program to always use these compatibility settings

    No, try different compatibility settings

    No, I am finished trying compatibility settings
  7. If you click No, I am finished trying compatibility settings, you receive the following message:
    Program Compatibility Data

    Microsoft has created temporary files that contain information about the settings you selected and whether the problems were fixed. Sending this information to Microsoft will help us improve program compatibility.

    Would you like to send this information to Microsoft?

    The information will be treated anonymously and confidentially per our data collection policy on the Web.

    See the temporary files that would be sent
    Note If compatibility problems prevent you from installing a program on Windows XP, run the Program Compatibility Wizard on the Setup file for the program. The file may be named Setup.exe or something similar, and may be located on the installation CD-ROM or floppy disk for the program.

How to manually configure the compatibility properties

You can configure the compatibility properties for a program manually if you do not want to use the wizard. The settings are the same as the options in the Program Compatibility Wizard.

To configure the compatibility properties manually:
  1. Right-click the link for the program that you want to configure, and then click Properties.
  2. On the Compatibility tab, click Run this program in compatibility mode, and then click one of the following options:
    • Windows 95
    • Windows 98
    • Windows NT 4
    • Windows 2000
  3. Under Display settings, click the appropriate display mode for the program:
    • Run in 256 colors.
    • Run in 640 X 480 screen resolution.
    • Disable visual themes.
  4. Click Apply, and then click OK.
  5. Start the program.
Note The Compatibility tab is only available for programs that are installed on your hard disk. Although you can run the Program Compatibility Wizard on programs or on setup files on a CD-ROM or on a floppy disk, your changes will not remain in effect after you close the program. For more information about an option on the Compatibility tab, right-click the option, and then click What's This.

The program does not run correctly after you test with the Program Compatibility Wizard

If your program does not run correctly after you test it with the Program Compatibility Wizard, look on the Internet for updates:
  1. Visit the program manufacturer's Web site to determine if an update is available.
  2. Visit the Windows Update Web site to see if an update is available for the program. To do this, click Home on the menu bar of Help and Support Center, and then click Windows Update.
  3. If the program is a game that uses DirectX, make sure that you are using the latest version of DirectX.
  4. Visit the Web site of the manufacturer of your video adapter or sound card to determine if newer drivers are available.


You may experience the following issues when you try to use compatibility mode with a program:
  • All the options on the Compatibility tab are unavailable if you are not an administrator or if the program is on a network share or on a mapped network drive.

    To work around this problem, select the option to manually locate the program in the Program Compatibility Wizard. When you do this, you can type the Universal Naming Convention (UNC) path of the program's executable file, or you can search for the program on a mapped network drive.
  • You cannot use Compatibility Mode with Windows XP components that are protected with Windows File Protection.

    Windows File Protection helps prevent the replacement of important system files as part of Windows. Programs must not overwrite these files because they are used by the operating system and by other programs. Protecting these files helps prevent problems with the operating system and other programs.
For more information about related topics, click the following article numbers to view the articles in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
294895 How to obtain the Windows Application Compatibility Toolkit
285909 How to troubleshoot program compatibility issues in Windows XP

For more information about how to use Windows Application Compatibility Mode, click the following article number to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
292533 How to use Windows Application Compatibility Mode in Windows XP

Article ID: 301911 - Last Review: 01/04/2006 22:45:52 - Revision: 5.2

  • Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition
  • Microsoft Windows XP Professional
  • Microsoft Windows XP Professional 64-Bit Edition (Itanium)
  • Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition
  • Microsoft Windows XP Tablet PC Edition
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