Software Tools

Windows XP has enhanced compatibility features over Windows 2000 and NT. End users should leverage the native method for handling compatibility by using the Program Compatibility Wizard.

Using the Compatibility Wizard

The Compatibility Wizard is a good choice for first-time users of the Compatibility Mode feature and for situations where you aren't sure which Windows version the program in question was written for. The Compatibility Wizard enables you to test various Windows versions and settings on the application to determine which emulation works best.
You can run the Compatibility Wizard for a program that's already installed or for a program you haven't installed yet. The wizard will walk you through either scenario. To run the Compatibility Wizard, follow these steps from the Windows Taskbar:
Click *Start > All Programs > Accessories > Program Compatibility Wizard
The *Help And Support Center will open with the Program Compatibility Wizard running within.
Read the information on the Welcome screen and click *Next.

  • You will be how you want to locate the program.
  • If the program is already installed:

*select option *I Want To Choose From A List Of Programs.
*click *Next
*Windows searches for installed programs and presents a list. Choose the one you want and click *Next.

  • If the program is not installed yet and comes on CD-ROM

*select option *I Want To Use The Program In The CD-ROM Drive

    • insert the CD/DVD.

*If the Setup program tries to run automatically at this point, *CLOSE IT because you are not ready to run it yet.
*click on the *Next button in the wizard.

  • If the program is not installed yet and the Setup file or installer for it is located somewhere else:

*choose *I Want To Locate The Program Manually

    • click Next.
    • either type the name/path to the file or use Browse to locate it.

*Click *Next to continue.
The wizard will ask which version of Windows you wish to be compatible with. Select the version your version and click *Next.
If you need to use 256-color, 640 x 480 resolution, or turn off visual themes, select the appropriate check boxes for these options and click *Next.
A summary will appear; click *Next to try to run the program (or its Setup).

  • When you have decided whether or not the program works with these settings, return to the wizard and indicate your answer and then click Next. If you choose Yes, the Compatibility Wizard saves the current compatibility settings for that application and will run it using those settings from now on. (This isn't all that useful for a Setup program, but it's great if you did it for an already-installed application.)

You'll be prompted to send information to Microsoft; respond accordingly, then click *Next or Finish.

An important note

If you used the Compatibility Wizard to install an application, you must use it again to set up the program to run in a particular emulation; the two activities are separate. Some programs require Compatibility Mode for setup but not for normal operation others, vice versa. Some require it for both.
Once you've set a program up for Compatibility Mode, it will run that way every time. If you ever want to remove Compatibility Mode from that program, you can run the wizard again and choose that option, or you can remove it manually, as you'll learn in the following section.

Setting up Compatibility Mode manually

If the Compatibility Wizard seems like a lot of work to you, you're right; it is. But it's foolproof because it enables you to try various
settings without saving them. Saving the settings doesn't occur until the very end, when you have confirmed that the chosen settings work.
If you're a more intrepid type, you can set a program's compatibility settings from the Properties box for its executable file, like so:

  1. Right-click the executable file for the program, or any shortcut to it, and choose Properties. To get to the executable file, locate it with Windows Explorer (probably somewhere in the Program Files folder). To get to a shortcut for an installed program, look on the desktop or open the Start menu.
  2. Click the Compatibility tab.

#Select the Run This Program In Compatibility Mode For check box

  1. choose an OS version from the drop-down list.

Note about shortcuts

If you set compatibility for the executable file, all shortcuts that point to it will be affected; if you set it for the shortcut only, it
will affect the program only when started with that particular shortcut. You could have different shortcuts for different compatibility settings if you chose.

Some programs won't work under Windows XP

No matter what you do. For example, some versions of Lotus SmartSuite and some versions of VirusScan will install
but won't run after installation. It's worthwhile to check the [site for the errant program's manufacturer to see whether a patch or update has been posted that will allow the program to install and run under XP.
A good support tech knows when it's time to admit defeat on a particular issue. Don't spend all day trying to
get a particular program to run. If it means that much to the user, set up his or her PC to] dual boot with the earlier OS and run the application from another partition.

Running MS-DOS programs in Windows XP

Running an MS-DOS program under XP isn't much different from running one under earlier Windows versions. If it
doesn't run correctly with the default settings, you can adjust the settings from the executable file's Properties box.
When you adjust an MS-DOS program's properties, you're creating a Program Information File (PIF) file for it.
As you may remember from earlier Windows versions, a PIF file is a shortcut for a DOS program that sets up a compatible environment in
which it can run.

MS-DOS default settings

When you double-click the executable file for an MS-DOS program for which you have not specifically set any
properties, it uses the file _default.pif, located in the %SystemRoot% folder. If you
want to change the default settings for MS-DOS programs, modify the properties for that file rather than for the executable file for a
particular application.
Windows 9x included an MS-DOS Mode, which rebooted the system into a true real-mode MS-DOS environment. Windows
XP doesn't include this, it can't because it's not based on the MS-DOS kernel. However, it does provide a host of settings you can adjust to
try to make an MS-DOS program work a little better.
Here are some of the settings you can adjust:

  • You can specify an Autoexec.bat and Config.sys file to execute prior to running the program. To do so,

from the Program tab, click Advanced and then enter the paths to the desired files in the text boxes provided. By default, all programs use
Autoexec.nt and Config.nt. You can directly edit Autoexec.nt and Config.nt in Notepad (or any text editor) to change the default settings for all MS-DOS applications.

  • If you're having timing problems with the application, click the Advanced button on the Program tab and

select the Compatible Timer Hardware Emulation check box.

  • On the Memory tab, you can specify a certain amount of various types of memory to be allocated to the application (conventional, XMS, EMS,and so on). This might be useful if the program won't start because it thinks it doesn't have enough memory. Some programs check at startup to make sure that there's a large memory pool available, but Windows XP allocates memory to each program on an as-needed basis; allocating a specific amount of memory here can trick the program into working.
  • If you're having video problems, go to the Screen tab and try deselecting the Fast ROM Emulation check box.
  • If you're having problems with the mouse pointer, go to the Misc tab and turn on Exclusive Mode for the mouse
  • By default, MS-DOS programs stop running when they're not in the foreground. If you want the program

to continue running in the background when you switch away from it, go to the Misc tab and clear the Always Suspend check box.

  • If the program uses a shortcut key combination that Windows uses, Windows will take precedence and

you won't be able to use that key combination in the application. To give the application precedence for a particular key
combination, deselect the key combination's check box on the Misc tab

  • If the program terminates with an error when the Windows screen saver tries to kick in, clear the Allow Screen Saver check box on the Misc tab

While there's no specific compatibility mode for MS-DOS, an MS-DOS program's Properties box contains the same Compatibility tab as other applications and shortcuts. This might be useful in cases where an MS-DOS program ran successfully under Windows 95 but won't run under Windows XP.

Works for most programs

While not every MS-DOS and older Windows program will run under Windows XP, the vast majority will. The new Compatibility Mode feature goes a long way toward maintaining backward compatibility without unduly crippling Windows XP for more modern applications.