Windows Vista -
How to fix software compatibility problems in Windows Vista
Published on 06/12/2011
Having problems running programs? We offer tips on ironing out compatibility hassles

How to fix software compatibility problems in Windows Vista

Vista is one of the most significant upgrades that Microsoft has ever released, and just about every aspect of the operating system has been rewritten to make it better. It does have a down side, though: all these changes mean some old applications wonít install or run properly on your new setup. If this is the case then your first step should be to look for an update for the programin question. Try checking the authorís support site (thereís often a link on the Help menu), or search for your application at Google to find more advice. The official Windows Vista Application Compatibility Update ( also improves support for many applications and is worth installing, even if it doesnít support your program. If that doesnít work, donít give up ó here are some more tricks you can try.

Tip 1
Locate the shortcut icon for your problem program (either on your desktop or from the Start menu). Right-click on it and select Properties > Compatibility. Put a check next to ĎRun this program in compatibility modeí, choose a version of Windows the program previously worked with and click OK. Now launch the program again. Windows Vista will try to fool it into thinking itís running under an older version of Windows, hopefully solving the problem. If it doesnít, return to the Compatibility Mode screen, check all the Settings boxes and try running the program again. If you canít find an icon for the program, or just need more help getting this to work, click Start > Control Panel > Programs > Use an older program with this version of Windows. This will launch the Program Compatibility Wizard, which will walk you through the configuration process.

Tip 2
The new Windows Vista security schemes will sometimes cause compatibility issues. Itís annoying but fortunately very easy to fix. Just right-click on the icon for your program and select ĎRun as Administratorí. The application will then be able to behave just as it did in the days of XP, and may now run without difficulty. If you find this helps you, right-click on the programís icon again, select Properties > Compatibility, check the Privilege Level box and click OK. Itíll now run this way all the time, without you having to right-click each time. Running something as an Administrator is a powerful technique, but always remember why: you are, in effect, turning offWindows Vista security for the application. Only do this with programs you completely trust, never something youíve just found online.

Tip 3
Some applications are nearly Vista compatible, with only a couple of areas causing problems, so a little tweak can make all the difference. If your program is already installed, remove it (Start > Control Panel > Uninstall a Program) and start the setup process again. Choose the Custom installation option, or whatever gives you the most control over the installation settings. Install as few of the options as possible: the simpler your setup, the less likely you are to have problems. If your software includes a component that runs in the background, you may be asked if you want to run it as a service or an application. Vista and XP treat services differently, so try the Ďapplicationí option instead.

Tip 4
Some programs may not install or run on Vista because thereís a conflict with some other part of your system. Simplify the situation by closing all running applications, including all the non-essential apps with icons in your system tray. You could also try installing a program from Safe Mode (reboot your PC > press F8 > choose Safe Mode from the list). This starts Vista with the minimum of drivers and no startup applications, cutting the chance of conflicts to a minimum. Unfortunately, it also blocks many Windows components, and the installation programs that verify serial codes online wonít work. But if youíre struggling to get a program working, itís worth a try.

Tip 5
Old or buggy device drivers will occasionally prevent programs from running. To check this, run Device Manager (click Start > type devmgmt.msc in the Search box > press Enter) and look for devices marked as faulty with a yellow exclamation mark. Double-click on the problem hardware for help. If all seems well there, you could still try updating other drivers yourself. Video drivers are particularly important. Expand the Display Adapters section of the Device Manager tree, double-click on your graphics card and click Driver to find your current driver version, then click Update Driver to see if Windows can find a later version. This doesnít always work, so you may have to visit your graphics card manufacturer to see if thereís a later driver available.

Tip 6
Some pre-Windows 95 software ó particularly games ó just wonít run under Vista. The solution is to con the software into thinking itís running on an ancient PC. Dosbox ( is a clever free tool that can emulate Dos (the operating system that came before Windows). You can use it to run old games, such as the original Doom, and it takes care of the video and sound compatibility issues. Freedos ( is a similar utility with the ability to build bootable Dos CDs ( If all else fails, you may be able to reboot your system to play a particular game ó a minor hassle but better than not being able to run the program at all.