How-To Geek

Using Windows 7 or Vista Compatibility Mode

Windows Vista or Windows 7, will have problems running some older versions of applications, just because so much has changed under the hood from Windows XP days. Thankfully there is a compatibility mode that can be easily set per application.

To configure the compatibility mode for an application, just locate the installation directory and right click on the .exe, selecting Properties from the menu.

Select the Compatibility tab:


You can choose to run the program in Windows XP compatibility mode, or even all the way back to Windows 95 compatibility.

Probably the most useful setting to start off with would be to disable the visual themes and desktop composition, if you can’t get things working. If you are trying to run a video game, you will often need to choose “Run this program as an administrator”. You’ll have to play around with it, but most likely you can get your application working this way. 

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 01/9/07

Comments (43)

  1. jason

    How do I get codecs for windows media? I cannot find it on line. I cannot get the software for I PoD to load.

  2. Alan McC

    Forget about the codecs. Download VLC player. This aplication will run any video

  3. Richard


    When I was using Xp pro, I was running ZoneAlarm Internet Security Suite, which had antivirus, antispyware and a firewall. Contrary to what some people have said, I never had a problem with this program, until I installed Vista. It tells me that this program is not compatible with Vista. Would it work if I tried the compatitbility mode you suggested???


  4. The Geek


    You wouldn’t want to run ZoneAlarm in compatibility mode… you’ll need to get the updated version that works in Vista.

  5. Richard

    Ok, thanks for that info, since I installed Vista, I have been using AVG antivirus and spybot for the antispyware and the Windows firewall is enabled, would you have or suggest an alternative????


  6. The Geek

    Antivirus software is up to you. You should really check out this post over at Coding Horror to see some good performance information on the different products.

    Windows Defender’s anti-spyware is built into Vista, so there’s less need for Spybot.

    The Windows Firewall in Vista is extremely powerful, and is probably everything you need.

  7. seppe

    im trying to run vlc on vista ultimate 64 bit , i know there isnt a version yet that is compiled for 64bit but isnt there any other solution as vlc is easy peasy to display subs on movie and nero showtime is gay :

  8. mark

    this tip rocks – now i breathe again – thanks a lot

  9. Lynne Murguia

    Dear Geek —

    Just got new computer with Vista (damn !) — and am wondering if I understood the instructions on your site.

    Can I really choose to run programs on XP for compatibility when XP’s not even installed on the machine?



  10. The Geek


    The short answer is yes.

    But you don’t necessarily need to do so, unless you are having problems with an application.

  11. Nate

    Mr. Geek,

    I am installing a video game that says it is built for XP and I am running Vista Ultimate X64 (forums on this matter are not very helpful). The demo of the game (Armed Assault) plays in Vista without me using XP Compatibility Mode in the .exe file. I did experience some graphics issues and read up on fine tuning some settings in order to get it run in Vista (could run better if it were built for both OS’).

    My questions are, do you think I would be better off initiating the compatibility mode for this game before installing or just let it be and does installing a program in XP compatibility mode in Vista create an issue with support drivers that are released later specifically for running the program in Vista?

    My specs are:
    Windows Vista Ultimate X64
    AMD Athlon 64 FX-64 Dual Core
    2.00 GB DDR2-800 RAM
    NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTX 768MB – Aqua Tank
    2 Raptor Drives – 10k

    Thank you


  12. The Geek

    I’d avoid using compatibility mode, as it will typically slow things down. The only real reason to use it is if you are having problems getting something working.

    Of course, there’s nothing wrong with just testing it out, since you can always turn it off.

  13. ed

    i just got a new computer with vista, if a game says its compatible on vista (Diablo 2) it should work fine after i set compatibility mode? (can i choose Windows XP, as a run as, even if i dont have it?)

  14. Per Bjørn

    Hello,. I used Proplanner from VR3 which is a dos based 16 bit system in windows xp and can’t use it in Vista, even if I do the changes as shown ealier. I get the error message, “This system does not support full screen mode”. Is there any solution?

  15. Joe

    Does this apply to Call Of Duty?

  16. HappyPC

    Here’s a good one…

    I tried to install a certain piece of software, but it said that it will only work on Windows XP SP2, and then closed. So I launched the installer program again, in XPSP2 Compatibility Mode. It installed, but it did not run.

    I went to uninstall it, it came back and said that it will only work in Windows XP SP2, and closed the Uninstaller.

    I contacted the developer, and have not gotten an answer.

    Any idea how I can run “Programs and Features” in Compatibility Mode? It seems there is no separate executable for the uninstaller, and I’ve tried various command-line switches (-uninstall for one) and still nothing. Any ideas here?



  17. Phoenix

    Regarding the one by HappyPC:
    I believe the installer of the app was checking the windows version (XP has something starting with or dont remeber which one). Vista is 6.0 and Vista’s SP1 will be 6.1.
    Perhaps this is the reason why the setup fails. I’ve seen quite a few installation packages do that. The only solution is to wait for the vendor to release updated setups

  18. Jesse

    Regarding the compatability mode from vista to xp. How can I install a software not compatible to vista with out it shutting down before completion of the installaion.
    Vista seems to load then before completion shuts it down. do you have any solution to this? thanks!


  19. Diane Selmer

    I need to use Windows XP for travel site Sabre, I am unabe to use this site, they are not Vista compatable because they can not use 64 bit. but i found out i have 32 Vista Home Premium can it somehow work or can you help be go back to windows XP thanks Diane

  20. Skunktail

    diablo 2 takes way too long to start running, like 15 minutes from the double click…

    i have set it as run as xp and admin, no help, any tips for the lost gamers?

  21. Skunktail

    just right-click on the D2 shortcut, go to the compatibilty tab and check the “Disable Desktop Composition” that seemingly fixed it, but maybe you should mention that or let this be posted or whatever

    just so other lost gamers can get their fix

  22. Gwen

    I am trying to install a program called Simply Shopping and I have Windows Vista. I have tried using the compatability mode by right-clicking on the file and when I try to run the program, I get a message saying “This application has not been designed for this operating system.” HELP!

  23. Greg

    Hi Geek

    I am trying to access a remote site through my company. It worked great when I was using XP, now have upgraded to Vista and cannot even get to the site. Have contacted the ISP for the site and they are at a loss. I was wondering if I could try running IE in XP mode? Could you give me the steps to do this?


  24. Eric Baum

    Hey Geek, I have a Toshiba satellite A135 running Vista Home Premium. The computer refuses to recognize any drivers I try to install. All are Vista compatible. For example, I have a Lexmark x3470 all-in one printer, I t recognizes the printer but won’t send info to it. The same w/ multiple Bluetooth Dongles I’ve tried, it won’t even let me use a finger Mouse. It asks for a driver to be installed. For a finger mouse? please help!!

  25. John

    I have installed MySabre (finally!) on my Vista PC last Sunday. Since MySabre is not officially certified for Vista, you will have to call up the Sabre Help Desk.

  26. Mike

    Hello I have a new system Windows Vista anywho I tryed installing Call of Duty 2 when I get it all installed and got it up on my dest top it tells me to put in the correct disc and when I do I get an error what do I do?

  27. Hong

    how did u ever intall my sabre on vista??

  28. John

    Call up the Sabre help desk. They will do it remotely after reminding you that it is not yet certified for Vista.

    We have not had any problems with the application so far.

  29. Tim

    Mr. Geek,

    Good day! I’ve tried to install Civilization 4 on my PC with Windows Vista but when I actually have the Civilization 4 icon on my desktop and tried to double-click it it says that I need to put the correct disc. What should I do?


  30. Amber

    I recently got a new Creative webcam that is not compatible with Vista.
    When i try to install the drivers, they just tell me that they do not support my operating system, and then it closes.

    Also, Creative is not developing vista drivers for this web camera!

  31. Todd

    What happens if it gives you the error pop-up that your WLAN drivers are not compatible with Vista even though it is the original devices installed in the computer. I have tried to search for updated drivers and of course there are none.

  32. Marcel Cardenas

    I am really upset with Adobe. I was on the phone with them for hrs and they said that i couldnt install CS2 on the Vista os. I dont want to upgrade to CS3 and i dont want to install xp on this new computer. HELP!!!!! i tryed doing this proceedure and it didnt help. Should i try again? Please dont tell me i have to do the upgrade thing……………………………Thanks and please save me. Marcel

  33. Pinux

    I am having a problem when installing a 3G card driver on Vista. My system complains that the driver might not have been installed correctly(a program compatibility assistant dialog shows up after I install the driver), but the fact is the driver is installed correctly. Could you tell me why this dialog shows up every first time when I try to install this driver on a clean system. It disappears during the installation afterwards. Is there a way to disable this window from popping up.


  34. darren williams

    i have got windows vista and cant get off compatibility mode it wont let me change it from windows 95

  35. amritpal singh

    i am facing problem while running foxprox 2.6 in window vista ultimate
    it give error message not 64 bit compatable

  36. mike

    im using a license windows vista home premium for almost a week but i got a problem using my built in webcam,,it does work in vista,, how can i fix it,, my notebook is asus a8fm,, hope you can help me,,

  37. voke

    I just installed windows vista with a windows vista service pack i have problem running most of my programs i need help

  38. OTHG_Wayne

    I am trying to get to the compatibility tab on properties within Vista, but it is not there. How do I get it to show up?

  39. peel

    I have tried changing all the compatibility settings on Diablo 2 and it still glitches every 20 seconds and when it does i can’t see anything except my character

  40. Martin

    I have a new Acer computer with Vista – which I did not ask for, and I find that I cannot use Office XP. I need to be able to use MS word for my work and I am getting frustrated because people keep telling me that it will not work. Can you advise me how to use Office XP with Vista? Is this possible in your experience? I would appreciate it if you could help me.

    Ever Hopeful

  41. Ben

    Hi, I am wondering if I install Call of Duty 1 for PC on Windows Vista Home Premium can I set it to work like XP. I have heard that Call of Duty doesnt work for Vista, so I wanna be able to set it to work like XP.

  42. Mark

    If you have a program stuck on compatibility mode, you should be able to right-click on the executable (either installer or application) and find the Compatiblity Tab. Make sure the box “Run this program in compatibility mode for:”. Also, at the bottom of this tab is a button: “Show settings for all users”. click it and make the same change in the popped-up window “Compatibility for all users”.

  43. The Geek

    ————————————- NOTE ————————————

    I am closing the comments on this article because of the large amount of support questions.

    You are welcome to leave any computer help questions on the Forum

    ————————————- NOTE ————————————

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