How to Use Windows 8 Compatibility Mode to Run Old Programs

The leap from Windows 7 to Windows 8 introduced a handful of compatibility issues with software and drivers. Most of these issues can be fixed by using the Windows 8 compatibility mode. The Windows compatibility mode has seen few changes since its inception but is a more useful tool in Windows 8.

Windows 8 compatibility mode works for EXE installers as well as driver installation packages. Standalone drivers are hit and miss when it comes to compatibility mode. You still need the right version for your OS. If you’re using Windows 8 64-bit, you can’t install a 32-bit program or driver; you must have a 64-bit version for compatibility mode to work.

When you have an EXE installer or driver you want to use in compatibility mode, right-click on it and then click “Properties.”

right-click-an-exe-or-driver-install-package

Click on the “Compatibility” tab.

Windows 8 compatibility mode: compatibility-tab

Note: If the tab isn’t there, the driver or EXE is not able to be used in Windows 8 compatibility mode.

There are three sections to compatibility mode: Compatibility mode, Settings and Privilege level.

Compatibility mode lets you choose how to run an EXE or initialize a driver installer. You can choose anything from Windows 95 to Windows 7. You want to choose the Windows OS that the program was designed to run on.

Windows 8 compatibility mode options

Settings lets you change the display settings. This can be beneficial because not all older programs are capable of running on modern displays.

Windows 8 compatibility mode settings

Privilege level lets you choose to run the EXE or driver as an administrator. Most installers need to be run as an administrator to have permission to start.

If you have this information about your EXE, you can use the compatibility tab to set up how it operates. If not, you’ll want to use the compatibility troubleshooter to try and figure out what details you need to run it in Windows 8.

The compatibility troubleshooter can be accessed from the compatibility tab or by right-clicking an EXE and clicking “Troubleshoot compatibility.”

using-the-compatibility-troubleshooter

You can test the EXE in one of two ways: Trying recommended settings or troubleshooting its behavior.

Click “Try recommended settings” if you are not sure how to configure the settings in the compatibility tab.

detecting issues in compatibility mode

This’ll take a few minutes for Windows to find what it thinks is the right settings. Click “Test the program…” to see if these settings work.

test settings in compatibility mode

No matter what happens, click “Next.”

did-it-work in compatibility mode?

Windows will ask what happened. If the settings worked, click “Yes.” If not, click “No, try again…” to have Windows re-calibrate the settings. If you try multiple configurations, click “No, report the problem…” to try and troubleshoot the EXE’s compatibility online.

If you try different settings, Windows will ask a variety of questions to try and figure out what settings need to be changed.

program-version-troubleshooting

It will then ask you to try the new settings it configures from your answers.

If these settings still don’t work, it’s possible that you may see this message:

this-app-won't-work in compatibility mode

This means the EXE or installer is completely incapable of being used in Windows 8, even in compatibility mode.

Windows 8 compatibility mode won’t work on all programs or drivers, but it can be utilized to see if it can. If you’re not sure about a particular driver or program, try the Windows 8 compatibility mode and troubleshooter to see if it’ll work for your PC.