Software won’t work right in Vista? Read on…

Lately, I’ve read tales of sorrow from people who are having problems-still-with getting software (mostly games) to work with Vista.  So, below are some things to try to get that old program to work.

First, here’s some reasons why that software has problems with Vista.  Beginning with Vista, Microsoft has curtailed the standard user’s privileges with the file system. This was done to ‘protect’ the user and the computer.  There are several directories that programs, by default, cannot write to:  The system directories (Windows, System, etc.) and the Program Files directories are the two biggies.  The system directories make sense.  The Program Files, though, is a bit more dubious.  Whatever the reasoning, it is simple to fix.  Other things Microsoft did was to restructure the user directories.  Instead of DOCUMENTS and SETTINGS, there is now a USER directory. Inside each user directory are the standard Documents, Downloads, Pictures, Music, Video and Recorded TV (Premium and Ultimate only, Home Basic does not have Media Center.)  Microsoft knew that moving these directories from the old ‘MY’ convention that it would break some applications.  The solution was a directory junction point.  These junction points are, essentially, symbolic links to another directory. This Properties dialogway applications that are PROPERLY CODED, can access the correct directories no matter if it is XP or Vista.  Some applications, like Rollercoaster Tycoon 3, hard code portions of the directories and, thus, have problems.  For example, Rollercoaster Tycoon 3 had a feature that let the user replace some of the imagery in the game with their own.  This one part of the game used a hard coded reference to the MY PICTURES directory.  In this case, even the directory junction did not fix the issue.  Some people have been able to trick the game, but it seems hit or miss.  Applications that properly call the file system functions will not have any issues at all.

Because there is still a great deal of software written for the Windows 9x/ME family, they are not aware of more recent changes to Windows and use some veOwnerry bad methods  like creating user files in the PROGRAM FILES structure rather than the user’s space.  These applications can still run correctly.  We just have to help them out a bit.  For this exercise, I’ll pick on Rollercoaster Tycoon.  To begin, open EXPLORER and navigate to the directory where the application is installed. In the example, it is PROGRAM FILESHasbro InteractiveRollercoaster Tycoon.  Right click on the top level directory name for the application (in this case, it is actually Rollercoaster Tycoon and NOT Hasbro Interactive, though that will work too.)  From the pop up menu, select PROPERTIES. When the properties dialog box displays, select the SECURITY tab.  Now, you must take ownership of the directory and all of the sub directories under that.  Click  ADVANCED toward the bottom of the window.  Another dialog box will display.  Click the OWNER tab. Here’s where you may have to experiment.  You SHOULD be able to use EVERYONE, however, some applications may need YOU as the owner.  Click the EDIT button first.  Dismiss the UAC box if it pops up. Let’s try EVERYONE first.  If EVERYONE is in the list of names, then click EVERYONE.  Make sure the Replace owner on subcontainers and objects is checked.  Click Apply.  You may get another UAC box. Now, IF EVERYONE is NOT listed as a selection, you’ll have to add it.  This is a bit ugly. Microsoft did a poor job from here on out.  Click the OTHER USERS OR GROUPS button.  When then next box pops up, click ADVANCED, then FIND NOW.  The box at the bottom of the window will populate.  Find the user you are looking for (EVERYONE) and click it. Next click OK, OK, then APPLY and after the confirmation message, close all of the windows, including Explorer and try the application.  If the application runs, then do something that requires a the select file dialog box to display.  If everything looks ok, your application should run fine.  If the application still does not run, read on.

Some applications look for specific versions of Windows.  Vista (and XP) have something called the compatibility layer.  This allows you to ‘trick’ the application into thinking it is running on an earlier version of Windows (or even DOS.)  Open Explorer and navigate to the program directory where your application is stored.  Find the application’s executable file and right click it.  If you do not know what it is, find the icon in your START menu and right click it. Select PROPERTIES.  When the box displays, the directory and program file name  will be highlighted.  Go back to Explorer and look for that file.  When you find it, right click it. 

example1 Now that you have the properties box displayed, select the COMPATIBILITY tab.  First thing to try is to set the Run this program in compatibility mode for setting to the operating system specified for the application. If it is an older game or application (i.e. it was new prior to 2000) then selecting Windows 95 or Windows 98 is probably safe. Click APPLY and try the application.  Most of the time, that will work.  Sometimes, though, you need to go even further.  There are several other settings to try.  Generally, setting the three selections thatexample2 start with ‘Disable’ are safe to check and can fix certain display issues.  Some applications do not like high resolution, so click the Run in 640 x 480 box. This can be trial and error.  Try different combinations of these settings.  You will most likely hit one that works.  Generally speaking, setting the compatibility mode to either Windows 95 or Windows 98 and changing th e permissions on the directory are all that are needed.


For DOS games, I’d recommend something like DOSBox.  DOSBox is a DOS emulator and is free.  However, you can still run many DOS games in Vista.  Be aware, many of those old games will not function correctly due to hardware differences and the way Vista runs DOS apps.  Remember, DOS apps are 16 bit and 16 bit compatibility was curtailed starting with XP.  I’ve gotten lots of games to work in Vista, but there are limits.  Many emulators under MESS and MAME have problems with the video.  If you are willing and patient, you can get some or most to work. You’ll have to play around with the compatibility tab again. For DOS applications, there are more settings and tabs. I am not going into detail for them as I don’t have time to go through them all. However, the big things to set are SCREEN and MEMORY. Memory is generally the number one problem. Some old apps require EXTENDED memory, some need EXPANDED memory. Some need to be protected, blah blah blah.  Trial and error.  Sorry I cannot be more specific, but there’s just too many variables.

Bottom line is that Vista can play nice with most old software. I’d say about 95% of modern Windows applications (Win 2k and up) will run just fine.  About 75% from the Windows 95-ME era will work without doing anything, another 20% will require work and the rest probably never will-upgrade them if possible.

I hope this helps someone.  Please feel free to ask questions, I’ll help anyway I can.


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