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How to Troubleshoot Program Compatibility Issues in Windows XP

Published: October 25, 2001

This article describes how to troubleshoot the most common program compatibility issues you may encounter on your Windows XP-based computer. Note that program compatibility issues are often called “application” compatibility issues.

Troubleshooting

To troubleshoot program compatibility issues, try one or more of the following methods.

Check the Internet for updates or fixes

Check the Web site of the program's manufacturer to see if an update or patch is available. Check the Microsoft Windows Update Web site to see if a fix is available for the program.

Use an administrator account to install the program

Many programs must be installed by using an administrator account. This is because many programs were written for use with Microsoft Windows 95, Microsoft Windows 98, Microsoft Windows 98 Second Edition, or Microsoft Windows Millennium Edition (Me). These operating systems did not have an administrator or limited user account.

Log off all users except the account that will install the program

The Fast User Switching feature is new to Windows XP, and because of this, most older programs were not designed to support this feature. If you have multiple users logged on to the computer, log everyone off except the account that will install the program.

Use the Program Compatibility Wizard

You can use the Program Compatibility Wizard to test your program in different modes (environments) and with various settings. For example, if the program was originally designed to run on Windows 95, set the compatibility mode to Windows 95 and try running your program again. If successful, the program will start in that mode each time.

The wizard also prompts you to try different settings, such as switching the display to 256 colors and the screen resolution to 640 by 480 pixels.

For additional information about how to use the Program Compatibility Wizard, click the article number below to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:

Q301911 How to Use the Program Compatibility Wizard

Use the most current version of the Microsoft Virtual Machine (VM) for Java

If the program uses the Microsoft Virtual Machine (VM) for Java, you may have to download the most current version of the VM.

Issues with software that is listed as being compatible with Windows XP

If you upgraded to Windows XP from Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows 98 Second Edition, Windows Me, Microsoft Windows NT or Microsoft Windows 2000 and you are having problems with software that is listed as being compatible with Windows XP:

  1. Uninstall the software.

  2. Reinstall the software.

  3. If the issue is not resolved, contact your software manufacturer to inquire about how to manually uninstall the program. For example, you would need to know how to delete the folder for the program and the registry entries that were made by the program. Also, ask your software manufacturer about the availability of a fix for this issue, and then install the program again.

Use the Application Compatibility Toolkit Version 2.0

The Application Compatibility Toolkit contains documents and tools you can use to help diagnose and resolve program compatibility issues with Windows XP. Contact your software vendor to inquire about the availability of an upgrade of your program if it does not run correctly after you test it with the Application Compatibility Toolkit.

For additional information about the Application Compatibility Toolkit, click the article number below to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:

Q294895 Description of the Application Compatibility Toolkit for Windows XP and Windows Server 2003

How to Troubleshoot Issues with Games

To troubleshoot issues with games, use one or more of the following methods:

  • If you installed a game by using an administrator account, you may have to log on with an administrator account before you can play the game.

  • Some games do not run (or do not run well) unless you install the whole game to your hard disk. You may want to install the whole game to your hard disk to see if it resolves the issue, or improves game performance.

  • When you try to use programs (such as DVD players or games) that require support for the OpenGL standard for three-dimensional graphics display on your Windows XP-based computer, you may experience some or all of the following symptoms:

    • The software or game does not run.

    • The display appears jagged.

    • Pure color is missing.

    • Different shades of color are not displayed to give the three-dimensional look.

    • Some or all colors are displayed incorrectly.

      To resolve this issue, update your video adapter driver.

  • If the program is a game that uses DirectX, ensure that you are using the latest version of DirectX. In addition, check the Web site of the manufacturer of your video adapter or sound card to see if newer drivers are available for either of them. In general, anytime you can obtain newer drivers for your devices, you may want to do so.

For More Information

For additional information about related topics, click the article numbers below to view the articles in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:

Q292533 How to Use Windows Application Compatibility Mode
Q286575 A Program Compatibility Check List for Windows XP
Q299672 The Microsoft Virtual Machine Is Available Only as a Web Download
Q294895 Description of the Application Compatibility Toolkit for Windows XP and Windows Server 2003
Q301455 Unable to Log on to Web Site or Gain Access to Some Web Sites

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