How to Use Windows 10 Compatibility Mode to Run Older Programs

Run Windows 7, XP, and Vista programs on Windows 10

If a program you’ve used for years suddenly starts misbehaving after an operating system update, try running it in Windows Compatibility Mode. With Windows Compatibility Mode, you can run programs for older versions of the operating system flawlessly on Windows 10.

Instructions in this article apply exclusively to Windows 10.

What Is Compatibility Mode in Windows 10?

Windows 10 Compatibility Mode is an easy to access tool that can help your older programs run on the new operating system. It works by altering certain settings on a program-by-program basis, allowing the old program to function without the potential of hamstringing other programs in the process.

The Windows Compatibility Mode tool effectively lets you run programs as if they’re on an earlier version of the Windows operating system. It also offers a number of options for display colors and resolutions, which can help with some older programs that may not have supported the high resolution displays available today.

Two koi in a pond
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How to Change Windows 10 Compatibility Mode Settings

If the troubleshooter didn’t get the job done, and you know which specific version of Windows the program had previously worked on, you can change the settings of Windows 10 Compatibility Mode manually:

  1. Right-click (or press and hold) the program icon and select Properties from the drop-down menu.

    properties in windows
  2. Select the Compatibility tab. Under Compatibility mode, check the box next to Run this program in compatibility mode for and select the appropriate version of Windows from the drop-down list.

    compatibility mode
  3. If you have issues with the visuals/graphics of the program, you can adjust the color and resolution under Settings:

    • If colors are displayed incorrectly, check the Reduced color mode and select an option in the drop-down menu.
    • If colors are correct but the visuals are off, check the box next to Run in 640 x 480 screen resolution.
    settings for compatibility mode
  4. Optionally, check the box next to Run this program as an administrator, then select Apply and OK.

    Some programs require administrator privileges to function properly. If you are not your computer's administrator, you will need the admin password.

  5. Try running the program to see if the error is resolved. If not, repeat step 4 with a different color mode and try launching the program again.

When Is Windows Compatibility Mode Helpful?

Generally, you will be using Compatibility Mode with older programs. While many programs get updated to function properly on the latest versions of an operating system, some don’t receive the same upkeep. Even then, some programs designed for an older version of Windows may still operate without issue even with no intervention. However, if you notice that an older program isn't working like it used to, Compatibility Mode may help resolve the problem.