Reviving Old Software

October 22, 2011 at 5:51 pm | Posted in Computers, Software | 3 Comments

When you buy a new computer, it can be a lot of fun exploring its features and getting to know the new Operating System. But your enthusiasm may be tempered when you discover that some of your favorite programs won’t work on it.

If those programs are system tools, you’ll need to look at replacing them. You don’t want to use tools designed to manage WinXP on a Win7 computer, even if they will install. Sometimes you can migrate your license to a new version or find a free alternative. Gizmo’s is a good spot to check for recommended free tools. They have a section for 64 bit software too.

But for something like a graphics or office program, there are ways to shoehorn it in that might work.

The first thing to try is Compatibility Mode. This allows software to behave as if it’s in the earlier OS it was designed for. Put the installer in your CD drive, browse to the Install or Setup program, right click and select “Troubleshoot Compatibility“. This wizard will suggest the OS to emulate and start the Setup that way. For example, PhotoShop 7 and 9 (CS2) will run in Win7 this way.

After Setup, you may find you’ll need to repeat the above for the program executable. In the case of PhotoShop 9, for example, it kept displaying the welcome screen at every startup. It was unable to save the setting change. But running Compatibility again fixed the issue. The launch icon displays a little shield then too.

Virtual Machine
Some even older programs still won’t install this way. If you really want to be able to use that old software, the solution may be a “Virtual Machine” or VM. This is a software environment that a complete Operating System can run in, without realizing it’s not installed directly on the hardware. It’s become widely used in server technology and more recently, remarkably simple and free versions have become available for home use.

If you’re one of the people who bought Win7 Pro or Ultimate, Microsoft offers a free XP Mode” Virtual Machine. It runs an XP environment in a window on your Win7 machine. You can install your choice software there.

But if you’re like most of us who got Win7 Home Premium, that’s not an option. However, the excellent VirtualBox from Oracle comes to the rescue. For VirtualBox, you will need to install WinXP or whatever OS into the VM, so you’ll need the installer disc and license key. But the bonus is you can also install Linux or DOS or even Mac OS’s here. No rebooting to change OS. People who need to test software in different environments use this kind of technology a lot. If something goes wrong, just restore a virtual machine. They also back up and can be moved to other computers easily too.

See what it looks like here.  VirtualBox also has a good users manual you can review on the Downloads page.

Once you have the OS running, then you can install that old favorite software into it. I have a program originally written for Win95 that would be rather expensive to replace. But it is a valuable tool I use  periodically. It installed and runs flawlessly in WinXP in VirtualBox. Of course, it takes 2 steps to launch it as you first have to start the VM. But it’s better than doing without. (see below for Networking between host and VM)

This is the first time I’ve watched a movie and downloaded some files while I was installing an OS, all on the same computer.

Finally – don’t forget to shut down your VM when you’re finished. If you just close the window, that would be like pulling the plug on the OS. Doesn’t leave it happy for next time.

Happy Computing!

Here’s how to share files between the Win7 host and the XP VM. The idea is to use the VM rather than using usual Windows networking techniques.

Here’s the similar fix for someone running Win7 on an Ubuntu Linux host. Same process.


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  1. A couple of followup notes:
    The XP Mode requires 2 parts – the Virtual Machine install, the the XP Mode OS build to put into it. Same as with Virtualbox only the OS is free.

    In Virtualbox, you can ask the VM to put a shortcut to an OS on the desktop. Then you can run the OS directly, without separately launching the VM.

    When you run your monthly updates for your OS, don’t forget to boot your VM OS and update it too. 😉


  2. […] More Here […]


  3. […] soon no longer be safe for web surfing and other Internet uses but it may still have a role for old software in a virtual machine. Fred reviews installing XP into a virtual machine and the VM backup process here. (article free […]


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