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Windows 7 – Old Games Won’t Play.. Help!

Attention: I have posted an updated and more complete version of this article, here: Windows 7 – Old Games Won’t Play.. Help! (Updated)

Reader Asks For Help After Installing Windows 7

Q: I had Windows XP and Windows 7 was recently installed. I hate Windows 7. My kids can’t play their games. Something about hardware acceleration driver. I want to know if I can switch to my XP. I do have the 7 recovery CDs that I made when I got the computer. Is there an easy way of switching? I’m not a tech person. I do not know alot about computers, but I do love and miss my XP. Can you help me?

A: Dear Reader,
Unless the person who upgraded you to Win 7 made a full backup of the XP (such as a “disk image”) before they installed, then no — there is no “easy way” back to XP. You would have to format your hard drive, install XP, install all your programs, and then copy back all your data. (Maybe.. that’s what you mean by “7 recovery CD’s”? Did you run Norton Ghost? Or, Acronis True Image?)
But XP is obsolete, not for sale any more*, not terribly secure, and no longer fully supported by Microsoft (and soon to be unsupported totally). It really isn’t the thing to do to “go back”…

Why don’t we focus on getting the issue resolved so that your kids can play their games? There are several approaches.
1) The “hardware acceleration” is referring to the “video card”, or more accurately, the graphics driver. Most graphics drivers allow you to turn off the hardware acceleration (which should resolve your issue).
Click Start in the lower left corner of Windows.
Click Control Panel, click Appearance and Personalization, click Personalization, click Display Settings, and then click Advanced Settings.
Click the Troubleshoot tab, and then click Change Settings. [Note: Change Settings will be disabled if the graphics card drivers do not support disabling hardware acceleration.]
Move the Hardware Acceleration slider until it is one notch to the right of None. This is the basic acceleration setting.
Click OK twice, and then close the window.
Restart the computer.

[you can also get there via the graphic adapter’s Properties in Device Manager]

The path in your address bar is: Control Panel > Appearance and Personalization > Display > Change Display Settings > Advanced settings.


2) You may need set the troublesome games to launch in “Compatibility Mode”, and tell them to run under Windows XP SP2. This article, shows you how. The Compat Mode section is about half way down the page.

3) You may also – if the game is old enough – need to turn off a CPU core (or, now, cores), called “setting the affinity”. Also see, Compatibility Tricks for Old Programs, New Machines.

*see Comments

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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January 6, 2010 - Posted by | advice, Compatibility Mode, computers, device drivers, how to, PC, performance, software, tech, Windows 7 | , , , , , , ,


  1. But XP is obsolete, not for sale any more, not terribly secure, and no longer fully supported by Microsoft (and soon to be unsupported totally). It really isn’t the thing to do to “go back”…

    This is bad reasoning – if it plays on his hardware, why not go back? His computer was probably bought with XP and all hardware is supported. Also, XP won’t die anytime soon, that is a myth. If nowhere else, XP embedded standard will live on, simply because XP works. I really don’t understand when people force new OS-es on old hardware. Viruses and security are not an issue here, because new stuff won’t be intended for old systems. How many new viruses do we know for Windows 2000 for example? When computer will become obsolete, he’ll get that 7, before that, it’s futile to bother with them…


    Comment by krawica | January 6, 2010

    • that is not right windows xp pro is out there and for sale and more so please don’t tell people that it is not for sale any more please
      thank you for your time sir


      Comment by ttx | January 14, 2010

      • ttx,
        I stand corrected, but XP is a “get it while supplies last” type item, as Microsoft is not releasing more. Thank you for setting the record straight on that point.

        But I stick to my main point which is that the times and the technology is moving/has moved past Windows XP.


        Comment by techpaul | January 14, 2010

  2. krawica,
    I would not make such statements if the facts did not support them.

    As for “bad reasoning”:
    * “if it plays on his hardware, why not go back?” A: For the reasons stated above — watch Tech Republic’s videos on “mini botnets”, almost every machine getting pwned was an XP. Also, patches and updates (to counteract the new attacks) will stop being written for XP before too much longer.
    * “Viruses and security are not an issue here, because new stuff won’t be intended for old systems.” A: Today’s and yesterday’s malwares are already quite capable of exploiting XP, and as long as there are XP machines, the cyber-criminals will keep using them. Sure, they will work at developing new methods to get at Vista and Win 7.. but they won’t stop attacking XP.

    Now.. in fairness, I do agree with you here, “I really don’t understand when people force new OS-es on old hardware”, as it is more often than not simply a recipe for a headache. But I have to assume that the person who did the upgrade ran the Compatibility Advisor tool, and that the machine was “Windows 7 compatible”. But you have a point, and I have said it many times myself – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
    So.. assuming it was, I posit to you the reverse of your question — why not upgrade to what is IMHO a superior OS? (If not “superior”, then certainly more up-to-date and certainly more secure [out of the box])?


    Comment by techpaul | January 6, 2010

  3. happy new year


    Comment by Jack | January 6, 2010

    • And to you too, Jack.


      Comment by techpaul | January 7, 2010

  4. The problem seems to be with the XP vintage video hardware and not the games. Adding a video card that is compatible with Windows 7 might fix it up. Unless of course its a laptop, in which case he’s out of luck. Vista and Win7 rely on the video card a lot anyways so it might give a better user experience as well.


    Comment by jgoto | January 7, 2010

    • jgoto,
      The reader did not provide required information for a more specific “you need to do this” reply — such as make/model of the PC (or.. graphics adapter), or the titles of the games, or which version of DirectX they have installed…
      But you are correct: if the driver doesn’t allow for disabling hardware acceleration, and running in compatibility mode doesn’t work.. the next step is to try finding a more up-to-date driver. If that is a “no go”, then the options are as you say — install a new graphics card, or revert to XP.


      Comment by techpaul | January 7, 2010

  5. If you are indeed running 7, you should investigate windows xp mode. Its around 500 megs to download, but you are able to run a virtual environment of windows xp inside of your windows 7. This may be an option to use legacy software.


    Comment by IT Worker ANT | January 15, 2010

    • IT Worker ANT,
      Thank you. I thought about mentioning the virtual machine known as “XP mode”, (as well as a couple of other options) but you must have Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise, or Ultimate to run Windows XP Mode — and I resist suggesting VM’s for gaming.

      Hopefully simply turning off hardware acceleration cured the reader’s problem.


      Comment by techpaul | January 15, 2010

      • Didn’t solve mine…

        I unfortunately met with the “[Note: Change Settings will be disabled if the graphics card drivers do not support disabling hardware acceleration.]” problem = (


        Comment by NobodyKnowsTheSadnessiFeel | December 29, 2010

        • If you also tried the steps in 2 and 3 of the article, without success, you may have to install a “virtual machine” program, and create an XP environment..

          Or keep an old machine around just for the old games..


          Comment by techpaul | December 29, 2010

  6. Umm it think you all may have been looking at his question wrong.

    1st let me tell you that Windows XP Mode does not support Video acceleration, becuse it does not load specific drivers. Hence there is no acceleration.

    The problem is not that graphic acceration is causeing this issue, it is the lack of proper drivers, thus causing the error.

    I say go to the manufactors web site and see if they have updated driver for windows 7


    Comment by Joseph Dotolo | May 15, 2010

    • Joseph Dotolo,
      I was not talking about the “virtual machine” called “XP Mode”, but using “Compatibility mode” to run the executable, or to run the setup.exe during installation.

      I agree with you that the video drivers should be up-to-date, and I agree that one should try the manufacturer’s website to get the latest.

      There have been many changes to games and graphics since Windows XP and DirectX 9 — software and hardware. Sometimes, “backwards compatibility” just doesn’t work, and you have to let that old friend go (or keep an old machine around just to use the old programs).


      Comment by techpaul | May 15, 2010

  7. i just saw a post on yahoo answers that said if you buy the pro version of windows 7 it has the ability to switch over into windows xp mode is this true and if i have a vidoe card that runs direct 11 will it work on games that run on direct 9 or lower? thanks


    Comment by ben ayap | May 23, 2010

    • ben ayap,
      From Microsoft:

      “Windows XP Mode:
      It’s the best of both worlds: The new Windows XP Mode lets you run older Windows XP business software right on your Windows 7 desktop.

      Designed primarily with small- and medium-sized businesses in mind, Windows XP Mode comes as a separate download and works only with Windows 7 Professional, Ultimate, and Enterprise. Windows XP Mode also requires virtualization software such as Windows Virtual PC. Both are available free on the Microsoft website.”

      Notice how they say you will be running a virtual machine? And how they say it’s primarily for “business software”?

      First point I want to make is there are other VM programs available, and to the best of my knowledge they will run on any version of Win 7 (I think VirtualPC will too, actually. But I’m not certain, certain, as I haven’t tried it myself) so no, I don’t think you have to buy the Pro/Ultimate.. but, my second point, inside a VM is really not the best way to play games (at least, not FPS’s and simulators).

      Your second question refers to “older than DirectX9”.. Technically speaking, a graphics card should render the video signal produced by the computer onto the screen, period. So my answer would be “yes”.
      But in my mind I keep coming back to “older than DirectX9”.

      So.. please follow me on this: you could, conceivably, install a VM, disable all your cores but one, run in “Compatibility mode” and/or inside a VM, disable hardware acceleration, and try to run your ancient game on a new machine with a modern OS or do what I did.
      I kept my old machine (a P-II, running Windows 95) around and occasionally will fire it up and play Duke Nukem 3D and my Janes simulators and the original Doom on it. The hardware matches the software.. see?

      Another option is to “dual boot”, but keep in mind that Vista/Windows 7 have to be installed after the older OS.. so you would wipe the HD, create a second (or third) partition, install XP (or older), and then re-install Win7.

      I am real curious, I confess. Which game(s) are you trying to ‘keep alive’?


      Comment by techpaul | May 23, 2010

  8. I got caught out by Virtual pc and XP mode when i try to run some old games and of course i couldn’t get them to work. How ever i downloaded VMWarePlayer and installed XP into VMP and it worked like a charm. I highly recommend it. Much better than Virtual pc. The only problem you might have is if you have a new machine with WIN7 you will have to purchase a new XP disc which is getting difficult to find.


    Comment by woo | May 25, 2010

    • woo,
      Again I have to say that I it has been a while since I played with VMWare Player (I mostly messed around with Workstation) and have not done so on Win7 at all, so I could be wrong here, but I think all you need is a valid license key. ISO’s and install CD’s of XP are still rather common… but finding XP on the store shelves is catch-as-catch-can, as Microsoft stopped selling discs a while back now.


      Comment by techpaul | May 25, 2010

  9. Hi TechPaul

    I still have my old pc with Windows XP. Could i have installed this on VMWarePlayer in window7 or this not allowed by MS. It would also mean i would have to ring MS to get it activated.


    Comment by woo | May 25, 2010

    • woo,
      I believe (always good to leave one’s self ‘wiggle room’) that you could use ImgBrn (or similar) and create an ISO of your XP machine’s c:\ drive OR use the disc+license key and “install to” the VM. And I believe you won’t have to call MS Activation hotline.. because the expiration won’t matter. Each time you load it, it will be minute 1 of Day 1.

      It will be simpler if you don’t give the VM Internet access.


      Comment by techpaul | May 25, 2010

  10. hi techpaul,
    i have problem while running games on my computer…when i clicked on the .exe file..the cursor changed to a small blue circle(waiting sign),so i waited,but the game didn’t run at all…all i got was a cursor with a blue circle on it,which went on and on,when i checked the task manager,there run32dll process was eating 40% to 50% of my CPU..i am having this problem with almost every older game,and don’t know how to make them work on windows 7…
    please help…!!!
    sys confg->
    processor–intel dual core(2.8ghz)
    OS–windows 7 ultimate(32 bit)


    Comment by Aditya | December 31, 2010

    • Aditya,
      Without looking at your computer, mind you, .. I have a suspicion that the two issues are not directly related. Try temporarily turning off the UAC.
      The How To is here: . Reboot, and try launching your games again.


      Comment by techpaul | December 31, 2010

      • thanks for the help..i will surely try it..!!


        Comment by Aditya | January 5, 2011

  11. Attention: I have posted an updated and more complete version of this article. Please see, Windows 7 – Old Games Won’t Play.. Help! (Updated)


    Comment by techpaul | January 28, 2011

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