I’m a big fan of old 16-bit DOS games that I remember playing on Windows 95 and Windows XP PCs. Thanks to the Internet, most of those nostalgic games are now available online for download. However, the issue is that you cannot install or run such titles on new Windows 10 PCs. While the compatibility mode in Windows 10 helps you open and play a few old games natively, 16-bit apps may not work, especially on a 64-bit environment.
Bypass “this app can’t run on your PC” error on Windows 10 for old games & programs
Sometimes when you install games and software on Windows 10, you might come across an error message “This App Can’t Run on Your PC. To Find A Version for Your PC, Check With The Software Publisher.” It usually appears when you want to try an old version of an application or game on a new OS platform which uses a different architecture.
However, we have also seen newer software versions showing the above error in Windows 10 and Windows 8. An example is Skype 8 installer.
Bypass this app can’t run on your PC message with Windows 10 compatibility helper
What we prefer as the primary option to bypass Installer errors in Windows 10 is running the compatibility mode. The Windows compatibility mode enables you to execute older software on compatibility for newer versions of Windows. Check our article on install old programs on Windows for instructions on how to use this feature on Windows 10.
However, the compatibility troubleshooter may not work to fix 16-bit games and programs, which Microsoft does not support in 64-bit edition of Windows 10. Here comes the use of virtualization tools like Virtualbox. Through virtualization, we run older Windows OS versions like Windows 95, 98 or Windows 98 within Windows 10 interface. By this way, you could access old and incompatible software at the same time enjoying the benefits of Windows 10.
Install Windows XP on Windows 10: Play old CD games (16/32-bit)
Even in 2019, many people use legacy applications designed for MS-DOS (16-bit/32-bit) systems. Government agencies, labs, security researchers and a few developers still operate on this platform. That may be the case; a regular user can’t go back and use an old Windows version just for installing a few games and programs. What we can do is bypass the Windows 10 error messages either with the compatibility option or use some virtualization techniques.
When you talk about virtualization software on Windows 10, we have a lot of tools to consider. Microsoft itself provides Hyper-V in Windows 10. But the disadvantage of Hyper-V is that virtual host OS also needs a separate genuine license. Also, not all Windows 10 editions support it, and it has some specific hardware requirements. Therefore in this tutorial, we use Virtualbox, a freeware, and multi-platform virtualization program. Virtualbox works so good for installing Windows XP on Windows 10 host, as you can see in the screenshot below.
Steps to play old games on Windows 10 through Windows XP virtualization
Windows XP is pretty stable in all new hardware settings and runs most of 16-bit games and programs. Hence it is our choice for virtualization on Windows 10.
- The first step is to download a copy of Windows XP in ISO format from the internet. I found it in Google, on a site called Softlay.
- Keep the ISO file on your desktop.
- Download and Install the VirtualBox 6 app for Windows hosts, here.
- Create a Windows XP virtual machine in Windows 10 as explained in the video.
- Allocate the RAM and disk size as per the availability. Virtualization requires a substantial amount of resources. The whole system may slow-down if you do this on a low-profile PC.
- Start the virtual machine once you complete the setup. Click on the light-Green arrow on Virtualbox UI to boot into Windows XP.
- Install the guest CD add-ons as soon as you see the desktop. They are a set of drivers for smooth operation of the virtual disk.
- Now, drag and drop your old games and programs to the Windows XP running inside Windows 10.
- Install or double-click on the app icon to run or play it on Windows 10.
You may download a 16-bit game and software here, for testing purpose. Virtualbox supports sharing Windows 10 files with the guest OS. USB and Disc transfers are also there. If your games are on a CD/DVD, consider mounting them through Virtualbox settings as shown below.
And keep in mind that the applicability of the above method is not limited 16-bit MS-DOS games and apps. You could use it for 32-bit, and several versions of the legacy software and games when they are not compatible with Windows 10 in 2019.
Alternative to Virtualbox for playing DOS games on Windows 10 64-bit.
Understand command-line tools and their operation? You may try DOSBox to install and play 16-bit games on 64-bit Windows 10 PCs. Dosbox is a freeware, and you may download it here. We will cover instructions on configuring Dosbox for Windows 10 in another article.