Running 16-bit programs on 64-bit computers

Tämä on englanninkielinen versio artikkelista 'Vanhojen ohjelmien käyttäminen'

This article is about running old non-game software programs on current 64-bit Windows computers. The tricky part is how to deal with 16-bit programs that no longer work on 64-bit machines, for example old DOS/Win 3.1 programs that did run on 32-bit XP machines and that no longer run on 64-bit machines. What to do?

If you are a veteran computer user, it is likely that you have many favorite programs that you do not want to stop using, even when operating system versions change and old machines are replaced with newer ones. If you are as old as me, you may still have DOS programs from the 1980's and Windows 3.1 programs from the 1990's, not to mention some later Windows programs. How can these programs be used on newer machines, which are typically 64-bit Windows machines?

If a program has been created for Windows 95 or higher and the operating system is Windows 7 or higher, you can try to proceed according to Microsoft's instructions by setting it up to work in a so-called compatibility mode.

As for DOS or Windows 3.1x under Windows 7, you can download and install MS-Virtual PC 2007 SP1 and Virtual PC 2004 DOS Additions. To install Virtual PC 2007, you must first remove the Virtual PC program that comes with Windows 7 from your system, which means that you will lose access to XP mode on Virtual PC. However, XP mode files should not be destroyed because they can be installed on VMware Player and activated as part of Windows 7 Pro using VMware Player.

To run DOS non-game software programs, there is an easier way, namely installing the vDos or vDosPlus operating environment. Both of these are based on DosBox, and are particularly stable versions suitable for running non-game programs. Using DosBox you can install game software and even Windows 3.1 if needed. VDosPlus is also able to run more problematic DOS programs, such as XyWrite or even Y2K-crippled programs like MS-Word 5.0. I have been involved in creating vDosPlus XyWrite installation programs so there is up-to-date information about this on my own site. For WordPerfect users, there is a vDos-based special solution created by Edward Mendelson.

If the main operating system is Windows 8 or 10, the situation of potential Windows 3.1 users is even more difficult. MS-Virtual PC 2007 cannot be installed on Windows 8 without some trickery, and Windows 10 is basically incompatible with it. VMware does not provide DOS Additions, and VirtualBox is not the best when running Windows 3.1 applications. If you are in this situation, I recommend installing Windows 2000 in VirtualBox and testing whether your desired Windows 3.1 application works in this environment. In fact, I have experienced many nice surprises: Windows 2000 under VirtualBox can run many Windows 3.1 applications well. The advantage is that Windows 2000 communicates well with newer operating systems and that data sharing using shared folders is smooth and easy. Also, Windows 2000 does not require activation, so if you still have the media, it is easier to install than XP. Anyway, a W2K virtual machine is a lot faster than XP mode.

In some rare cases, you may also want to consider installing a new 32-bit Windows 7-10 operating system. It supports, at least in principle, the running of 16-bit applications, but if you use the machine mainly for working with modern programs, it may turn out to be too slow compared to a 64-bit system and a bad compromise in general.

So, if you want to rekindle your passion for DOS word processing or database programs, there is an easy solution in using the vDos (Plus) environment to run them. The best thing about these new solutions is their integration with Windows, you can exchange information using the clipboard, print with Windows printers, and your data is readily available on the Windows file system and not concealed somewhere deep inside a virtual hard disk volume. This means you can access the information even if vDos (Plus) is not running, though provided that it is in ASCII or other readable format.

If you want to blow the dust off your Win 3.1 programs, like Quark 3.3.2 or Ventura 4.2, or Windows 2000/XP programs, such as Office 2003, Acrobat 6 and so on, you can do this easily and securely with VirtualBox W2K.

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