There are lots of different compatibility tools to help you run older software on your modern PC. On this page we’ll list all the major ones and discuss what they do.
Tools built into Windows
Windows comes with several tools built-in to help improve compatibility. Often, these tools are all you need to get an older game working.
Compatibility options – The compatibility options in Windows help run older games or software titles. These can be enabled on a per-title basis by simply right clicking on the programs icon and choosing the relevant options. You can find out more about the compatibility options by clicking here.
CPU Affinity – Occasionally (though rarely) you might encounter an older game that is not compatible with multi-core CPU’s. If you need to set a program to use only one core on your modern computer processor, see this tutorial.
DEP Settings – Data Execution Prevention (DEP) is a new security measure in modern versions of Windows. DEP is incompatible with a number of older games, so to disable it for a particular game or program, see this tutorial.
Third party tools
If you wanted to run almost every single old PC game on a modern PC, you would also need all of the tools listed below. Of course, chances are that you will only need one or two of them to run the games you’re interested in.
_inmm.dll – The curiously named _inmm.dll is a suite of tools that can fix CD audio playback problems in several older games. A common problem with CD audio in older games is that it does not loop correctly, meaning the background tune plays once and then stops, leaving the game with just the sound effects. In many cases _inmm.dll can solve this problem, restoring proper sound playback to the game. See our tutorial here for details on how to use this program.
ALchemy – ALchemy is special software that re-enables 3D surround sound in some older games on newer versions of Windows. Only compatible with Creative Labs sound cards, the latest version of ALchemy can be downloaded here. Similar software is also available for ASUS Sound cards.
dgVoodoo 2 – This is a 3DFX Glide and DirectX 1 to 7 wrapper that’s been turning heads in the PC retrogaming community with its excellent performance and great compatibility. See our tutorial here for instructions on how to use it.
DXWnd – Originally a tool for running full-screen games in a window, DXWnd has evolved into an all-round compatibility fixer for many old games. See our tutorial here for more details.
Glide Wrappers – These are special tools that help 3DFX games run on modern graphics cards. 3DFX was a manufacturer of 3D graphics cards in the 1990’s. 3DFX cards are now defunct but the games can live on with these clever compatibility fixes. There are several different implementations of Glide wrappers and we will recommend the best one for the specific game.
VJoy and UJR – Special tools for remapping and reconfiguring joysticks. When used together these tools can reconfigure gamepads to suit whatever peculiar control setup your game is expecting. Tutorials for these two tools are available here.
Xinput Plus – This tool allows you to re-map and re-assign axis and buttons on your Xinput (Xbox 360 or Xbox One) controller. It’s very useful for older driving games. On the Xbox 360 controller, the left and right analogue triggers are bound to the same axis, Xinput Plus can re-bind them, without needing custom drivers or other hacks. Check out our tutorial for Xinput Plus here.
Xpadder – Xpadder quickly and easily maps keystrokes to your joypad. Want to control a keyboard only game with your favourite game controller? no problem. Simply configure Xpadder to press the games keys when you press joypad buttons. An essential tool for any retro PC gamer. Visit the Xpadder homepage here. You can also view our two Xpadder tutorials on Videogameperfection.com:-
Emulation and Virtualization
These tools take things a step further, allowing you to run a ‘simulation’ of an older PC from within your modern PCs desktop.
Visit the DOSBox homepage here.
ScummVM – ScummVM is a special program that is designed to run older graphical adventure games on more modern hardware. The software gets its name from LucasArts SCUMM system, which is an acronym for “Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion”. Modern versions of ScummVM support hundreds of different adventure game titles from several publishers including LucasArts, Sierra on-line and Revolution Software. Visit the ScummVM homepage here. You can also view our two ScummVM tutorials here:-
Virtualbox or VMWare – These tools are similar to DOSBox, at least from the perspective of the end user. Virtualbox and VMWare allow for a whole second operating system to run “Virtualized” inside a window on your desktop. Need to play a Windows 98 game? Just find a copy of Windows 98 and run it in Virtualbox! With 3D acceleration support (for XP and later versions of Windows), in both Virtualbox and VMWare now, this is a viable solution for those especially stubborn old titles. Visit the Virtualbox homepage here and the VMWare homepage here.
Over on Top-Windows-Tutorials.com you can now view the following tutorials to help you to get started with running Windows XP in VMware.