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Can I Play My Old Games on My 64-bit Computer?

Question: I have a 64-bit computer. I still have many old games on CD. Is there any way to play them on my computer? I’ve tried to right-click and select the option to play older versions or change any options that I can think, but so far, none of this has helped.

Technically, it doesn’t matter if the games are on CD. That’s just how they’re delivered to you. What’s more important is what the game itself uses, requires and expects from your machine. That will vary dramatically from game to game.

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Test the game first

To start with, you did the right thing. Put the game on your computer and see if it works. If it doesn’t, change the compatibility settings to see if it will start up.

Many older games actually will work. It’s actually surprises me to see how much of my older software (32-bit software specifically) will work just fine in my Windows 64-bit machine. I’ve had very few problems.

When a game doesn’t work at all, it’s important to know the specific way that it fails. That can tell us a lot about what the game wants from your machine and from there, we can come up with a solution.

Open a virtual machine

CheerWhen a game won’t open, your next step might be to fire up what’s called a virtual machine. This allows you to run a completely different operating system within a window in Windows 64. For example, I can open Windows XP 32-bit in a window on my Windows 64-bit machine and run older applications within this window.

What’s cool about using a virtual machine is that you don’t have to use the Windows operating systems. A virtual machine can run Linux, MS DOS, Windows 98 … anything that runs on PC hardware.

You need the virtual machine software for your PC, of course. These days, I’m using Oracle’s Virtual Box. It’s free and while it is a bit of work to set it up, Virtual Box actually runs great once it’s set up.

A virtual machine is an option. It’s not a guarantee, but it is worth trying.

If the virtual machine doesn’t work…

As I said before, when a game doesn’t work at all, it’s important to know exactly how it fails to be able to come up with a solution. For example if you try running in a virtual machine and your game still won’t play, it’s likely that we’re talking about games that make heavy or custom use of the video drivers – but again the specific error messages that come up should tell you more.

Some games will work. Some won’t. Some will have a difficult time interfacing deeply to a video card and they may still not provide all of the functionality that a game might need. I don’t have an answer for making those work other than finding an older machine and running the old operating system on it.

Ultimately,  knowing what to do next with a game depends on understanding exactly how it fails – what the symptoms are when you try to run it.

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18 comments on “Can I Play My Old Games on My 64-bit Computer?”

  1. Also, if it’s so old that it actually uses MS-DOS, DOSBox is the best option; I recommend it along with D-Fend Reloaded, which is by far the best frontend out there so far.

  2. 64-bit versions of Windows will no longer run old MS-DOS programs. (I don’t know if they ever did, as my first 64-bit Windows was Win7.) In any case, as you say, using VirtualBox allows me to boot my ancient copy of MS-DOS 6 and run some old MS-DOS games.

    And, in proud geek tradition, my 13-year-old daughter is hooked on “Colossal Cave”, the original “adventure” game, which was ported to MS-DOS back in the 1980’s. (Which is now being used as a carrot, since she’s not allowed to play it until she’s done her school work.) I have Zork (released to the public by Infocom) waiting in the wings for her.

    • Fond memories of playing Colossal Cave (known as “Adventure” at the time), on an interactive terminal connected to our university’s CDC 6400 mainframe. “You’re in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike.”

    • I remember playing Adventure when I was studying computer science at BBN in 1979. It was my first computer game. It was programmed in BASIC, and we could download and look at the source code. An early example of open source software. “Pick up sword” :-)

  3. I have had mixed results, running old games. Two huge stumbling blocks are video cards (the standards change year to year, let alone over a decade or so) and sound cards. Emulators (and I include the likes of DosBox in this) try to give games what they are looking for.
    I keep my fingers crossed for an XP ‘Emulator’, so I can dig out all of my not-so-old titles :)

  4. I had a piece of software I needed to use that wouldn’t work in Windows 7. The cost to replace the software with a newer version was prohibitive. That’s when I discovered Oracle’s Virtual Box and created a Windows XP virtual machine on my laptop. Works perfectly. Can’t say about games, though.

    • Aside from the hassle of starting up the VM when you need it, I’ve found it an invaluable tool for running other and older operating systems and software.

  5. I used to play Hoyle Table Games Maxium Pool on my old HP notebook, loved the game. But when I updated to a new Dell notebook with a duel core processor, the game will not work. Contacting Hoyle, they said they are unable to get the game to work with duel core processors. So they dropped it from new versions of their Table Games disk. I have looked around for another pool game that will run on duel core processor, Windows 7, computers without success. It seems it would be easier to get something that graphic intensive to work better on a more powerful processor, but I guess not. Or maybe the game is just to tame for some programmer to put the time in to make work. Not enough blood and killing.

  6. Bob, you don’t need an emulator for XP. Dual boot instead. It’s not difficult to set up, though best if you add a second hard drive, but they’re quite cheap now. Further, I’ve found all (so far I’ve not encountered one that won’t run) those old XP programs will run under 7 from the XP drive. From Win7, use Explorer to navigate to the XP drive, find the program’s .exe file and click as normal. If it does run, place a shortcut on the 7 desktop, and you never really have to boot into XP.

  7. I currently stuck in usnig virtual machine. I using it, try to create windows 98 but receive this message on command prompt window

    FATAL!no bootable medium found ! system halted

    • In virtual machine in the most ways the pc is crashing .
      Its better some programs to run in dosbox 74 and than
      install programs like D – Fent Reloaded or Dosblaster 3.0 to run old DOS or Windows games .

  8. Play windows 95 windows 98 windows 2000 games

    You can play old Windows games just change the settings in compability mode in windows 7 or use Dosbox 74
    and you must download a front end program like Dosblaster 3.0 or
    D – Fent Reloaded at than you can play also old windows games of windows 95 , windows 98 , windows 2000
    Good luck with it and play the old games !!!!

  9. Okay here goes
    first of all let me give you back your years of life… if your game is not 2d or 8 bit forget dos box it won’t work and virtual box is a pain in the bum and compatibility mode is a joke. Go to Microsoft and download windows xp mode virtual pc.

    If you are trying to play a windows 95 game on windows xp mode virtual provided by Microsoft do this…

    Launch your xp mode windows virtual of window
    Go to tools tab
    Ensure your option – enable integration features is on (check settings underneath that option and go to ‘integration features’ and make sure that drives is selected with every box in it.)
    Put in your cd
    Go to my computer
    Look down under your normal ‘devices with removable storage’ – you should see ‘other’ and in there drives like c, d and e might also say on ‘yourname’ – PC.
    Go to D and double click.
    There you should see your CD-ROM icons exactly as they should look. Find programme and double click and it should work.

    likewise if this doesn’t work
    go back to enable integration features and make sure this is disabled, it will make the ‘other’ dissapear but should allow you to run the game in d drive as normal and I mean the d drive still within the xp mode window.

  10. Linux is a time machine for old software and hardware, you could probably run your aged old games on Linux under a vm without problems.

  11. If I have a Windows 95 game, specifically “RISK”, can it run on a 2016 Windows 10 gaming computer? What software should I download?

    • There’s no way of us knowing without trying it out. The chances probably aren’t too good. One way which might work, as the article suggests, is to run an older version of Windows in a virtual machine. XP might work or if not install Windows 95 in the virtual machine.

    • It may or may not. Exactly what steps to take would depend on the game, its reason for failure, and your own level of technical expertise. Sorry there’s no simple answer.

  12. Back in 1982, I wrote accounting and tax software for the Commodore 64 as very few were commercially available. The programs were written in BASIC. Today, I use Win10 and I still use on a daily basis the programs I wrote in BASIC in 1983/85. I use Win10 32 bit. This will run the BASIC/DOS programs. I’ve had problems printing from my programs as I had to write a printer part of the programs with BASIC programs. But I’ve solved these after a lot of trial and error.When a program tries to print to LPT1 in BASIC, it finds that LPT1 is offline but printer spooling is enabled and the printing shifts to printing under Win10.
    Long may BASIC and DOS continue!


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