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
When 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.