How to get old 16-bit Windows games to work on 64-bit Windows?

Trying to play some old Windows 95 games on Windows 7 64-bit, I’m getting the following error:

The version of this file is not compatible with the version of Windows you’re running. Check your computer’s system information to see whether you need an x86 (32-bit) or x64 (64-bit) version of the program, and then contact the software publisher.

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  • Trying to run the application in compatibility mode has no effect. I’m guessing these games somehow rely on 32-bit dlls which are missing from my system, and I would like to know if anyone else has encountered a similar problem and is able to give insight as to possible solutions or work-arounds.


    • I’ve checked this question but it discusses system requirements and not actual application invocation.
    • The games in questions are Metal Marines and Fire Fight, but I’m sure many more might be affected.
    • The error message above is not game-specific, it comes directly from Windows itself.

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  • 4 Solutions collect form web for “How to get old 16-bit Windows games to work on 64-bit Windows?”

    It’s actually quite likely that these games are relying on old 16-bit DLLs. A lot of early 32-bit software relied on old 16-bit DLLs for some functions, as they did the job, they weren’t used in a performance critical part of the software and there was no need to look for 32-bit versions. (for example until fairly recently the install software was often 16-bit, so much so that Win7 actually detects that and silently replaces with it’s own 64-bit version of the old DLL).

    Have you looked at Windows 7’s XP Mode? This runs an entire copy of 32-bit Windows XP within your Windows 7, letting old programs run within XP without the program knowing it’s on a 64-bit Win7 machine at all, and as it’s all integrated you will hardly notice that it’s running in XP.

    Windows 7’s XP Mode: what it is, how it works, who it’s for

    16-bit games will not work on Windows 7 64-bit as it lacks WOW (Windows on Windows), a program included with 32-bit Windows NT versions (including XP) that provided support for legacy 16-bit applications.

    The 64-bit versions of Windows have their own emulator: WOW64, which allows now-legacy 32-bit applications to run on the 64-bit operating system.

    Actually you can run 16-bit Windows Apps under Win7 32-bit system. Only Win7 64-bit does not support Win16 Apps. So you may also consider to install Win7 32-bit OS into a separate partition just to play most old games (From Win3.x era up to WinXP…)

    There are many games that run fine on 64-bit, only that the installer is limited to 16/32 bit.

    I found a great article that explained the problem:

    Basically, I could copy the contents of the CD to a local folder, copy in the correct 32 bit installer (the article explains how to find which installer is needed, and links to the correct installer). Once the installer was in the correct location I could run it, install the game and then change some registry details to point to my real CD drive (as it would often use the temp directory).

    I recently used this method to install Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine on Windows 8 / 64-bit. I played the game from start to finish.

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