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.

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.
  • 1
    Related: superuser.com/questions/333103/…
    – Oak
    Commented Sep 8, 2011 at 8:57
  • Related: Win3mu - an open source Windows 3.0 emulator. It includes an 8086 CPU emulation that loads 16-bit Windows executables and maps API calls onto the modern 32 or 64-bit Windows API. Commented Aug 20, 2019 at 11:01
  • Why was this voted to be closed as off-topic? I realize the problem is not specific to game executables, but it is a common obstacle faced by people wanting to play (old) games, and that's one of the pillars of this community, right?
    – Joachim
    Commented Aug 22, 2019 at 18:28
  • @Joachim "the problem is not specific to game executables" by itself is enough to make a question off-topic in my opinion.
    – pppery
    Commented Aug 22, 2019 at 19:56

5 Answers 5


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

  • Although it's unlikely you're using the Starter edition, XP Mode is not available for that edition of Windows 7. Also, it requires certain hardware support that may or may not be enabled in the BIOS even if it is available on your hardware... Other than, that, I love XP Mode. :) Commented Jul 11, 2010 at 21:13
  • Still some issues with it, but in general it was a success so answer accepted :)
    – Oak
    Commented Jul 11, 2010 at 21:19
  • 2
    +1 I didn't even know that this mode existed, now I need to get Windows 7 so I can play all of my XP games that got busted during the vista transition. Commented Jul 13, 2010 at 21:18
  • 2
    Actually I was referring to Win95-era games which run fast even without 3D acceleration; in general, however, you are correct that it's a pretty poor emulator for gaming.
    – Oak
    Commented Jan 21, 2011 at 10:53
  • 3
    Keep in Mind the version of Windows 7 that includes XP mode is Windows 7 Professional. The Home edition does not include that, from the start. However most computer stores even retail stores fail to mention that most computers sold with Windows 7 home premium actually are Windows 7 professional in locked down mode until you purchase a key code at Staples or any other retailer or even online that will fully unlock Windows 7 from the home Edition to Windows 7 Professional that includes the XP Mode. And true In XP mode all your older games should in theory run without a problem. Another trick is
    – user17930
    Commented Jan 7, 2012 at 15:57

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.


Updated answer, just in case anyone stumble with that question in 2021 or later:

You can play Windows 16-bit games in a 64-bit Windows computer by using DOSBox-X. Install Windows 95 (or Windows 98, depending of the game requirements) inside a DOSBox-X virtual disk, and use it to install and play the game.

You may need to do some tweaks in order to get the best performance of that game, but that will make you capable of playing the game without using a dual boot. You may also be able to add the game launch to Windows 96/98 startup, which will give a more immersive experience.

DOSBox is basically a virtual machine, so the game won't have access to the same amount of resources as if it was being played in a 32-bit dual boot, but seriously, if it's a Windows 16-bit game, it won't demand that much anyway.


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.

  • 1
    Some other games of that generation (like the first Command & Conquer) require an InstallShield unpacker tool like WinPack to actually get to the game files though.
    – Nyerguds
    Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 23:02

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