Download and install XP Mode
As you experiment with and navigate through Windows 7, you will find that most of the software features you were used to working with in previous versions of Windows will still function with no problems at all. There are some exceptions to this, however, so you will have to do some extra legwork to get certain items working. The exceptions include some installation programs, drivers, and 32-bit applications in a 64-bit environment.
One way to make the aforementioned exceptions work is to download XP Mode. XP Mode is essentially Virtual PC, and it is free for owners of the Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise, or Ultimate versions. You can also try downloading Virtual PC 2007 to run the outdated programs.
Try running the program in compatibility mode
Emulation may not resolve your issue of not being able to run old programs on Windows 7. If that is the case, you can try to run the program in question in a compatibility mode. Doing so is quite simple. Unfortunately, the likelihood of it working is not high, but it is worth a shot.
To run a program in compatibility mode, right-click the program’s shortcut or icon. Select Properties, and click on the Compatibility tab. Check the box that says Run this program in compatibility mode for: and select the operating system you want the program to run in. You will also see other settings, allowing you to run the program in 256 colors or in 640 x 480 screen resolution. You can also disable visual themes, desktop composition, and display scaling on high DPI settings.
Set up a dual-boot system
If you haven’t been able to get old software running directly on Windows 7, you could install both operating systems to create a dual-boot system on your computer. Doing so is not exactly simple, as there are several things to take into consideration. Some modern drivers for newer components will not work on outdated operating systems, so you will have to take the right steps to install the two operating systems correctly. Not only will you have to install both operating systems in the proper order, but you will also have to partition your hard drive.
Should you decide to take the plunge and go the dual-boot system route, visit http://apcmag.com/the_definitive_dualbooting_guide_linux_vista_and_xp_stepbystep.htm. There you will find step-by-step guides with screen shots for installing various pairings of operating systems.
Downgrade to the 32-bit version of Windows 7
You have probably heard the phrase, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” While that mantra may work in many settings, you could find that it does not work when trying to run old programs on Windows 7. Running 32-bit programs on the 64-bit version of Windows 7 could work using compatibility mode, but it’s not highly likely. If you need to use several 32-bit programs, you should probably downgrade your OS to the 32-bit version. You can do so using a 32-bit installation disk that comes with Windows 7. Note that if your computer has more than 2 GB of RAM, downgrading just to run old programs may not be worth it.