The Windows Resource
The point of this section is to quickly combat frequent problems people may experience with gaming on Windows XP, although several of the articles can be applied to software in general.
The most common reason for this is simply your computer being below the needed requirements for the game. Even a brand new off the shelf computer can be way below what's needed for modern games. The most common area where computers are lacking is in the graphics department. Computer retailers simply use any-old integrated graphics card as most consumers are unaware of their importance if they're planning on playing games, they much prefer to boast about CPU performance with lots of big numbers as that sells more computers.
Check out the 'Determinding your Computer's Hardware' guide for how to find out what you've got in your machine it's then a case of taking that information and comparing it to what's on the box of the game.
Larger numbers don't always mean better parts - you're entering a land of marketing nonsense, the GeForce 4 MX graphics cards for example are actually slower and lack lots of features that all the GeForce 3 graphics card have - that's just one example of many.
Another reason can be out of date drivers. A driver is a little piece of software that basically tells software, like Windows or your game how to use hardware in your machine. Out of date drivers can cause instability, games refusing to work, strange problems like scratchy sound weird looking graphics or poor performance. If you're serious about gaming you should keep everything up to date. To find out what drivers you need and what you need to download can be a little daunting at first. If you're not sure what drivers you need check the 'Determinding your Computer's Hardware' guide, it's basically a case of visiting the website for each manufacturer, going to their download or support sections and downloading and installing the drivers, they'll provide instructions on how to install it all which you should follow, generally it's just a case of running a program and rebooting your machine - but do follow the instructions. It's always a good idea to set a System Restore point too, just in case something does go wrong.
The three most common drivers which effect drivers are video, chipset (motherboard) and sound. You'll find it's these three that will occupy most of your time.
Every program you've got running on your computer uses resources - resources that your game could well need to get that extra bit of performance. Common problematic software are virus scanners, especially Norton it's intrusive and uses masses of RAM and can cause of lots of issues with other programs - it's a good idea to shut them down before gaming if you're getting problems.
Windows 9x games and software should run with no trouble at all - providing they were written well in the first place. There are a few games that simply won't work. Some more games that need a helping hand. There are basically two branches of Windows - there are the old Windows 9x which are for lack of time and space to explain are based upon DOS with 32bit bolted in the side. Then there is Windows NT which back in the 90s was mainly used as a business OS due to it's stability over 9x. Windows XP is based upon Windows NT (NT 5.1 to be exact). Some older programs wouldn't run on NT, this is due to lack of drivers, support and demand for games on what was back then a business OS, so the games themselves would ask the OS what it was, and it would reply Windows NT or Windows 98 for example.
The trouble now arises in that the game asks the OS what it is and Windows XP reports itself correctly as Windows NT 5.1. Big problem, game detects what it thinks is a business OS and won't run. Microsoft implemented 'compatibility mode' to get around this. Windows XP would basically trick the game into thinking it's another OS, Windows 98 for example and in a lot of cases this works fine.
To do this right click on the shortcut to the game in the Start menu and
If you still get no luck, uninstall the program with Add/Remove Programs in
the Control Panel.
Try running it again after installing, if it still doesn't work repeat the first step at enabling compatibility mode.
Windows XP, as it's based on NT has no support for DOS games, it's got a very crude command line that acts like DOS, but really isn't. There are a few options for DOS emulation on Windows, by far the most popular is DOSBox which basically creates a little virtual DOS computer within Windows.
The most frequent reason at the moment is simply down to copy-protections systems (these are the sole reason you need to put the disc in the computer at all to play a game these days) not like some CD-drive emulation software or programs frequently used to make copies. Such as the following, CloneCD, Alcohol 120%, Virtual Daemon, Nero Image Drive, and possibly others. If you get any problems first step would be to uninstall whichever you have installed and reboot.
In some cases the protection scheme simply won't work with your particular drive - some earlier versions had problems with drives with write abilities and DVD-ROM, as well as a whole host of regular drives that simply didn't work. There may be firmware upgrades available which will update the drives internal software, check the manufacturers site for these. There may also be patches from the game's publisher that addresses these problems, visit their websites to check for any updates or get onto their support to see if they have any ideas.
If nothing else works - you could try a No-CD crack, these cracks basically remove the copy-protection from the games. I won't link to any sites that supply these, and will warn you that a lot of them are on the "dodgy" side if you know what I mean so make sure your spyware and virus scanners are up to date, just in case they have a few bundled surprises, there may also be issues with the game's EULA being violated by using these. These are 100% unsupported they also may cause problems with any future patches for the game as well as disabling online play, use at your own risk.
Spyware and trojans are known to cause this problem - make sure you do have active and up to date anti-virus software and anti-malware tools, you'll get an error message similar to this:
The most simple fix it to copy autoexec.nt from c:\windows\repair to c:\windows\system32.
If for whatever reason \repair\ doesn't contain one I've put one up for download (you may need to right-click and save as), simply save it to your c:\windows\system32 directory.
Word of warning - be very careful when playing around in the Windows directory always make backups of any files you overwrite, you in case something goes not quite right.
A lot of (older) games simply weren't built to make any use of Windows XP's user levels. They may simply refuse to run at all on a limited account or saving the game may be impossible or any of a wide range of issues may occur. There's no real solution to this, only a work around, the following from Jimmy S:
Below follows the most common video, chipset or sound drivers:
Some computers require drivers from the actual computer manufacturer rather then the component manufacturer.
This one has been popping up a lot lately, some tweak guides recommended disabling Cryptographic a vital Windows process that's used to check the authenticity of downloaded components. If it's disabled Windows doesn't know if something is legit or not - problem.
To get cryptographic services back up and running, firstly make sure you're
logged on as an administrator.
Lost Freecell, Spider, Solitaire and the rest? Time for a reinstall.
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Last updated 18th of January 2006.
Copyright Paul Smith 2004-2009.
All information on these pages is donated "AS IS" with no warranties and confers no rights.
Microsoft and Windows are property of the Microsoft Corporation.