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Virtualize 16 bit application

Created: 10 Oct 2012 | 9 comments
nessaja's picture


i try to virtualize an old windows 16 bit application with SWV 6.1 SP7 on Windows 7 x64.

You can't install this application. You can only run the "start.exe".

To copy the files into the virtual layer isn't the problem. The problem I've, how can I provide the 16bit environment for this application??

Any ideas?

Thanks to all

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ryanmc's picture

As mentioned in a previous topic, this is a limitation of your OS - the 64 bit version of Windows does not have the 16 bit subsystem to allow direct execution of 16 bit applications.

You will need to provide an environment that supports 16 bit applications - either move to the 32 bit version of Windows or provide a virtual machine on the 64 bit system that will support the environment - in other words running another copy of 32 bit Windows inside the 64 bit version.

EdT's picture

No version of Windows 7, either 32 bit or 64 bit, has any support for 16 bit applications, so there is no point trying to virtualise them.

That is why Microsoft provide the XP compatibility mode for Windows 7 - it is basically an XP virtual machine that is integrated into Windows 7 using Microsoft's virtual PC, so that starting an "XP" app from the Win 7 start menu automatically launches the VM for you.

However, there is NO XP compatibility mode in Windows 8, so realistically, your best solution is to leave any 16 bit apps running on an XP platform and get your users to upgrade their apps to something that is at least 32 bit.

If your issue has been solved, please use the "Mark as Solution" link on the most relevant thread.

nessaja's picture


thanks for your replies.

I know about the limitations but I was in good hope that there is a way to virtualize the 16 bit applications without running a WinXP 32Bit.


EdT's picture

Essentially, virtualisation is doing nothing more than redirecting file and registry calls. The virtualised application still ends up being executed by the base operating system, so the limitations of the operating system apply equally to ALL applications whether virtualised or not. 

If your issue has been solved, please use the "Mark as Solution" link on the most relevant thread.

Nirmal R's picture

Minor update to what EdT said - there are cases where applications that don't run natively on a specific OS may be handled by virtualizing. A good example of it being IE6 on Windows 7. But, in case of 16-bit apps, it requires the sub-system to run it which does not exist in Windows 7.

Not to set your hopes high @nessaja, some folks have been successful (in a very limited way,) virtualizing some 16-bit apps. Based on what you explain in your initial post, this 16-bit app is not one such app that can be virtualized.

Nirmal R's picture

Here is a procedure posted by EdT on another "virtualizing 16-bit app" post -

nessaja's picture

HI thanks for your comments,

The Idea of the dosbox isn't working. Because the application can't run in dos-mode.

I tried this already.

A.J's picture


You can always install Windows 3.11/95 in dos box and then you can install the program. But it is not very user friendly.

EdT's picture

You might get away with Win 3.11 in a DOS box, but unlikely to get anywhere with Win 95 which wants to talk to the hardware directly for some functions.

Realistically, there are two "production" solutions to 16 bit apps on Windows 7 64 bit:

1. Run an old operating system in a virtual machine under Windows 7 - 64.  I believe virtual PC is free from Microsoft, so it should not be too difficult to get up and running with this.

2. Set up a Cirtix or Terminal Server solution that can host old apps, and allow users to "remote" into this service from their O/S.

There is a third solution - get the users to invest in a modern version of whatever old software they want to run, or provide some legacy machines to run these apps somewhere inconvenient for the users to get to. That often gets them motivated to find a modern supportable solution.

If your issue has been solved, please use the "Mark as Solution" link on the most relevant thread.