Old Software: Setup.exe Will Not Run

Old Software: Setup.exe Will Not Run

Backwards Compatibility

Have you ever had an older program or game refuse to install, receive strange errors while installing or even double clicking on the installer and having nothing happen?  I certainly have.  Most recently I encountered the problem where setup.exe would not run on two of my old PC games after re-installing Windows 7 on my machine.

In all cases Windows is to be backwards compatible with legacy software and games; and although there may not seem like there is a way to find out why the software isn’t working, there are a number of things you can try.

A Number Of Possibilities

While trying to re-install my favorite old PC games, Halo: Combat Evolved and MechCommander 2, I had to try a few different things before I got them to work.  Hopefully one of these items in the list will allow you to run your favorite old software as well.

Antivirus/Malware Scanner

Disable any Antivirus/Malware Scanner/Internet Security Suite during the installation process.  After doing so, do not browse the web while any of these programs are disabled as you will be at a much greater risk of getting your computer infected.  Depending on the software you may be able to disconnect your PC from the internet during this time.  If you are on wireless, open your network list and disconnect from the current network.  If you are on a wired connection, you will need to open the Network and Sharing Center, click on  the Change adapter settings option.  This will open the Network Connections window where you can modify your computers network adapters.  Once disabled the option to re-enabled will be where the disable option was.

Network_and_Sharing_Center_Adaptor_Settings
Network and Sharing Center – Highlighted In the upper left is the option to view and modify network adapter properties
Disable_LAN_Adaptor
Network Connections Window – Click to select the network adapter and then disable using the button in the bar just below the location bar.
Enable_LAN_Adaptor
Network Connection Window – Once disabled, you are able to re-enable the adapter with the same button used to disable it.
REMINDER:  Always be sure to re-enable your Antivirus and other security software after completing installation.  You are at much greater risk of picking up malware and viruses without one actively running on your Windows PC.
Run as Administrator

If the installer is still not running or failed to install the game properly, the next option to do is to ensure the file is run as Administrator.  For CD/DVD based games you will want to locate setup.exe.  This is pretty much always directly visible inside the disk without having to dig through the install files/folders.  To explore the contents of the disk, ignore the install or run option from autoplay(if it runs) and use the open folder to view files option to view its contents.

AutoPlay Options
AutoPlay – If AutoPlay runs, Ignore the option to run setup.exe. Open the folder the folder to view its contents.

Another option to to go to My Computer/Computer, right-click the drive and then select Open.

Right-Click the disk under Computer and click Open

Once you have opened the disk, look for setup.exe and right-click it and select Run as Administrator.  This will let the program have any additional privileges it needs to modify settings on your PC.  Older software designed to run on previous versions of Windows may assume that it has full access without Windows recognizing that it needs elevated privileges.  This is due to how the old versions of Windows were designed.

After locating setup.exe (application file type), right-click it and select Run as Administrator.
After locating setup.exe (application file type), right-click it and select Run as Administrator.
 Compatibility Mode

If setup still wont launch, another option to try is to modify the compatibility layer built in to newer versions of windows.  You can access this by right clicking on setup.exe and then going to properties.  Here you can change settings to get Windows to try to run the program as if it were on an older OS(Operating System) or change other details such as video modes and has a check box to enable the file to Run as Administrator.

Image showing Compatibility Options
Image showing Compatibility Options – Run this program in compatibility mode for: is not checked by default.
Check 'Run this program in compatibility mode for:' and select the OS the program was designed to run if you think that its an OS compatibility issue.
Check ‘Run this program in compatibility mode for:’ and select the OS the program was designed to run if you think that its an OS compatibility issue.
Change The Disk Drive Letter

If you are still unable to successfully install the game the last option may be a little drastic but ultimately worked for me while installing my games.  When I last re-installed Windows I did so off of a USB drive.  This led my DVD drive to be labeled as E: instead of D:.  This doesn’t seem like it should be that big of a deal, however, both software titles were able to run and installed after making this change.  The reason for this is that on older machines, drive D: was always assumed to be a disk drive and was hard coded into the application to look there for at least the install files.

To change the drive letter you will want to open Disk Management.  As mentioned in a previous post, Disk Management can be found under the Control Panel, under System and Security in the Administrative Tools section.  Here there is an option ‘Create and format hard disk partitions’.  An alternative way to open the program is to search for Create and format hard disk partitions.

Disk Management - Showing the right-click options with the 'Change Drive Letter' option highlighted.
Disk Management – Showing the right-click options with the ‘Change Drive Letter’ option highlighted.

Once here, you want to right click on our disk drive, and select Change Drive Letter and Paths…

This will bring us to a new window asking what you want to do with the drive.  Here you want to select Change.

From this window, select 'Change' to change the drive letter.
From this window, select ‘Change’ to change the drive letter.

Now, use the available drop down menu to choose a new drive letter.  If D is used by another storage device, follow this procedure to change that disks drive letter and then assign D to your CD/DVD drive.

Select a new drive letter. In this case, we want D.
Select a new drive letter. In this case, you want D.

Now click OK and you will be greeted by a Warning that hints at the origin of our problem.

Some programs rely on the drive letters, so we are changing it to make it work. If you have other software that requires a disk drive, be sure to check that it still works after the change. You may need to re-install or change the programs configuration files to have it recognize the new drive letter if it allows it.
Some programs rely on the drive letters, so you are changing it to make it work. If you have other software that requires a disk drive, be sure to check that it still works after the change. You may need to re-install or change the programs configuration files to have it recognize the new drive letter if it allows it.

Click Yes here, and now you should be back at the Disk Management main window and be able to see the changed drive letter.

The disk drive letter has been successfully changed!
The disk drive letter has been successfully changed!

Now, your installer should be able to run without an issue.  You should be rewarded with the installer screen now when you run setup.exe.

Success! Only a few short minutes away from some classic, tactical, Mech on Mech action!
Success! Only a few short minutes away from some classic, tactical, Mech on Mech action!
 Additional Options

If none of the options above worked for you, there is still hope.  With Virtual Machines you can run another OS inside your current OS.  This allows you to run an older version of Windows that is compatible with your software without having to downgrade your whole PC.  This can most easily be done with VirtualBox and an old license of the OS you need (7/Vista/XP/NT/98/95).  VirtualBox (wikipedia Link)  is a platform created by Oracle(formerly Sun Microsystems) that allows you to create and run Virtual Machines(computers) on top of your already running computer.  Currently VirtualBox is not capable of fully using your graphics card, so intensive 3D games or other 3D applications will not run smoothly if at all.   However, it is a good option for any other type of program.

The only caution is that a Virtual Machine of an older OS should not be allowed to connect to the internet if it is no longer supported, unless you know how to properly secure your machine/firewall and only use specific trusted sites. Older OS’s have many unpatched vulnerabilities making them much easier to infect.

I may do a post on VirtualBox in the future, if you would like me to create an informative/tutorial article about this software, please let me know in the comments section below.

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