Windows – Run 32bit applications on Windows 10 64 Bit

32-bit64-bitwindows 10

I've got a Windows 10 Computer (home edition), which has 4GB of Ram and an i5 processor. I need to run an old 32 bit accounting programme. The vendor said it won't release a 64 bit version (although a 64bit version exists, it's missing key features from the older version).

The programme installs fine, but when I click on the programme icon, it says the programme won't work on a 64 bit system.

What options do I have?

I've done a fair bit of research, but it seems to run up dead ends.

1) WoW64


Apparently, this is supposed to let you run 32 bits on 64 bit Windows. However, I am not sure how to install it. I think it's for web servers only. However, this Stack Overflow thread says it can work on Windows 7, but doesn't explain how to set it up (or if it will work on Windows 10).

2) XP mode


A 32bit Windows XP emulator. However, it seems to be for Windows 7 only. Also according to this Stack Overflow thread, you need Windows Professional.

3) Virtual Box Machine


Let's you emulate Windows. Seems overkill for my purposes. Plus I would need to buy a 32 bit Windows license. I think it would run slowly with 4GB of Ram.

4) Partition drive into 32bit and 64 bit versions
Apparently, you can use the free tool EaseUS to split the drive into two and then install separate 32bit and 64 bit versions.

Again, seems overkill and it looks like I would need buy a 32 bit Windows 10 license.

Are these my only options?




First run (From the error message I guess it's a 16-bit program)
First run

Clicking on programme
When clicking on Programme

Best Answer

Simply put, if you want to operate an older, 16-bit program, you have to be running a 32-bit version of Windows. 64-bit versions of the operating system simply do not support it, as they lack the compatibility layer (they are compatible with the more widely used 32-bit software, however). There are some other limitations of 64-bit Windows, but the key point here is that 16-bit programs won't execute.

Edit: After revisiting this question some time later, I'd like to address your findings in the OP.

  1. WoW64 lets you run 32-bit programs in a 64-bit Windows environment. It is built into the Windows operating system and does not require additional installation. Similarly, 32-bit installations of Windows can run 16-bit programs.
  2. XP Mode was a feature of Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise, and Ultimate, that allowed you to run the more popular at the time Windows XP in a virtual machine.
  3. Virtual Box, or any virtual machine software (VMWare is another example) allows you to install an operating system inside and run it inside of your primary machine. This would be arguable the easiest way to achieve your goal as you could simply install the software onto a 32-bit virtual OS. If you gave the VM 2GB of memory access, on a 32-bit install, it would run okay. Sluggish, but okay.
  4. Partitioning your drive would allow you to dual boot twin installations of Windows. This is a more permanent solution, and shouldn't be done IMO unless you can't run the VM.