Although the first Windows operating system was released in 1985, Windows 95 was the first Windows release that really became mainstream. Many of the Windows features that you might immediately recognize, such as the Start menu, originated in this release. It also allowed for intense 3D-style PC games, from DOOM to Sim City 2000.
While games like Solitaire are still available to play on Windows, older Windows 95 games can no longer be played without installing third-party software. Windows has evolved since the 1990s, and support for older software is patchy at best. If you want to play Windows 95 games on Windows 10, here’s how.
Use Windows Compatibility Mode
Starting with Windows 2000, it was possible to run legacy software in Windows compatibility mode, and this remains a feature that Windows users can use to run old Windows 95 games on new Windows 10 PCs.
However, before you start, there are some security risks associated with this method should be considered. Old software (even games) may have security flaws that could put your computer at risk. If you’re unsure, it’s best to skip this section and use a virtual machine that will run your game in a completely isolated environment.
- To use Compatibility Mode, you need to open the legacy Windows 95 game installation folder, right-click the game launcher executable (EXE) file, and select Properties. You may also need to follow these steps to launch the game’s installer first – in that case, find the installer EXE file on the installation media and follow the same instructions.
- In the Properties window, click the Compatibility tab. You can set Windows compatibility options yourself by selecting the Run this program in compatibility mode check box and choosing Windows 95 from the drop-down menu.
You can also click to enable additional graphics options, including reduced color mode, run at 640×680, and disable full screen optimization. Although unlikely, select the Run this game as administrator check box if administrative access is required to run the game.
- If you are unsure what compatibility settings you need, Windows 10 can help you determine them for you. Click the Run compatibility troubleshooter option on the Compatibility tab. This will launch the Windows built-in troubleshooter for older software.
- The Program Compatibility Troubleshooter will open. Windows will scan the executable file to try to determine the best way to run it on Windows 10. Once it finds a suitable set of compatibility settings, click the Try Recommended Settings button to apply them.
- The Windows Compatibility Troubleshooter will confirm which settings were applied in the next step. Click the Test Program button to test the game or game installer with these compatibility settings applied.
- If the game or the game installer started correctly, click Next and then click Yes, save these settings for this program in the last step. If the game does not start, click “No”, try again with different settings, or “No”, report the program to Microsoft and find a solution on the Internet.
- If you choose “No”, try again with different settings, you will be prompted for reasons. Check one of the provided checkboxes and click Next.
If Windows can find alternative settings, it will try to apply them and let you test them. However, Windows compatibility mode does not work for all older versions of software – if your game won’t launch, you need to try something else to play Windows 95 games on Windows 10.
Using Windows 95 in a virtual machine
Windows 10 isn’t the best operating system for older games. If you can’t run older games with it, then the solution might be to install an older version of Windows in a virtual machine.
The virtual machines are isolated and should not allow any communication between the host machine and the installed virtual machine (unless you allow it). Just don’t allow Internet or network access to the old Windows VM – it’s a security nightmare.
You can set up a Windows XP virtual machine using Virtualbox and files provided by Microsoft, or if you’re looking for more realistic gameplay for playing Windows 95 games on Windows 10, you can install Windows 95 on the virtual machine and play older versions. games using the natively supported operating system instead.
To do this, you need a copy of the original Windows 95 installation files. If you have a copy of Windows 95 that is gathering dust in your attic or basement, dust it off and create an ISO file from the installation media. You will also need to obtain the Windows 95 boot disk file from a source such as AllBootDisks.
After installing Windows 95 on your virtual machine, you will need to install the games you want to play, but in most cases they should work without issue. If the virtual machine does not work on your PC, try the alternatives.
While you will likely have a hard time finding copies of extremely niche games to sell in the 21st century, some older Windows 95-era games have been re-released using services like GOG, which specialize in packaging and providing retro games for newer ones. OS.
GOG is a playground that allows you to buy old games without resorting to piracy, where suspicious files from dodgy websites can often give you nasty surprises. For some older DOS-based games, GOG includes DOSBOX, a DOS emulator that runs older games on Windows 10 along with game files.
If you have the original files for a DOS-based game, you can try DOSBOX yourself without buying the game a second time. DOSBOX is free. and available for download on multiple platforms, including Windows 10.
DOSBOX, as the name suggests, will only work with DOS based games. Some (but not all) games from this era require DOS to run – you need to study the game you want to play to see if this is the case.
Running Windows 95 games on Windows 10
While Windows 10 is not really designed to play older Windows 95 games, there are a few workarounds that can be done. If you want to get rid of the nostalgic itch, stop on Windows 10 and use compatibility mode, virtual machine, or a solution like DOSBOX to get a fix for retro games.
If you’re looking for a little newer ways to pass the time, leave the 1990s behind and instead start with Steam, where thousands of PC games are available to you to play on Windows, macOS, and Linux.