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3 Top Tips to Make Older Programs Work Better & Faster

written by: Joli Ballew•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 6/13/2009

If you’re fighting with multiple image-editing programs, applications created for older operating systems, or experiencing problems with older multi-media games, we have the answers you need to make it all work better.

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    Remove Unwanted Programs

    You may have a lot of hardware installed on your PC: printers, scanners, speakers, CD and DVD burners, Web cams, and even items like MP3 players, PDAs, iPods, and digital cameras that you connect intermittently. Much of this hardware comes with drivers for making them work, which of course, you’ve installed. Unfortunately, much hardware (like printers and scanners) comes with additional programs that install automatically. Printers are the worst. Often, they include software for enhancing photos, cropping them, publishing or e-mailing them, and performing similar tasks. If you use a different program (such as Photoshop or Photoshop Elements), or any of the available Microsoft tools (like Publisher, Paint, or Windows Photo Gallery), you probably don’t need this additional software at all. But worse than that, clicking a picture file may sometimes cause one of these older programs to open, which is of course, a huge waste of time.

    If this happens to you, uninstall these programs! Not only will your computer perform faster, but you’ll be rid of the applications you no longer need or want.

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    Use Program Compatibility Mode

    If you find that an older program that worked fine on your Windows 2000 machine doesn’t run so well on your Windows XP machine, you can tell Windows to run it in Program Compatibility mode. When you choose this option, Windows XP changes the operating environment for the program and creates an area for the program to run in its native environment. While you can use the Program Compatibility Wizard, you can also configure it manually:

    1. Locate the program icon on the Desktop or the program name on the All Programs menu. The program has to be one that you’ve installed; you can’t set compatibility options for Windows XP applications like Outlook Express, Internet Explorer, Paint, or similar programs.

    2. Right-click and choose Properties.

    3. Click the Compatibility tab, and check Run This Program In Compatibility Mode For, and notice that the options in the drop-down list become available. Choose a mode for the program from this drop-down list.

    Tip: For best results, don’t run anti-virus software in Program Compatibility Mode.

    If the program still seems buggy after configuring it to run in Program Compatibility Mode, check the manufacturer’s Web site for updates or patches, check Windows Update for program fixes, or if the program is a game that uses DirectX technology, ensure that you are using the latest version of DirectX (see the next section).

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    Make Multimedia and Games Run Better

    Multimedia and games use DirectX, a tool that enhances the multimedia capabilities of your computer. DirectX enables programs to determine the hardware capabilities of your computer and then sets program parameters to match, thus making sure the program can access and use all of the high-performance options available. You can tweak DirectX using the DirectX Diagnostic Tool: Click Start, click Run, and type dxdiag. Then, click OK.

    If you are familiar with DirectX terminology and tools, or if you just want to see if there are any problems, you can work through the tabs of the dialog box. Each offers information on various problems and features. You can also perform tests to see if the hardware and software are functioning properly, including tests on your display, sound devices, music devices, input devices, and more.

    If you do find problems or if DirectX sounds like a planet in a sci-fi movie to you, you’ll be better off using the options under the More Help tab. There, you’ll find various troubleshooters that will walk you through solving any problems you’ve found. You can also click Help from any tab to get more information.