Windows XP.

Windows XP: turning into a retro platform

Introduced in 2001, Windows XP turns into a retro gaming platform faster each year and you might start to encounter problems when trying to install and play an XP game on the latest Windows operating system. Unfortunately, a simple Windows XP emulator does not exist, so you need to search for other solutions. On this page we discuss the most common issues and provide solutions for them. If you encounter additional issues yourself, do not hesitate to leave a comment.

The DirectX 9.0 issue

Windows XP officialy supports DirectX up to version 9.0C, therefore the latest games cannot be played on Windows XP anymore. The other way around, XP games might need DirectX 9.0C or previous versions, while these might not be available on the latest Windows OS.

Windows 11 and Windows 10 come with DirectX 12 by default. These versions of Windows still support DirectX 9.0 games. However, when DirectX 9.0 is not installed, some games won't run, probably saying a d3dx9_xxx.dll file is missing, or that DirectX 9.0 is not present. Most XP games have the appropriate DirectX software included. When you install a game and it asks if you want to install DirectX with it, it's safe to do this, as the latest version of DirectX won't be overwritten.

If a game does not have the appropriate DirectX software included and the game does not start, but it does show a DirectX related error message, you can try and install DirectX 9.0 manually (and with it, earlier versions). Go to our DirectX 9 download and installation instructions page.

If DirectX related error messages keep showing, you can find out what is wrong exactly by starting the DirectX diagnostic tool. Press the Windows key and R (which opens the "Run" window), type in "dxdiag" and press enter. When you're asked if the program should check if your drivers are digitally signed, you can press the "No" button. When the diagnostic tool is running, you can click on one of the tabs, or click the "Next Page" button to see if there's an error and what it's about.

The DirectDraw issue

There seems to be a DirectDraw issue on Windows 10 or Windows 11, which is related to DirectX 9. Games relying on DirectDraw run extremely slow. More about this can be found here.

The Limited Resolution issue

Furthermore, there are Windows XP games out there that support only a limited resolution, like 1024x768 or 1600x1200. Typical desks nowadays have high resolution LCD screens on them, supporting a much higher resolution. It would be unfortunate to play your Windows XP favorite in a lower resolution, wouldn't it? Yeah, well, when you can play DOS classics in ultra high res, why not play legendary Windows XP games the same way?

There's only a few things you can do here: check if you can edit the game configuration (which usually is stored in a file) and see if you can change settings manually, or search the internet to see if there's a patch or a mod for the game, which allows you to set a higher or customized resolution. Some patches or mods also include high resolution textures for FPS games, which make the game look even better than the original, while maintaining the original gameplay.

The compatibility issue

When you start a game and it says it needs Windows XP to run, you can try starting the game in compatibility mode.

  • Right click on the file or shortcut you want to start and choose "properties"
  • Click the compatibility tab
  • Check the checkbox "Run this program in compatibility mode for:" and choose Windows XP
  • Click on Ok and double click the file or shortcut to start your game

Installing Windows XP on Windows 11 or Windows 10 with VirtualBox

If compatibility mode doesn't work and you can't find a patch or a mod, you'll have to use Windows XP itself. As mentioned, a Windows XP emulator does not exist. So you'll have to set up a Windows XP system. Therefore you can create a virtual machine on your current computer. You can do this with VirtualBox. Within that virtual machine you will install a fresh copy of Windows XP. On internet, you can find plenty of guides to do this.

When you have installed the Windows XP on your virtual computer, please make sure that you also install the VirtualBox Guest Additions to enable the graphics driver and therefore 3D hardware acceleration. You can install Guest Additions by starting your guest operating system and then click the menu item Devices (on top of the VirtualBox windows) and choose Install Guest Additions.

Windows 7 XP Mode

When you have Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise or Ultimate, you can try and install Windows XP Mode. You will end up with a fully configured and activated 32 bits version of Windows XP, which is running in Microsoft Virtual PC. To enable Windows XP Mode, first follow all steps mentioned in the "Before you begin" section on the installation guide of Windows XP Mode on the Microsoft website. After that, choose the desired topic in the "Installing and using Windows XP Mode" section.

Please note that Windows XP Mode does not have access to the graphics hardware of the host computer (that's yours). The graphics card in XP Mode is an emulated S3 video card with 4 MB of memory which supports 16 bit graphics. It does not support 3D acceleration. This might be a problem when you want to run 3D games.