How to run 16 bit programs on Windows 7

A friend recently upgraded to Windows 7 64 bit from XP but didn’t want to upgrade his ancient version of Quickbooks (version 3, on 3 floppy disks!).

After trying to run it on 7 in various compatibility mode options I established that it was a 16 bit program and Microsoft had removed the required functionality from 64 bit OSes.

VMware player now has the option to create virtual machines rather than just play them and is more slick than my previous desktop virtualisation tool – Virtualbox. So with VMware player installed, I built an XP machine, installed Quickbooks et voila.

As an extra bonus, VMware player includes Unity, which runs programs within its virtual machines as if they were running natively within the host machine. So now my very non-technical friend doesn’t have to get confused with virtual machines.

And on to the next hurdle; backing up Quickbooks. VMware player also has the ability to map folders on the host machine as network drives within the guest. Unfortunately Quickbooks is so old that it doesn’t recognise network drives, so I used local group policy on XP to run a script on logoff (the VMware folders get disconnected after logoff so a shutdown script wouldn’t work) to copy the file from C: on the guest to the mapped drive where it can be backed up under Windows 7.

Problem solved.

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