Microsoft: Windows 8 32-bit can still run 16-bit apps

It's been a while since Microsoft has released a version of Windows that was supposed to run 16-bit apps natively. Microsoft started to move from supporting a 16-bit OS with Windows 95. Lately, the company has been trying to get customers to go the 64-bit route with newer versions of Windows.

Even with a 64-bit version of Windows available for the upcoming Windows 8, Microsoft will still offer a 32-bit version of its next operating system for sale for x86-based PCs. Of course, some apps won't be able to perform as well on a 32-bit version of Windows 8 compared to a 64-bit port. However it appears that's not the case for all apps.

In response to a comment from a user, Microsoft has revealed in a new post on the Building Windows 8 Twitter page that people interested in running much older software can still do so on the 32-bit version of Windows 8. Microsoft states: " ... you can run 16 bit apps on 32 bit Windows 8. 64 bit doesn't include the subsystem at all for a variety of reasons."

For people who are still holding on to their floppy install drives to run older Windows program, that's good news indeed.

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> Microsoft has revealed

That's hardly a revelation. All 32-bit versions of Windows have been able to run 16-bit apps, and 64-bit versions haven't. The fact that this continues with Windows 8 should only be news to the uninformed.

Great for enterprise users with legacy applications... We still have some 16-bit systems and will have for at least the next two years.
The upgrade programme will not change things overnight, but it is good to know that the environment can be upgraded (currently XP).
For a company with almost 10,000 employees cost is always a massive consideration when making any changes.

S_Herbie said,
Great for enterprise users with legacy applications... We still have some 16-bit systems and will have for at least the next two years.
The upgrade programme will not change things overnight, but it is good to know that the environment can be upgraded (currently XP).
For a company with almost 10,000 employees cost is always a massive consideration when making any changes.

yeah that's understandable (cost) but then again how many years you had with the legacy apps? 10? 12? isn't more than payed by now? depending on the situation, sometimes is cheaper to make small upgrades (costs more on the quick run) and having newer software than a big one (sometimes the cost can be prohibitive).

Praetor said,

yeah that's understandable (cost) but then again how many years you had with the legacy apps? 10? 12? isn't more than payed by now? depending on the situation, sometimes is cheaper to make small upgrades (costs more on the quick run) and having newer software than a big one (sometimes the cost can be prohibitive).

I don't disagree with you, however getting full sign off to release the money for the upgrade is not always simple (what is the ROI etc). The good news is that the upgrade has been agreed. Bad news it's going to take a couple of years (at least it will be done properly!)

Of course NTVDM will continue to ship in 32-bit Windows. 32-bit versions of Windows NT always have had the ability to run 16-bit apps. Microsoft Entertainment Pack games anyone? Although in 32-bit Vista and later, they removed the ability from the shell to show icons for 16-bit apps.

That aside, some features in Windows are still 32-bit only. E.g. Only 32-bit Windows 7/Vista have the network indexing ability because their search team won't update the addin for x64: http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=3383

Edited by UXGaurav, May 17 2012, 5:43am :

It is amazing how so many persons here reveal there true age when they complain about legacy support in an OS. If you run a business, you have some apps that will never be updated but the company might still want to invest in new technology while remaining compatible with legacy systems. That is where the 16 bit support comes in. You would be surprised to know how many ATM's out there are still running OS/2. It took at least a good 10 years to move aways from 16 to 32 bit on Windows. Another thing, there are a lot of 32 bit applications that still use 16 bit installers and uninstallers.

Mr. Dee said,
It is amazing how so many persons here reveal there true age when they complain about legacy support in an OS. If you run a business, you have some apps that will never be updated but the company might still want to invest in new technology while remaining compatible with legacy systems. That is where the 16 bit support comes in. You would be surprised to know how many ATM's out there are still running OS/2. It took at least a good 10 years to move aways from 16 to 32 bit on Windows. Another thing, there are a lot of 32 bit applications that still use 16 bit installers and uninstallers.

just because there's bad business practices doesn't mean we should continue to support them, right? using old, buggy software doesn't help anybody; it's wrong, actually. and no, i know companies that TRY to use new technology and remain compatible with the legacy apps. Guess what? it doesn't work all the times, so they cash more money supporting those apps and still run old OS instead of upgrading the apps (many times the OS cost is irrelevant since they have Software Assurance).

It's like fixing a old car; sooner or later it's gonna bit the bucket and by the time you realize the amount of money spend fixing it you could have a newer one with lots of extras. And cheaper. And more efficient. And with warranty.

1) Same as Windows 7
2) With HyperV built-in, you can install a 32bit version or even 3.1 and run 16bit software
3) People complaining are out of the loop or have no technical understanding why Microsoft did NOT port the 16bit VDM portion of the Win32 subsystem, as the CPU state changes alone would be a performance issue, when a VM can provide the same level of functionality without using the old DOS VDM technologies.

This is just like Windows7, The XP Mode is just Virtual PC with some HyperV features, and again, you can install Windows XP or Win95 or Win 3.1 and have a seamless experience for 16bit Applications.

Not sure how this is news, why people don't understand the technical aspects.

Also not sure why authors of articles like this NEVER mention that the VM technology in Windows 7 and HyperV VM technology in Windows 8 make this a MOOT point, even for corporate environments with really old software.

Windows 7 x64 runs 16bit software, and even 16bit and 32bit user level drivers through the Device/USB and virtualization features of the VM technologies. (Even devices with a serial cable through the device virtualization and even a USB port with serial adapter, all running a mix of 32bit and 16bit drivers.)


well then let hope it is OEM copy then (get it by request , Retail + bundled copies being 64bit only)

as well being the last x86-32 Windows client

All this crying that they didn't do the extra work it would have taken and all the extra testing to remove 16-bit support for absolutely no reason is ridiculous. Why are people so stupid?

Hint: You don't have to run 16-bit programs if you don't want to, nor do you have to buy the 32-bit version of Windows if you have an 64-bit system. You just want something to moan about.

TRC said,
All this crying that they didn't do the extra work it would have taken and all the extra testing to remove 16-bit support for absolutely no reason is ridiculous. Why are people so stupid?

Hint: You don't have to run 16-bit programs if you don't want to, nor do you have to buy the 32-bit version of Windows if you have an 64-bit system. You just want something to moan about.

and have you read the replies in the beginning? and have you read why people are "moaning", as you call it?

I am sure if this article was saying that 16-bit apps are not supported in Windows 8, the reaction would of still been negative.
I have to agree though if you have an app that was developped <1995 then there is something wrong with you.

Does it really matter that much.
Most computers sold now are x64 and should be sold running the x64 version of Windows 8.

wv@gt said,
Does it really matter that much.
Most computers sold now are x64 and should be sold running the x64 version of Windows 8.

Not all tablets will be coming in that flavor...

wv@gt said,
Does it really matter that much.
Most computers sold now are x64 and should be sold running the x64 version of Windows 8.

There's no such thing as x64. There was never an Intel 8064 processor.

Intel 16-bit, 32-bit, 64-bit...all x86, all based on the Intel 8086 instruction set.

/pet peeve

TRC said,

There's no such thing as x64. There was never an Intel 8064 processor.

Intel 16-bit, 32-bit, 64-bit...all x86, all based on the Intel 8086 instruction set.

/pet peeve

Technically it is x86-64, as it is the 64bit extensions to the x86 instruction sets, and often to avoid confusion is referred to as x64 to avoid confusion. This is what Microsoft has used for over 10 years now for x86 and the support AMD and Intel 64bit technologies.

Here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X64

It may be your pet peeve, but you are coming at this from ignorance of what the industry standard terminology is using.

Sure we could all be technically correct and differentiate IA-64, EMT64, AMD64 and the numerous other variations of these as well. However, consumers only need to know x64 or 64bit, which is why Microsoft has pushed x64 to indicate the 64bit instructions added to x86.

Additionally, x86 is a term that wasn't around until after the 80386 processors, and has since been used to an indicator of the 32bit version of the x86 processor instruction set and newer.

So the correct term would be x86-64, but why complicate things, when everyone can just use x86 for 32bit and x64 for 64bit?

Consumers don't care what a bit is, let alone have any indication of the relevance or the instruction set differences.

This is why Microsoft and even Intel and AMD also now use these terms.

http://software.intel.com/en-u...troduction-to-x64-assembly/

From Microsoft - Notice the (x86) and (x64) terminology used:
If you want to run Windows 7 on your PC, here's what it takes:
• 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor

http://windows.microsoft.com/e...roducts/system-requirements


So I get you have a pet peeve, but when the industry leaders behind the technology use a specific terminology, you should learn to accept it.

Because if you want to get technical, the 8086 instruction set is also incorrect, as the base instruction set used is technically 8086-2 as found in the 80286. When you take this to bits it gets really complex, as the original IBM PC was 8088 based, which was an 8bit variation of the 16bit 8086, and technically this is the PC CPU lineage 8088, 80286, 80386, 80468 as these are CPUs used and cloned in the early PC era, with CPUs like the 8086 and 80186 and the 8085 and others not have been commonly used.

So don't get too caught up on a pet peeve, because no matter how technical or accurate you want to be, you will still get caught on generalities and other footnotes that are not common knowledge.

We have DOS programs still in use (Paradox) and a bunch of other 16-bit Windows applications. They still work, and many do NOT have an alternative. At least, not without spending tens of thousands of dollars on alternatives.

While Windows 8 is not something I'd want to mess with, Windows XP and Windows 7 (32bit) will be in use for another 20 years.
We still have IRIX, Windows 9x, Mac OS 9, and DOS systems in use.

This doesn't surprise me. You simply would not believe the amount of lazy developers out there coding absolute junk - still programming using old tools and methods and being well behind on support for newer versions of Windows.

I guess it's a viscious circle. If Microsoft drop the support for these legacy features, the developers will get upset. If they leave it in, the lazy devs have no motiviation to change their ways.

Chicane-UK said,
This doesn't surprise me. You simply would not believe the amount of lazy developers out there coding absolute junk - still programming using old tools and methods and being well behind on support for newer versions of Windows.

I guess it's a viscious circle. If Microsoft drop the support for these legacy features, the developers will get upset. If they leave it in, the lazy devs have no motiviation to change their ways.

It's not so much laziness, more that their product requires a lot of legacy code because it has been 20 years in the making and the type of application needs the backwards compatibility with the 20 year old code. Rewriting 20 years of code is a lot of work.

I have used software where the legacy code was needed so that it could go back and input/output data for records in that time period that the legacy code was current at the time it was written.

Chicane-UK said,
This doesn't surprise me. You simply would not believe the amount of lazy developers out there coding absolute junk - still programming using old tools and methods and being well behind on support for newer versions of Windows.

The South Australian Education Department still actively maintain (as in, they released an update for it on Tuesday) a DOS program that they've been working on since the late 80's for running school libraries. I kid you not. My primary school used it when I started there in 1992 and was using it until I left in 2002 or 2003. I imagine they're still using it. My college also uses it too.

Here it is: http://www.bookmark.sa.edu.au/

I mean, it works reasonably well (if you sat down in front of it you could probably figure out how it works within five minutes), it does the job, it's just DOS based and so very 1991. There's a Windows variant that lets you run it under 64bit Windows, but I have never seen it used, probably because it's a $110 addon for a $75 program - which in itself is probably why this software is widespread: it's $75 for a decent albeit DOS based library management system. Spydus or SirsiDynix would be in the thousands and would probably be overkill for small schools - my primary school never had more than 100 students in it at a time.

There is allegedly an upgrade in the works due out later this year that will well and truly bring it into this century. Here's hoping that it actually does.

Rudy said,
The fact that they're still putting on an x86 version of Windows 8 is crazy to me

Agree, they should just continue to support 7 32bit as long as necessary.

Rudy said,
The fact that they're still putting on an x86 version of Windows 8 is crazy to me

Windows 64-bit is still x86, unless you are saying we should dump Intel/AMD and move to ARM.

The real issue isn't 16-bit apps, it's lazy developers who wrote their programs for XP and wrapped their 32-bit program with a 16-bit installer...

plasmarox said,
The real issue isn't 16-bit apps, it's lazy developers who wrote their programs for XP and wrapped their 32-bit program with a 16-bit installer...

Yep, I have a couple programs like that.

Honestly, I've got some legacy software I wrote back in 1996 that's 16 bit and people still use today. We released a 32 bit in 1999 and in 2006 created a web based version, but even just yesterday we got a support call on the original software(wanting to transfer over to a newer computer). Its sad, but when something is working right for someone, there's people that don't want to change until they are forced to.

NXTwoThou said,
Honestly, I've got some legacy software I wrote back in 1996 that's 16 bit and people still use today. We released a 32 bit in 1999 and in 2006 created a web based version, but even just yesterday we got a support call on the original software(wanting to transfer over to a newer computer). Its sad, but when something is working right for someone, there's people that don't want to change until they are forced to.

Sad, but true story .

I keep seeing this every day of my life.

The Laughing Man said,
Time to move on from x86.

You do realize that the newest Intel and AMD 64-bit processors are still x86?

TRC said,

You do realize that the newest Intel and AMD 64-bit processors are still x86?

Yes and I've had way too much coffee today. I meant move out of 32bit versions of Windows.

Unfortunately their are still developers who are still maintaining applications which are decades old and have many sections of code still in 16-bit as it has been inherited from previous generations of developers working on the project. It's not so much that it is an entire 16-bit application, it's that it is both 16-bit and 32-bit, shoehorned to work in a modern environment. It just wouldn't work if you stuck it on Windows 3.11 because the 32-bit components won't work.

Having said that, we have XP mode now. Even if the app has been bastardised to only work on Windows Vista or 7 32-bit because it is a mess of code by relies on some modern features, there is no reason why Vista or 7 can't be virtualised instead. The 32-bit build should only exist purely for Core Duo and Atom CPUs which don't support 64-bit extensions but are still powerful enough to run Windows 8.

Simon- said,
Unfortunately their are still developers who are still maintaining applications which are decades old and have many sections of code still in 16-bit as it has been inherited from previous generations of developers working on the project. It's not so much that it is an entire 16-bit application, it's that it is both 16-bit and 32-bit, shoehorned to work in a modern environment. It just wouldn't work if you stuck it on Windows 3.11 because the 32-bit components won't work.

Having said that, we have XP mode now. Even if the app has been bastardised to only work on Windows Vista or 7 32-bit because it is a mess of code by relies on some modern features, there is no reason why Vista or 7 can't be virtualised instead. The 32-bit build should only exist purely for Core Duo and Atom CPUs which don't support 64-bit extensions but are still powerful enough to run Windows 8.

this.

Simon- said,
...
Having said that, we have XP mode now.
...

MED-V (XP Mode for the enterprise) is that last thing you want to support or implement; not only is it a pain in the arse, but it also expires in 2014 with Windows XP (since it's a WinXP VM).

It's an option, but it should be viewed as temporary to allow you to get to your destination (Win7/Win8) while the app is remediated or replaced.

zeke009 said,
It also expires in 2014 with Windows XP (since it's a WinXP VM).

It will not (and cannot) expire. The only thing that will end is Support from Microsoft.

The Dark Knight said,

It will not (and cannot) expire. The only thing that will end is Support from Microsoft.

And business that is working under State and Federal guidelines can not run an OS that is not supported or patched, in effect... it expires.

supporting 16bit apps?? but why, oh why? why still supporting legacy applications, stopping progress? not even the 32bit version should be released, only 64bit. Can't use it? Stick on Windows 7 or Vista or XP...

Praetor said,
supporting 16bit apps?? but why, oh why? why still supporting legacy applications, stopping progress?

How is this stopping progress? Not saying that anyone in their right mind should be actively developing a 16 bit program of course, but how exactly is this affecting you?

Max Norris said,

How is this stopping progress? Not saying that anyone in their right mind should be actively developing a 16 bit program of course, but how exactly is this affecting you?
It gives old applications in the enterprise an excuse to not move to a current platform.

Where I work, this would lead to some business segments trying to make the push to bring in a 32bit OS for one app because it's viewed as easier than replacing the offending app. We're moving to a 64bit OS (Win7), the cost of support and maintenance for another image is not something we would entertain.

zeke009 said,
It gives old applications in the enterprise an excuse to not move to a current platform.

Where I work, this would lead to some business segments trying to make the push to bring in a 32bit OS for one app because it's viewed as easier than replacing the offending app. We're moving to a 64bit OS (Win7), the cost of support and maintenance for another image is not something we would entertain.

Having support in the 32bit version of the OS won't change that, all it will do is dictate how long it takes for the company to upgrade. Moving from 32bit -> 64bit is a lot easier when you're not jumping OS versions at the same time. If the company decides to hold out, they'll end up facing the same issue they had with IE6 - they'll get stuck in a support nightmare they just can't win. It's not Microsoft's job to deliberately disable support when there's no reason to other than "because they can".

Max Norris said,

How is this stopping progress? Not saying that anyone in their right mind should be actively developing a 16 bit program of course, but how exactly is this affecting you?

support.
And the fact that organizations could using newer, better software, not 10+ years application that out lives the company that created it. And i have several real world examples of those. Also it hurts the software companies, the organization that pays for maintenance for something very old and in the end, the user that has to use something slower, buggier and limited.

Kushan said,
If the company decides to hold out, they'll end up facing the same issue they had with IE6 - they'll get stuck in a support nightmare they just can't win.

Good point Kushan, but sometimes business needs someone outside the company to force them to do something. At least this appears to hold true in my little shop of horrors today.

The IE6 thing you mentioned is spot on. We can't win and I got an earful or my butt kicked pretty frequently for the last year. Things are starting to calm down thankfully.

While you are right, there is no point in MS upsetting companies by making a move to force them to do something they may not be ready to do. I think everyone sees the writing on the wall, 16-bit days are numbered. I fully suspect Windows 8 to be the last version that has a 32-bit flavor.

Yes yes, I know people said that about Windows 7. Those people (myself included) assumed Windows 7 would be the last Vista era OS, last OS based on the version 6.x kernel. When Microsoft moves to a version 7.x kernel (or whatever they call it, they might call it 9.x just to catch up with Windows version numbers) I highly doubt they will offer a 32-bit flavor. If they make another 6.x OS after Windows 8 then yes, it too would probably have 32-bit support.

Back to the point. That time is coming. Why make it come sooner for no reason at all? That would be a little like having your pet put to sleep when it gets old, I mean why not? Its going to die pretty soon anyway. Not a good approach when dealing with huge customers.

Who would want to buy a copy of Windows 8 in 2012 and still be using 16 bit applications? I'm sure a large number of them wouldn't work due to compatibility issues so it seems a bit pointless overall!

Mark said,
Who would want to buy a copy of Windows 8 in 2012 and still be using 16 bit applications? I'm sure a large number of them wouldn't work due to compatibility issues so it seems a bit pointless overall!

My copy of SIMEARTH.EXE is 16-bit.

Xenomorph said,

My copy of SIMEARTH.EXE is 16-bit.

DOSBOX

Would you really install a 32 bit version of windows even if your computer's specs would benefit from x64?

butilikethecookie said,
Someone needs to assassinate the lead Windows 8 dev.

DOSBOX
Virtualbox
Old Windows 95 box in your basement

Come on Microsoft!

I don't understand your concern. The 32-bit kernel has always had 16-bit support. Do you realize that it would take work to remove and test? And for what? Removing the support adds nothing and could hurt compatibility. The only reason people use 32-bit is for compatibility, so why make it less compatible? If 16-bit support really offends you, then install the 64-bit.

butilikethecookie said,
Someone needs to assassinate the lead Windows 8 dev.

DOSBOX
Virtualbox
Old Windows 95 box in your basement

Come on Microsoft!


That is ridiculous.

GS:mac

butilikethecookie said,
Someone needs to assassinate the lead Windows 8 dev.

DOSBOX
Virtualbox
Old Windows 95 box in your basement

Come on Microsoft!


DOSBOX is instruction level emulation.
VirtualBox is a partitioned virtual machine with complete hardware emulation.

None of the two are running VM86 mode within the host environment itself. Because 64bit long-mode doesn't support that.

sphbecker said,

I don't understand your concern. The 32-bit kernel has always had 16-bit support. Do you realize that it would take work to remove and test? And for what? Removing the support adds nothing and could hurt compatibility. The only reason people use 32-bit is for compatibility, so why make it less compatible? If 16-bit support really offends you, then install the 64-bit.

The problem is that all PC makers installs 64 bit windows 7 nowadays even with RAM under 4GB. None of them offers 32-bit replacement, so as MS itself.

[quote=coth said,]

How is that a problem?? I think everyone agrees that 64-bit is the preferred platform. 32-bit should only be used if there is a good reason to do so. Outside of corporate use were computers will be reimaged anyway, I don't have a problem telling someone they need to reinstall if they want 32-bit.

The fact is that software makers have been lazy. The last fully 16-bit OS was Windows 3.0 (3.1 had 32-bit support if run on a 386 with 4MB or RAM or higher). It is crazy that any software exists at all written for that platform, but many software companies never saw the need to recompile old software libraries.

I agree it is time to pull the rub out, any software company still selling/supporting software that requires 16-bit support needs to be slapped around a bit with a large trout. I am not suggesting we prolong 16-bit support. All I am saying, is why remove 16-bit support from the 32-bit versions? There is no need to. 32-bit should only be used if compatibility is needed (say a company running 20 year old software they have not upgraded). 64-bit is the main stream version.