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With Vista and up, 64-bit versions of Windows no longer support 16-bit programs, but 32-bit versions can still run them. Windows 8 has changed a lot of things from even Windows 7, and there were rumors a while back that it would only be available in 64-bit[1][2] which seems not to be the case anymore. It’s no secret thet Microsoft is pushing users to migrate to 64-bit systems. Have they dropped 16-bit support from Windows 8 altogether (including 32-bit versions)?

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Why would you want to do such a thing? – Nathan Adams Oct 22 '12 at 18:10
@NathanAdams, your question makes no sense. Why would someone want to jump out of a plane or move to another country? Just because you have no need doesn’t mean that nobody else in the whole world does (hence the continuing 16-bit support in Windows 8). If you are simply asking of a practical reason, then the answer is because some people have 16-bit programs that have/want to run. – Synetech Oct 22 '12 at 20:23
The point is that most 16bit programs that attempt to run on a modern processor may not run (right) at all due to the vast difference in clock speed. This is apparent in many games. You wouldn't want your book keeping application as a 16bit application. With the advent of services available via the cloud, software available for pennies on the dollar, and subcontracting for super cheap - it doesn't make sense to run such archaic software. – Nathan Adams Oct 23 '12 at 2:35
@NathanAdams, again, you are simplifying things for yourself. There do exist tools that may run just fine. For example, I have some simple command-line tools that are 16-bit like old .com files or programs compiled with Pascal for DOS that do things like echo without a newline, move the cursor, set text colors, print the date/time, parse a file, etc. These work just fine and while some functions may now be built-in, many/most are not and it is not always feasible (or even possible in some cases) to update and/or re-compile them for 32- or 64-bit. – Synetech Oct 23 '12 at 4:12
We actually use (modern) software that requires a dongle. The dongle requires a driver that is 16bit. – cpuguy83 Jan 7 '13 at 18:05
up vote 14 down vote accepted

While 64-bit copies of Windows 8 do not support 16-bit applications, they are still supported on 32-bit copies[1][2][3]. However, they are not supported by default and must be manually turned on with a Control Panel applet:

16-bit support Control Panel applet

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This is the same as Windows Vista or Windows 7. If you have a 64bit version of Windows, you cannot run 16bit applications. If you have a 32bit version of Windows, you can run 16bit applications.

Workaround for 64bit systems: In Windows 7 64bit you could just download the Virtual PC XP Mode and run your 16bit application there. I'm not sure if Windows 8 also provides an XP Mode (I don't think so) but (some versions?) of Windows 8 come with Hyper-V support. So you could easily run e.g. Windows XP in your Hyper-v to have 16bit support.

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Yup, there’s already plenty of that. I guess people are still using 16-bit programs. ☺ – Synetech Oct 21 '12 at 15:06

As per Windows 7, 16-bit applications simply cannot run on a 64-bit Windows 8 installation.

However, the NTVDM required to run 16-bit applications is still available on 32-bit Windows 8 systems:

The NTVDM is present in all 32-bit NT-based Windows versions including Vista, 7 and 8, except for in 64-bit versions.

As Synetech noted, this feature is disable by default and must be manually enabled.

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