I have two kids, and they have computers with kid's games.  Kid's games are all really scary because it seems like they were written forever ago, never updated and run on really old systems.  Support is often bad or non-existent. 

The CompUSA store nearby closed so my wife got 4 "Garfield It's All About Math, Spelling, etc." type games.  I promptly stuck them on my kid's Vista machine (hey, I work here :)).  Then they crashed with some exception.  Interestingly I brought them to work to troubleshoot the problem and had a difficult time consistently reproducing the problem.  I thought I'd share my experience here in case someone else has these programs. 

I of course tried App Compat and "everything", however what I did that "worked" for me to install the Garfield "It's All About" games was:

  1. I turned off UAC (user account control).  I don't recommend turning off UAC, but kid's games seem to be really bad about assuming they have admin priviledges and can stomp all over whatever they want, so this might be necessary.  You might try it without this step.
  2. Insert the CD and explore (don't run autorun)
  3. Run the setup as admin.
  4. I had 4 discs.  One was much older than the other 3, and they all 4 seem to use the same engine to run the program.  I installed the oldest one first, assuming that the newer engine would behave better.
  5. I let it show me how to install Quicktime (it just links to Apple and I didn't have on this machine yet.)  I can't imagine how this could be interesting, however the 1st time I figured that I'd download it myself and it failed.

Unfortunately it seems that if they don't install right, uninstalling might not solve the problem.  I'd try again with various permissions (admin and non-admin).  Running in compatibility mode doesn't seem to be necessary and didn't help when I had a failed installation.

There's probably an MSDN article about other tricks, but some of the things I've noticed for other applications are:

  • One of my pet peeves is that some applications check the OS version and won't install on newer versions.  Running setup in app compat mode often solves this.  My recent experience with this was a premium program from a major vendor that should know better.  After running setup in app compat mode the application ran fine.
  • App Compat mode is sometimes necessary, particularly with some of the older more sensitive software.
  • Some software vendors have done "interesting" copy protection hacks that make it nearly impossible to work around :(  (FWIW the cases I encountered were when the software made really strange assumptions about Windows and then broke when the behavior of ambiguous undefined states changed)
  • Sometimes application vendors have updates.  Sometimes those updates might be published by someone else since older kid's games seem to get resold to other publishers.  One game I finally found a "patch" for to resolve a CD-ROM detection issue.  I'm not sure, but the "patch" seems to have originally been a hack to get around copy protection that ended up being adopted by the distributor as a "patch".  (My reasoning is that prior to applying the patch the CD was required, after the patch it wasn't, which is convenient for me but I thought it was funny)
  • Sometimes applications have dependencies on other software that's been updated.  For example, it may have an older component on the CD and it might work better if you ignore that part of setup and download an updated version.  I'd try this with Quicktime, Acrobat, Flash, etc.
  • The SQL engine changed, so Sony Vegas is much happier if you install SQL Express (free download) prior to installing Vegas.  This is probably similar for other engines.

Some applications also have some bad/undesirable behavior.  Sometimes they install ads or promos for other software.  (After installing a dozen kids games my desktop gets littered with odd offers, ISP suggestions and links to other strange things).  Sometimes software installs "something" that the system may use or provide.  Codecs seem problematic because software seems to provide them in case you don't have a codec anyway, but poorly written codecs can break windows media player and other applications.  Disabling such codecs usually solves the problem.

 Anyway, those are a few things I ran in to.  I hope that in particular if someone has problems with the Garfield software this helps them.