Running 32-bit Programs on Windows Server 2016 or 2012 R2 64-bit

Running 32-bit Programs

Ideally, running 32-bit applications on 64-bit versions of Windows Server will “just work.” 64-bit editions of Windows are compatible with 32-bit programs by default, and the C:\Program Files (x86) folder is designated for these applications. The system runs 32-bit applications as part of the default Windows OS.

If you are having trouble launching an application on 64-bit Windows, try the steps below to run a 32-bit program on Windows Server.

1. Check the program is installed to C:\Program Files (x86). If not, Uninstall and then Install the program again with C:\Program Files (x86) selected as the installation path.

2. Launch the program from the 32-bit emulated Command Prompt. Click Start > Run, and enter:


Command Prompt should open. Now type the path to your installed 32-bit application .exe and press enter.

WOW64 is the x86 emulator that allows 32-bit Windows-based applications to run seamlessly on 64-bit Windows. WOW64 is provided with the operating system and does not have to be explicitly enabled. 

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Running 16-bit Programs

Note that 64-bit Windows does not support running 16-bit Windows-based applications. The primary reason is that handles have 32 significant bits on 64-bit Windows. Therefore, handles cannot be truncated and passed to 16-bit applications without loss of data. Attempts to launch 16-bit applications fail with the following error: ERROR_BAD_EXE_FORMAT.

This article applies to:

  • Windows Server 2016
  • Windows Server 2012 R2
  • Windows Server 2008 R2
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