Running an Application as Administrator or in Compatibility Mode

Today someone in a forum asked how to programmatically configure an application so that it runs in compatibility mode. Configuring this manually is easy, just open the file’s properties, select the Compatibility tab and apply the required settings. On Windows 7 this then looks as shown in the picture below.

2011-03-31 00h47_29

Now whatever we configure here, it all gets written to the following location in the Windows Registry:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\AppCompatFlags\Layers

If the settings have to apply for all users the information must be stored here:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\AppCompatFlags\Layers

When configuring compatibility mode settings for an application executable, shortcut or batch file, a registry string is created for each item.

2011-03-31 00h14_05 

For each application there are three settings that can be applied. The compatibility mode, (Display) Settings and the Privilege Level. One or multiple values can be set (separated by a space).

Compatibility Modes

Value Description
WIN95 Windows 95
WIN98 Windows 98
WIN4SP5 Windows NT 4.0 SP5
WIN2000 Windows 2000
WIN7RTM Windows 7
WINSRV03SP1 Windows Server 2003 SP1
WINSRV08SP1 Windows Server 2008 SP1


Display Settings

Value Description
DISABLETHEMES Disable Visual Themes
640X480 Run in 640 x 480 screen resolution
HIGHDPIAWARE Disable display scaling on high DPI settings
256COLOR Run in 256 colors
DISABLEDWM Disable Desktop Composition


Privilege Level

Value Description
RUNASADMIN Run program as an administrator


If the settings are written into the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE part of the registry, the settings cannot be changed by a user that has no local administrative rights.

The following registry command line applies Windows XP SP3 compatibility mode and defines the application to run as administrator.

REG ADD "HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\AppCompatFlags\Layers" /v "C:\temp\compatmodel\iconsext.exe" /t REG_SZ /d "WINXPSP3 RUNASADMIN" /f

10 thoughts on “Running an Application as Administrator or in Compatibility Mode

  1. I can’t install Visual Studio 2010 on my Windows Server 2003 machine because the OS is trying to run the setup.exe in compatibility mode even though no compatibility mode is set on that file (nothing is set on its compatibility tab). Is it possible to disable compatibility mode checking on Windows Server 2003?

  2. Alex,
    This is the first solution I found that really works under 7, for a cmd file. The command line works great. Many thanks. Michel

  3. Exactly what I was after! You listed all the available flags whereas everyone else just mentions the compatibility settings.

    Thank you Sir!

  4. Thank you for the info, this is just what I was looking for.

    Do you know if it is possible to turn of the User Account approval prompt for a program that is given run as admin as per this post? This program has Microsoft certification.

    Thanks again,

  5. When compatibility mode is set via Properties, Windoze places a tilde (~) followed by a space before the value, e.g. “~ WINXPSP3”. Yet it seems to work (or not work as the case may be) regardless of the tilde. So what is the function/meaning/purpose of the tilde?

    Also, with Windows 10TP, programs run in compatibility mode if invoked with the “run” command or by clicking on the program name in explorer, but do NOT run in compatibility mode (or at all) from the command prompt!

  6. Thanks for this. This is good information. Does anybody know what a value of # represents? I noticed this on one of my clients.

  7. Well, maybe could be helpful for someone, I used a batch file to set compatibility settings on all D:\ts* folders (used for an specific aplication which must run for each user from separate folder on Win 2012R2 RDS servers) with this command:

    FOR /D %%G in (“ts*”) DO reg add “HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\AppCompatFlags\Layers” /v d:\%%G\AppName.exe /t REG_SZ /d “~ HIGHDPIAWARE 16BITCOLOR WINXPSP2 DisableNXShowUI” /f

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *