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Running HeavyMetal on Windows VistaTM7/8/10

While the following information refers to Vista, most of the recommendations and information apply equally to Windows 7, Windows 8 and hopefully Windows 10. While Windows 10 is newest, initial reports is that it works similar to the earlier version. Most users have installed and are using HM programs on Win7/8 with roughly the same success and experiences as with Vista (that is, generally, good).

So, do the HeavyMetal programs run on Microsoft's latest versions of Windows? The answer is yes, but not automatically. In fact, I currently run only Windows 7 Ultimate, and use it to both develop and run all of the HeavyMetal programs. This page may end up being as much a Blog as anything else, as I learn more about Vista and later versions, and determine the best way to run HeavyMetal programs under it. I will also take what I learn, and use it to modify the programs in the future so that they work more automatically and seamlessly with newer versions.

Note: In the following discussion, if Vista is mentioned, please insert your current OS: Vista or Windows 7/8/10.

Okay, so how do you install and run the programs under Vista and newer Windows versions? I'm going to give you a few steps which seem to work well on my new PC, and which you should try to use with yours. If they don't work, please contact me and tell me, letting me know what went wrong, what happened, what you did to make it work, etc. I'll be doing more extensive testing myself, and will modify this page based on that experience and the experiences of others. Anyhow, here goes:

Installation Steps:

Before Installation:

  1. For now (until I learn more, at least), it's probably best not to install the program directly from the Install button which appears on the autoplay screen after inserting the CD. I'm sure I can make it work reliably and automatically later, but we want this to work for sure, with the programs as they are right now. (Note: Later versions of the setup program handle a lot of this for you, requiring a login as an administrator, etc., however these instructions are written to allow owners of older installations to install as well.)
  2. Navigate, using Windows Explorer, to the location where the Setup program is located. If you purchased a CD, it will be the root directory of the CD in your CD drive. If you downloaded the program, it will be located where you saved the download.
  3. Locate the file used to install the program. If you're using a CD, the file will be called Setup.exe (or just plain Setup, if you have file extensions hidden). If you've downloaded, the filename might be something like HMPlusSetup.exe or HMMapV100R2.exe.
  4. Right-click on the install file which you located in the previous step, and select Properties at the bottom of the popup menu.
  5. Click on the Compatibility tab.
  6. Check the 'Run this program in compatibility mode for' checkbox, and choose Windows XP (Service Pack 2) from the dropdown list below it.
  7. Check the 'Run this program as an administrator' checkbox.
  8. Click OK.

Install the Program:

  1. Now, double-click on the same install file to install the program.
  2. When the dialog box which says 'An unidentified program wants to access your computer' pops up, click on Allow.
  3. If a dialog box pops up saying that you do not have sufficient resources or that your system is not capable of installing the software, click OK to continue anyhow. Some setups don't properly recognize Vista as an allowable operating system.
  4. Proceed normally through the setup program to install the software. Please note into what folder you install the program.

Prepare the Program EXE for Running:

  1. Using Windows Explorer, navigate to the directory where you installed the program. In the case of HeavyMetal Plus, you will actually have to do this procedure to all four programs (including RUS), most of which are stored into subdirectories of the install directory.
  2. Locate the program executable (Hvypro.exe for HMPro, HMVee.exe for HMVee, etc.).
  3. Right-click on the program executable which you located in the previous step, and select Properties at the bottom of the popup menu.
  4. Click on the Compatibility tab:

  5. Check the 'Run this program in compatibility mode for' checkbox, and choose Windows XP (Service Pack 2) from the dropdown list below it. (This is actually optional; I usually don't bother with it.)
  6. New:  You may also want to check the "Disable desktop composition" box. This turns the Aero translucent effects off while the program is running. The upside is that dragging and dropping items on the Distribution screen will be much smoother, without flashing boxes. It works fine either way, you just have a choice of Aero and flashing boxes, or no Aero and smooth moving boxes. Sorry.
  7. Check the 'Run this program as an administrator' checkbox.
  8. Click on the Shortcut tab:

  9. Click on the Advanced button:


     
  10. Check the Run as administrator check box, then click OK.
  11. Click OK to make save your changes.

Run the Program Normally:

  1. The program should now run normally, by double-clicking on the executable(s) noted above, or by using any of the shortcuts installed in the Start menu or on the Windows Desktop.

Surprisingly (to me, at least), after setting the compatibility and run-as checkboxes for the program and running it the first time, it seems to run fine after that if the checks are removed. I don't know why yet, but I'll find out.

What if This Doesn't Work?

While the above installation procedure works for 95%+ of the installations, sometimes there are problem children. Typical errors are:

Component 'VSOCX32.OCX or one of its dependencies is not correctly registered: Although Vsocx32.ocx is the most common culprit, this can happen to other runtime files as well. The easiest thing to try first is a Runtime install that I have set up for this purpose, that just installs all the latest runtime files. In particular, you should do this if you have an older version of a HM program, as this version forces an overwrite. To do this, just download, and then run, the latest HeavyMetal Runtime File program.

Component 'COMDLG32.OCX or one of its dependencies is not correctly registered: This is a pretty weird one, at least as far as the solutions go. Try the following in this order:

  1. Start a Command Prompt as an Administrator (Click on the Start button, type 'Command', and when Vista finds Command Prompt, right-click on it and select Start as administrator.
  2. Navigate to the C:\Windows\System32 folder
  3. UN-Register this control by entering the line regsvr32 comdlg32.ocx /u.
  4. RE-Register this control by entering the line regsvr32 comdlg32.ocx.
  5. Try running the HM program.
  6. If it still will not run, repeat line 3 only, then try running the program, making sure you are logged in as an Administrator.
  7. If it still won't run, repeat line 3 only, then copy the file commdlg32.ocx to your HM program folder(s) (where the main exe is located for each program), and again try running the program, making sure you are logged in as an Administrator.

Why is All This Necessary??!

Good question. Well, if you have Vista, you know that it is very different than anything you've used in the past. One of the very different things is the added security provided by Vista's User Account Control. Basically, users do not operate as administrators of their PC, the way that previous Windows versions allowed. They operate as a normal user, and as such, do not have rights to install most software. And certainly do not have rights to add or modify files in the Program Files directory, Windows directories or the Registry. Therefore, to install a program, you must temporarily log on as an administrator.

Some programs recognize that, and ask your permission to temporarily use administrator privileges to install. That's the reason for the 'Run as administrator' checkbox on the Setup program. In addition, XP programs saved files into different locations than Vista normally does, so that's why the Windows XP compatibility mode.

Okay, fine, that makes sense for installing the program, but why running it?

Well, all of the HeavyMetal program, and many other legacy programs, save their data files ('Mechs, vehicles, etc.) into a subdirectory of the main program's files. Logical, right? Well, it may be logical, but to Vista, it's a no-no. All of the files in the Program Files directories are considered protected files, and you're not allowed to change them. Vista wants you to put your 'Mechs and other stuff into your Users subfolders somewhere. Heck, even the innocent Hvypro.ini file, which saves your program's settings, isn't allowed to be changed by Vista.

So, we use the Windows XP Compatibility mode checkbox, which does allow these kinds of file changes. Kind of (we'll get into that in a moment). And the programs also write to the Windows Registry, which requires running as Administrator again. But wait a minute! I said above that Vista won't allow you to write to the Program Files subfolders, so why could you possibly turn of administrator mode, or even XP compatibility mode, and still use the program? The answer is Virtualization.

Virtualization? Or "I should have quit when I was behind!"

Windows Vista will not normally allow you to write to the Program Files folders or subfolders. Yet, you will be able to save and add 'Mech data files and save your settings using the INI file. How? Windows virtualizes the files. That is, it actually saves them somewhere deep within your User settings. But they will look like they're saved in the \Mechs folder. Silly? Don't believe it? Believe it! Other users that log into your computer won't even be able to see your changes (making having separate settings for each person kind of neat)! Vista does this, because it knows there are numerous programs out there that need to write to these locations. Heck, Vista even virtualizes the Registry settings, changing the actual location it writes to, to another allowable location.

Why does equipment flash when I move them around on the Distribution screen?

Windows Vista seems to have a problem when dragging certain controls; unfortunately, the ones I use when dragging and dropping on the Distribution screen of HeavyMetal Pro. There is a fix, as noted above under Preparing the Program EXE for Running. The fix involves unchecking the Disable desktop composition on the Compatibility tab of the program's shortcut properties. Just right-click on the icon, select Properties, then the Compatibility tab, and check the box as shown above. As noted above, this disables the Vista Aero effects for all programs while HMPro is running, but this smooths out the drag and drop operation. I'm afraid you have a choice of one or the other. I don't feel too bad doing this, as my Paint Shop Pro 9 does exactly the same thing.

Help? What Help?

So, you've noticed that the 50,000+ word help file that I spent years working on no longer works? Instead, you get a nice little Windows Vista dialog box telling you that only old ladies and sissies still use the legacy help system (WinHlp32.exe), and gives you a nice link to get more information. There, Microsoft tells you in detail why it's not included, despite the fact that it has been a part of the operating system since Windows 3.1. To add insult to injury, they explain that "third-part programs (like HeavyMetal programs) that include .hlp files are prohibited from redistributing the Windows Help program together with their products". So, even though the file is absolutely necessary, and even though they've elected not to included it, I can't give it to you!?

Luckily, Microsoft let's you get the file and install it. While they'd never make it easy by posting a link to it, I have found a link to the Windows Help program for Windows Vista at the Microsoft Download Center. A similar file for Windows7 can be found at Windows Help program for Windows 7. You have to validate your Vista installation prior to downloading, but once you do download and install the program, the help system will work just great.

There, now that wasn't such a chore, was it?? You really begin to wonder if Microsoft is just trying to make life tough for us, some times. ;-)

Will it Always Be This Way?

I'm not sure, but probably not. As I get more experienced with the Vista restrictions and standards, I'll be changing the programs to work more seamlessly with Vista, work more easily and with less manual intervention by you (maybe even none). But in the meantime, using the above steps will allow you to run all the HeavyMetal programs on Vista. And that's what counts, right?

Email Me

Again, if you don't understand any of the above (and think there's a chance in hell I will be able to help you), please email me. Likewise, if you find that something doesn't work as explained, or find a better way of doing things, please let me know that too. This page will be changing regularly, depending on our latest Vista knowledge and experiences.


Web site and contents Copyright RCW Enterprises. All rights reserved. Last updated 09/17/2015
All HeavyMetal programs are developed by Rick Raisley of RCW Enterprises, and Copyrighted by RCW Enterprises. All rights reserved.
BattleTech, BattleMech, 'Mech, AeroTech, MechWarrior and BattleForce are registered trademarks and/or trademarks of The Topps Company, Inc. in the United States and/or other countries. Used under license.
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