Thursday, January 28, 2010

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Understanding Windows 7 Compatibility Issues | Using XP Mode In Windows 7 And Vista

Any discussion of PC compatibility, of course, encompasses two very different but related topics: hardware and software. In order for a given hardware device—a printer, graphics card, or whatever—to work correctly with Windows 7, it needs a working driver. 

In many cases, drivers designed for older versions of Windows will actually work just fine in Windows 7. However, depending on the class (or type) of device, many hardware devices need a new Windows 7–specific driver to function properly on Microsoft’s latest operating system.

Software offers similar challenges. While Windows 7 is largely compatible with the 32-bit software applications that Windows users have enjoyed for over a decade, some applications— and indeed, entire application classes, such as security software—simply won’t work properly in Windows 7. 

Some applications can be made to work using Windows 7’s built-in compatibility modes, as discussed below. Some can’t. Those that can’t—like legacy 16-bit software or custom software typically found in small businesses—might be able to find solace in the new XP Mode feature in Windows 7. Always remember that you can use Windows XP Mode  for any software by righ clicking that application and choosing Properties And going to Compatibility. Please Refer The Screen Shots below.



A final compatibility issue that shouldn’t be overlooked is one raised by the ongoing migration to 64-bit (x64) computing. Virtually every single PC sold today does, in fact, include a 64-bit x64-compatible microprocessor, which means it is capable of running 64-bit versions of Windows 7. However, until Windows 7, virtually all copies of Windows sold were the more mainstream 32-bit versions of the system. The situation is now changing in favor of 64-bit with Windows 7.


From a functional standpoint, x64 and 32-bit versions of Windows 7 are almost identical. The biggest difference is RAM support: while 32-bit versions of Windows “support” up to 4GB of RAM, the truth is, they can’t access much more than 3.1GB or 3.2GB of RAM because of the underlying architecture of Windows.


64-bit versions of Windows 7, meanwhile, can access up to a whopping 192GB of RAM, depending on which version you get. Well, To know more about the difference between 64bit and 32bit, please refer my earlier article on Benefits Of Windows 7 64-bit Operating System



Hardware Compatibility
One of the best things about Windows historically is that you could go into any electronics retailer, buy any hardware device in the store, bring it home, and know it would work. Conversely, one of the worst things about any new version of Windows is that the previous statement no longer applies. One of my friend (who, let’s face it, is old) often tells the story about the time he was wandering down the aisles of a Best Buy in Phoenix, Arizona, over a decade ago when Windows NT 4.0 first shipped, with a printed copy of the Windows NT Hardware Compatibility List (HCL) in his hand. He needed a network adapter but had to be sure he got one of the few models that worked in the then new NT 4.0 system.


Windows 7 users face a similar problem today, though there are some differences. First, there’s no HCL available anymore, at least not a public one, so you’re a bit more on your own when it comes to discovering what’s going to work. Second, Windows 7 is already far more compatible with existing hardware than NT was back in the mid 1990s. Indeed, thanks to a 3-year head start with Windows Vista—with which Windows 7 shares the same compatibility infrastructure—Microsoft claims that Windows 7 is actually far more compatible with today’s hardware than Windows XP was when it first shipped back in 2001. 

Based on my extensive testing and evidence provided by Microsoft, this is clearly the case. But then, that was true with Windows Vista as well, though overblown tales of that system’s compatibility issues burned up the blogosphere during virtually its entire time in the market.


I’ve tested Windows 7 for over a year on a wide variety of systems, including several desktops (most of which use dual- and quad-core x64-compatible CPUs), Media Center PCs, notebook computers, Tablet PCs, TouchSmart PCs, netbooks, and even an aging Ultra-Mobile PC. Windows 7’s out-of-the-box (OOTB) compatibility with the built-in devices on each system we’ve tested has been stellar, even during the beta, and it only got better over time. (In this case, OOTB refers to both the drivers that actually ship on the Windows 7 DVD as well as the drivers that are automatically installed via Automatic Updating the first time you boot into your new Windows 7 desktop.) 

On almost all of these systems, Windows 7 has found and installed drivers for every single device in or attached to the system. So much for all the compatibility nightmares. Myths about how the Windows Aero user interface requirements would require mass hardware upgrades also dissipated during the Vista time frame. And sure enough, by the time we got to Windows 7, we stopped seeing anything other than the Windows Aero UI on every single modern (2006 or newer) PC we’ve tested. (With the following exception: when you install Windows 7 Home Basic or Starter, you don’t gain access to Windows Aero—but this is due to limitations of the OS, not the hardware.) 

As always, you could still run into hardware issues with older scanners, printers, and similar peripherals, especially if you’re coming from Windows XP. My Friend's network-attached Dell laser printer wasn’t supported by Windows 7–specific drivers at launch (though it was in Windows Vista with Service Pack 1 and newer). But because it’s really a Lexmark printer in disguise, he was able to get it up and running just fine using Lexmark drivers.


If you’re coming from Windows Vista, or are using Windows Vista-era hardware, you’re in much better shape. For the most part, everything should just work. TV-tuner hardware? Yep. Zune? Done. Apple’s iPods? They all work (even on x64 systems). Windows Media–compatible devices? Of course; they all connect seamlessly and even work with Windows 7’s Sync Center interface.



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Haja Peer Mohamed H, Software Engineer by profession, Author, Founder and CEO of "bench3" you can connect with me on Twitter , Facebook and also onGoogle+

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1 comments:

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Windows7Guy
AUTHOR
March 26, 2010 at 12:31 AM delete

Hello Haja,

Just an FYI for you.

It is always best to check with the software manufacturer FIRST. They will tell you if they have tested the product and the version, as well as whether or not it will work with Windows 7.
Check out the Windows 7 Compatibility site: (There you will find out about hardware and software compatibility.)
http://www.microsoft.com/windows/compatibility/en-us/default.aspx
There is a pulldown from which you can choose "hardware" and "software".

There are also some great articles, instructional videos and such to help with your Windows 7 at our Springboard site:
http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/default.aspx

In any event a lot of the times, Vista drivers will work in lieu of Windows 7 drivers, however, it's not 100%!

As stated previously, it's best to have the Windows 7 certified drivers installed.

Thanks again,
John M.
Microsoft Windows Client Support

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