Windows 7 incorporates a mode that allows you to run programs written for earlier versions of Windows. Some old programs may run poorly or cease to run on Windows 7. When this happens you can find a solution by invoking the Program Compatibility troubleshooter.
Windows XP Mode
The last part of the Applications compatibility series of articles is about a virtualization tool that creates a Windows XP environment. This would solve many problems for legacy applications and once it is set up you can run these applications as if your computer system is still running Windows XP. However, I would use this option as the last way out since it requires a lengthy setup process and a maintenance effort. For example, you need to keep the virtual machine updated with the latest updates, you need to configure the networking options and while it’s running additional computer resources are consumed.
The Windows XP Mode tool is free and can be downloaded from Microsoft together with Virtual PC which serves as the underlying platform. It is available only for Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise and Ultimate editions. The cool thing about this virtualized Windows XP is that applications installed in it will be available in Windows 7 and appear as if they were actually executed in Windows 7. On the other hand, the major setback is that the computer processor must support hardware virtualization, otherwise you cannot install it. Make sure that the CPU virtualization technology option is not disabled from the BIOS.
The Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT)
The Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT) is a collection of tools that helps you create an inventory of all applications running in your organization and identifies which applications are incompatible with Windows 7. With ACT you can test applications that are running across a variety of computers and operating systems within an organization. Hence, you can easily identify which applications require further testing before deploying Windows 7.
At the time of writing this article The Microsoft Application Compatibility Toolkit version is 5.6 and it can be downloaded from Microsoft’s download page.
We find the following components in ACT:
Application Compatibility Manager
With the Application Compatibility Manager you can collect and analyze data in order to resolve compatibility issues prior to deploying Windows 7 in your organization. The database back-end that stores all the information and interfaces with ACT must be Microsoft’s SQL server. Therefore, you need an instance of MS SQL server running in your environment when setting up the Application Compatibility Manager. Briefly, the Application Compatibility Manager is the front-end application that creates and deploys data-collection packages. Data-collection packages collect data about hardware, software and device information for a specified set of client computers. Through the Application Compatibility Manager you can analyze the contents of the database for compatibility issues.
Windows 7 is more stable than its predecessors. Applications that use to perform low level functions in previous versions of Windows are now controlled with features such as Data Execution Protection and Mandatory Integrity Control. Stability brings on other problems like application compatibility where certain important applications that worked on previous versions may not run on the Windows 7 platform. Although, through personal experience I find that most applications are compatible with Windows 7, in this article we see the various native tools that can help you solve these problems. Some tools require a bit of knowledge and time to execute while others are simple and fast.
The Program Compatibility Troubleshooter
The Program Compatibility Troubleshooter is a tool that attempts to resolve any compatibility issues an application may have, after running a set of tests against the selected application it makes the necessary compatibility settings. The tool runs automatically and the compatibility settings are stored with the application shortcut as to be loaded every time the application is executed. This tool cannot be used to troubleshoot installation files of the type .msi! To start the tool, right-click the problematic application shortcut and click Troubleshoot Compatibility.