More on Vista Application Compatibility

Since my first post on Vista application compatibility, it's still a hot topic among many of a range of customers. Whether you're a home user or a business user, chances are good that you've invested in software that you want to continue to run after switching to Vista.

That’s why Microsoft worked on the Program Compatibility Wizard in hopes that applications that did not natively work with Windows Vista would still have an opportunity. It works well with applications that do not require direct access to hardware or a special connection to a network or the internet.

                       How to Launch the Program Compatibility Wizard

During the beta of Windows Vista, Microsoft collected the most popular applications in all the major categories from games to business (and hundreds of beta testers reporting more applications). Applications fail for a variety of reasons. Examples include:

  • Looking particular versions of Windows or Windows components and when they don’t find them they don’t install.
  • Trying to write to an area of the drive or the Registry that Windows Vista has locked down for security reasons.
  • Opening a port in the firewall and leaving it open while the applications runs.

There are more, but you get the point. For many of these, Microsoft incorporates a “shim” or a small fix that allows the application to work as expected in Windows Vista; otherwise, things like “version lies” or virtualized files can be used. These shims are very similar to what happens when you use the Program Compatibility Wizard that I went through earlier. Microsoft worked on many of the most popular applications, but there are thousands and thousands of smaller applications that our users have come to depend on.

More Help Troubleshooting Applications issues

They also recently published a Knowledge Base Article that defines the different types of application problems a user can encounter and the best way to work through those issues. It is really a collection of four articles that take a user from installing Windows Vista to installing their application on to Windows Vista.

Small Business and Microsoft Virtual PC 2007

Beyond that, they released Virtual PC 2007 back in February. You can download it here and it’s something I’ve found pretty useful. It is designed for Windows Vista Business, Vista Enterprise and Vista Ultimate Edition. (I installed it on Vista Home Premium and while it is not on the system requirements list, it installed and ran fine).

Now why do I bring this up? VPC2007 is another tool for businesses who want to upgrade their computers to Windows Vista, but have one or two legacy applications they cannot do without. VPC is a free download and is amazingly easy to set up and run. Take a look at the screen shot from my Windows Vista at home with two monitors.

The left side is my primary monitor running Windows Vista Home Premium. I have 1GB of memory, so this machine is pretty typical. (VPC2007 runs better with more memory) On the right side is my secondary monitor running VCP2007 hosting Windows XP Professional. I can move my mouse between the two monitors and switch back and forth between operating systems.

To demonstrate the versatility of this setup, I loaded Nero 6 Ultra onto the Windows XP Pro in VPC. I enabled Nero ImageDrive 2.29 which is not compatible with Windows Vista. This program allows you to copy a CD image and then load and play it without having to insert the CD. Until I go buy the latest version of Nero that is fully Vista Compatible, I can use VPC to use the one I have.

I recommend walking through the Application Compatibility demo.

And if you are interested in a test drive of Windows XP SP2, Microsoft has one for download with the stated purpose of testing Internet Explorer 7. This version of XP will expire on 8/17/2007.

In the Long Run

During any OS transition there are compatibility issues that must be overcome, especially for applications. It’s important that over time these work-arounds be set aside and you install and run software that is 100% Windows Vista certified. This is the best way to get the most out of your computer, your hardware and your operating system. It’s nice to be able to run the same accounting program that you bought in 1998, but you are also missing out on the great new features and new security available in today’s software.

If you're planning on upgrading to Vista soon, here's some software compatibility tips to consider: 

  • Visit the web site of your favorite software vendors.
  • Look for patches that will make your old software run better in Vista
  • Check out what an upgrade might cost and see if they have a deal since you’ve bought from them before.
  • Spend time hunting around and talking with friends to see what other applications you might try.
  • Check out Microsoft's list of applications that have earned the Vista logo.

About the Author: Mark Anderson