IT tutorials
 
Windows
 

Windows 7 : Hardware and Software Compatibility (part 3) - Understanding Windows 7 Compatibility Issues

- How To Install Windows Server 2012 On VirtualBox
- How To Bypass Torrent Connection Blocking By Your ISP
- How To Install Actual Facebook App On Kindle Fire
2/17/2014 8:27:19 PM

3. Understanding Windows 7 Compatibility Issues

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.

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. We'll explain why this is so and how the situation is now changing in favor of 64-bit with Windows 7.

NOTE

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.

3.1. 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. Paul (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 our 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.

We'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. Paul'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.

3.2. Software Compatibility

We regularly use and otherwise test what we feel is a representative collection of mostly modern software. This includes standard software applications—productivity solutions and the like—as well as games.

We both run a standard set of applications across most of our desktop and mobile PCs. We've also tested numerous video games to see how they fare under Windows 7. (Hey, someone has to do it.) The results have been very positive: not only do most Windows XP-compatible applications and games work just fine under Windows 7, many pre-Windows 7 games also integrate automatically into Windows 7's new Games Explorer as well. Unless it's a very new game designed specifically for Windows 7, you won't get performance information as you do with built-in games, but the game's Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) rating is enough to enable parents to lock kids out of objectionable video games using Windows 7's parental-control features. It's a nice touch.

If you're coming from Windows Vista, the extra performance boost you get from simply migrating to Windows 7 is astonishing. No, Windows 7 doesn't offer the same raw performance as does Windows XP. But it's close. And it's much faster than Windows Vista. Much faster.

NOTE

The biggest software-compatibility issues you're going to see in Windows 7 will involve very old applications that use 16-bit installers, and classes of applications—especially antivirus, antispyware, and other security solutions—that need to be rewritten to work within Windows 7's new security controls. Security vendors will fix their wares, no doubt about it. But what about 16-bit applications and other software that just won't run under Windows 7? Surprise. Microsoft has an answer.

3.3. x64: Is It Time?

The one dark horse in the Windows 7 compatibility story is x64, the 64-bit hardware platform that we're all using today (though few people realize it). The x64 platform is a miracle of sorts, at least from a technology standpoint, because it provides the best of both worlds: compatibility with virtually all of the 32-bit software that's been created over the past 15 years combined with the increased capacity and resources that only true 64-bit platforms can provide.

When Windows Vista first debuted back in late 2006, x64 compatibility was a mixed bag. Hardware compatibility, surprisingly, was excellent, and virtually any hardware device that worked on 32-bit versions of Windows Vista also worked fine on 64-bit versions. Software was another story. Too often, a critical software application simply wouldn't install or work properly on 64-bit versions of Windows, making these versions a nonstarter for most.

Time, however, truly heals all wounds. A huge number of compatibility issues were fixed over Windows Vista's first year on the market, and x64 versions of Windows Vista are now largely compatible, both from a hardware and software perspective, with anything that works with 32-bit versions of the system.

With Windows 7, the situation is even better. With this system, x64 is now the mainstream hardware and software computing architecture for the first time, and you will most likely obtain an x64 version of Windows 7, no matter how you acquire it. In our view, x64 is the way to go. So if you have a choice, open yourself up to the massive RAM improvements that accompany x64 versions of Windows 7.

 
Others
 
- Windows 7 : Hardware and Software Compatibility (part 2) - The Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor - Picking through the Results
- Windows 7 : Hardware and Software Compatibility (part 1) - The Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor - Using the Upgrade Advisor
- Windows 8 : Using the Control Panel Items (part 16) - Windows Update
- Windows 8 : Using the Control Panel Items (part 15) - Windows Mobile Device Center
- Windows 8 : Using the Control Panel Items (part 14) - User Accounts - Configuring an Account, Recovering Lost Passwords, Creating a User Account Password Reset Disk
- Windows 8 : Using the Control Panel Items (part 13) - User Accounts - Adding a Local User Account
- Windows 8 : Using the Control Panel Items (part 12) - Sync Center
- Windows 8 : Using the Control Panel Items (part 11) - Speech Recognition
- Windows 8 : Using the Control Panel Items (part 10) - Programs and Features, Recovery, Region and Language
- Windows 8 : Using the Control Panel Items (part 9) - Power Options
 
 
Top 10
 
- Microsoft Visio 2013 : Adding Structure to Your Diagrams - Finding containers and lists in Visio (part 2) - Wireframes,Legends
- Microsoft Visio 2013 : Adding Structure to Your Diagrams - Finding containers and lists in Visio (part 1) - Swimlanes
- Microsoft Visio 2013 : Adding Structure to Your Diagrams - Formatting and sizing lists
- Microsoft Visio 2013 : Adding Structure to Your Diagrams - Adding shapes to lists
- Microsoft Visio 2013 : Adding Structure to Your Diagrams - Sizing containers
- Microsoft Access 2010 : Control Properties and Why to Use Them (part 3) - The Other Properties of a Control
- Microsoft Access 2010 : Control Properties and Why to Use Them (part 2) - The Data Properties of a Control
- Microsoft Access 2010 : Control Properties and Why to Use Them (part 1) - The Format Properties of a Control
- Microsoft Access 2010 : Form Properties and Why Should You Use Them - Working with the Properties Window
- Microsoft Visio 2013 : Using the Organization Chart Wizard with new data
programming4us programming4us
 
Popular tags
 
Video Tutorail Microsoft Access Microsoft Excel Microsoft OneNote Microsoft PowerPoint Microsoft Project Microsoft Visio Microsoft Word Active Directory Biztalk Exchange Server Microsoft LynC Server Microsoft Dynamic Sharepoint Sql Server Windows Server 2008 Windows Server 2012 Windows 7 Windows 8 Adobe Indesign Adobe Flash Professional Dreamweaver Adobe Illustrator Adobe After Effects Adobe Photoshop Adobe Fireworks Adobe Flash Catalyst Corel Painter X CorelDRAW X5 CorelDraw 10 QuarkXPress 8 windows Phone 7 windows Phone 8 BlackBerry Android Ipad Iphone iOS