How to: Solve Windows 7 compatibility issues

When upgrading to a new operating system, one of the most important elements to take into account is compatibility. On one hand, we have to make sure the new system is compatible with our hardware – that is, all the devices and peripherals connected to our computer. This is usually solved with the latest versions of their drivers, updated to support the new operating system.

But on the other hand, we also have to take software compatibility into account. If we’ve become particularly fond of a certain software utility, we should make sure it also works in our new operating system: Windows 7.

Upgrading from previous OS versions

Windows 7 can be safely installed as an update on Windows Vista, as long as you follow these correspondences:

Windows 7 compatibility issues

This means that you won’t need to backup anything and install the new operating system from scratch. All the documents, software and user configuration settings you had in Vista will still be there after installing Windows 7. This method is supposed to make system upgrade easier, but in my personal experience, I always prefer to do a clean install when changing to a new operating system.

Windows Easy Transfer

Installing Windows 7 as an update for Windows Vista means you can keep all your documents and user settings safe through the installation process. But what if you’d like to choose what to keep and what to erase? And most importantly, what if you’re upgrading from Windows XP – and not Vista? In those cases, you can use Windows Easy Transfer.

Windows 7 compatibility issues

This tool lets you transfer your personal documents to your newly installed Windows 7 in several ways: using a special Easy Transfer cable, burning a CD or DVD, via a local network or using an external hard drive. Windows Easy Transfer is free and available for both Windows XP and Windows Vista.

What about my hardware and software?

Windows 7 is generally compatible with most hardware and software. Thanks to its similarity to Vista, developers can easily adapt their products to the new operating system. But if you’d like to test the compatibility of your favorite software with Windows 7 on your own, you can do it with Windows 7 Updgrade Advisor.

Windows 7 compatibility issues

This program performs a quick system scan to obtain data about your hardware and software. The information is then checked against a compatibility database in order to detect any possible issues.

The problem with Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor is that it only works with currently installed software and hardware. If you want to check compatibility for something you haven’t downloaded or bought yet, you can use Windows Compatibility Center instead.

Windows 7 compatibility issues

This is an online database set up by Microsoft that lets you check the compatibility status of thousands of applications and devices. And if your favorite program is not ready to work with Windows 7 yet, don’t worry: you can search Microsoft’s database by category and find all kinds of programs that are fully compatible with Windows 7.

Windows 7 compatibility issues

What if my favorite program doesn’t work on Windows 7?

Just after installing Windows 7, you may find that your favorite program doesn’t work in the new operating system. Don’t freak out, there are still a few ways to fix it. First, Windows 7 features a compatibility step-by-step assistant that can help you solve the issue. Simply right-click the program’s shortcut and select ‘Troubleshoot compatibility’.

Windows 7 compatibility issues

Another option is to forget about this assistant and tweak compatibility settings by yourself. If you feel daring, right-click the program’s shortcut, select ‘Properties’ and then select the ‘Compatibility’ tab. You can try different configurations to make the program work on Windows 7.

Windows 7 compatibility issues

It’s not working! Any other alternatives?

If none of the tricks we’ve mentioned so far works for you, you still have one last thing to try: Windows XP Mode under Windows 7. Windows XP Mode is a virtual machine inside Windows 7 that enables you to run older XP-only compatible apps.

Windows 7 compatibility issues

There’s one catch though: Windows XP Mode’s demanding requirements. It only works on Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise or Ultimate; your computer needs a CPU with virtualization features (Intel-VT or AMD-V); and these features must be enabled in the computer’s BIOS. You can check if your computer meets the necessary requirement with specific tools such as Securable and Microsoft’s own utility, the Hardware-Assisted Virtualization Detection Tool.

Windows 7 compatibility issues

Did you meet all the requirements? Congrats! You can proceed to download and install Microsoft Virtual PC and Windows XP Mode. It can take a while, but it’s the most likely option to make all those Windows XP apps run on your new system. Plus it’s perfectly integrated with Windows 7: you’ll be able to transfer files between the host and virtual system, and launch Windows XP programs individually as if they were Windows 7 native apps.

Windows 7 compatibility issues

[Adapted from: OnSoftware ES]

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