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Overcome Windows 7 application compatibility fears

Applies to: Windows 7

Any operating system upgrade brings activities that'll keep you up at night. Will drivers be a problem? Will user files and settings get migrated appropriately? Will your applications even work on the new operating system (OS)?

If you are upgrading from Windows XP, know that Microsoft's solutions for overcoming application incompatibilities have grown significantly since your last upgrade. That's a good thing, because this upgrade brings with it significant kernel security features that can cause some applications to fail.

So, what are your options? There are many, including free solutions that can be downloaded directly from Microsoft.

At the core of all things "app compat" is the Windows Compatibility Center. This site is a clearinghouse of applications known to operate atop Windows 7. Need something downloadable to scan your computers against? Try the Microsoft Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT). This downloadable software toolkit scans computers to create a catalog of installed applications. Fixes and other solutions for incompatible apps can then be downloaded with the tool as they are found.

While rich in content, Microsoft can't know about every application ever created. Some situations will still require extra effort, but don't worry if fixes are unavailable or if you can't custom code them yourself. Windows 7 comes equipped with its own Windows XP virtual machine through the new Windows XP Mode feature. With Windows XP Mode, applications that simply won't upgrade can remain inside in their Windows XP "happy place," allowing the rest of your infrastructure to seamlessly upgrade to Windows 7 and its new technologies. Enterprises that require a greater level of Windows XP Mode control can opt for Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V), which wraps configuration control and workflow around the experience.

An upgrade to Windows 7 will always come with its own concerns, but Microsoft's application compatibility solutions are better suited to help than they have ever been. If you are holding off on an upgrade out of fear, look through the no-cost options available. You might be surprised at just how easy that upgrade might be.

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About the author

Greg Shields Photo Greg Shields is an independent author, speaker, and IT consultant, as well as a Partner and Principal Technologist with Concentrated Technology. With 15 years in information technology, Greg has developed extensive experience in systems administration, engineering, and architecture specializing in Microsoft OS, remote application, systems management, and virtualization technologies. He currently serves as a technical guide for virtualization for Windows IT Pro magazine.