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Application Compatibility for Vista

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With the release of Microsoft's new Vista operating system, some older software will not behave as it should on the new OS. Peter Ehm shows how to use the Program Compatibility Wizard to try to breathe new life into old programs.
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As anyone who likes to live on the bleeding edge of tech knows, you just have to bear with the many bumps on the road of brand-new technology. Inevitably, new tech will push the old out of the way on that very road. But sometimes the old need not be discarded and forgotten as soon as the new arrives on the scene.

With the release of Microsoft’s new Vista operating system, some older software will not behave as it should on the new OS. Even programs made just a year ago can break or go buggy under Vista. The new security architecture defends Vista against malware as well as new video driver architecture.

In the case of games, the problem of compatibility becomes even more apparent. To maximize performance, software code in a game is often tweaked or written in ways the creators of the operating system could not anticipate. This means that when a user runs a game in a newer OS environment, such as Vista, unpredictable things can happen that will cause a game to crash and sometimes even freeze the computer, resulting in a blue-screen of death.

Time, some say, heals all wounds. That’s what is going to happen with the Vista software compatibility. Software manufacturers will eventually release updates and patches for their programs to make them more compatible with Vista. Yet some older programs, beloved as they are, will be too old for a company to bother with a patch. This would relegate your prized copy of Nascar Racing 2003 to the graveyard. It won’t run on under Vista at all. Then again, Starcraft works just fine. Some well-written older programs surprisingly behave nicely under Vista.

Fortunately, Microsoft realized this might become a problem as far back as WindowsXP. It included some limited functions to let older programs (even some DOS ones) run under XP with some success. Vista expands on this idea with even more compatibility options, all designed to allow a more graceful transition for software owners migrating up from XP.

If you find a program is behaving badly under Vista, you can attempt to fix it yourself. Vista has a utility called the Program Compatibility Wizard. Click the Start button, Control Panel, then Programs, and then select "Use an older program with this version of Windows." The wizard will allow you to select from a list of programs on your PC. It is not recommended that you use the PCW on older antivirus programs, disk utilities, or other system programs. Here is a summary of Microsoft’s information on the PCW:

Program Compatibility Assistant in Vista

What is it?

The Program Compatibility Assistant detects known compatibility issues in older programs. After you have run an older program in this version of Windows, it notifies you if there is a problem and offers to fix it the next time you run it. If the compatibility issue is serious, the Program Compatibility Assistant might warn you or block the program from running. If that happens, you’ll have the option to check online for possible solutions.

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