Testing Applications for Vista Compatibility, Part 2

If you would like to read the other parts in this article series please go to:

In the previous article in this series, I showed you how you could test applications for Vista compatibility on smaller networks. Although the method that I demonstrated in the previous article works, it is completely impractical for larger networks. Fortunately, Microsoft makes a free tool called the Application Compatibility Toolkit that you can use to perform application compatibility testing on larger networks. In this article, I will show you how this tool works.

A Quick Overview

Many administrators probably assume that the deployment planning method of choice involves using SMS Server. I would recommend using the Application Compatibility Toolkit in place of (or in conjunction to) SMS Server. The Application Compatibility Toolkit was specifically designed for testing applications for Windows Vista compatibility, and therefore does a better job than SMS Server.

The Application Compatibility Toolkit works by deploying an agent to each workstation on your network. The agents compile a list of the applications that are installed on each workstation, and the application inventory is written to an SQL Server database. The Application Compatibility Toolkit then examines the inventory stored in the database and provides information regarding each application’s compatibility with Windows Vista.

Downloading and Installing the Application Compatibility Toolkit

You can download the Application Compatibility Toolkit from the Microsoft Web site. The download consists of a 10.7 MB MSI file. Upon executing this MSI file, you may be prompted to install version 1.1 of the .NET Framework. If you do not have this version installed, you can click the Install .NET Framework button, and you will be taken to a Web site where you can download it.

Once the .NET Framework has been installed, double click on the MSI file once again, and the Application Compatibility Toolkit’s Setup program will start. Click Next to bypass the Setup Wizard’s Welcome screen, and you will be taken to a screen that asks you to accept the End User License Agreement. After accepting this agreement, click Next and you will be prompted to verify the installation path. Accept the default path, and click Next, followed by Install. Setup will now copy the necessary files to your hard drive. When the installation process completes, click Finish.

The Application Compatibility Manager

Now that the Application Compatibility Toolkit has been installed, it is time to get started. Begin the process by selecting the Application Compatibility Manager command from the Start | All Programs | Application Compatibility Toolkit menu. When the Application Compatibility Manager starts, Windows will launch the ACT Configuration Wizard. Before working through this wizard, you should have SQL Server installed somewhere on your network (the machine that the Application Compatibility Toolkit is running on does not have to run SQL Server locally).

When the wizard starts, click Next to bypass the wizard’s Welcome screen. At this point, you will see a screen asking you if you would like to perform an Enterprise Configuration, or if you simply want to view and manage reports. Since you have just completed the installation process, there are no reports to view or manage. Therefore, you will have to choose the Enterprise Configuration option. Click Next to continue.

The next screen that you will see asks you to select a SQL Server from a drop down list, as shown in Figure A. Although this screen looks simple enough, it deserves a bit of explaining.

Figure A: You must select the SQL Server that will store your application inventory database.

As you can see in the figure, this screen asks you to select your SQL Server from a drop down list. What you need to know though is that the wizard does not automatically query your network for SQL Servers. Odds are that the SQL Server that you want to use will not be displayed on the drop down list. Therefore, you will usually have to use the Browse button to search for the server of choice.

Once the correct SQL Server is displayed in the drop down list, you must click the Connect button to establish a connection to the SQL Server. Only then will you be able to see the individual databases that are found on the server. In most cases, you probably won’t want to reuse an existing SQL Server database. Instead, you can simply type the name of the database that you want to create, into the Database field, and click the Create button. When the wizard finishes creating the database, click Next to continue.

As I mentioned earlier, the Application Compatibility Toolkit uses agents on client computers to compile an application inventory, and then the inventory information is written to the SQL Server database. Although this is the basic idea behind the way that application compatibility information is gathered, you need to understand that the agents lack the necessary permissions to write data directly to the SQL Server database that you just created.

That being the case, you must create a folder that can act as a repository for application inventory information. This folder must be shared so that Everyone has write access to it. The agents will create log files containing application inventory information, and will write the log files to this folder. The Application Compatibility Toolkit will then parse the log files and write the log data into the SQL Server database.

The good news is that you do not have to create this shared folder manually. Simply create the folder in the same way that you would create any other folder, and then give the wizard the path to the folder, as shown in Figure B. As you can see in the figure, the wizard automatically assigns a share name to the folder.

Figure B: The Application Compatibility Toolkit requires a shared folder that it can use as a repository for log files.

Click Next and you will see a screen explaining that the Application Compatibility Toolkit’s Log Processing Service needs to use a service account to process the log files and write the inventory information to the database. Assuming that the SQL Server database and the shared directory are both located locally, then you can usually get away with using the Local System account, as shown in Figure C. Otherwise, you will have to specify an account that has access to both the Logs folder and to the SQL Server database.

Figure C:
The Application Compatibility Toolkit’s Log Processing Service requires a service account with permission to access the Logs folder and the SQL database.

Click Next, and you will see a screen informing you that you have successfully configured the Application Compatibility Toolkit. Click Finish and the wizard will close, and you will be taken to the main Application Compatibility Manager screen, shown in Figure D.

Figure D:
This is the main Application Compatibility Manager screen.


In this article, I have explained that Microsoft created the Application Compatibility Toolkit as a specialized tool for testing application compatibility with Windows Vista, in an enterprise environment. Now that I have walked you through the configuration process, it is time to begin the agent deployment process. I will show you how to deploy the agents in Part 3 of this series.

If you would like to read the other parts in this article series please go to:

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