Testing Applications for Vista Compatibility, Part 1

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One of the largest barriers to upgrading to Windows Vista is that of application compatibility. Many applications that ran flawlessly under Windows XP are either problematic, or will not run at all in Windows Vista. As such, it is imperative that you test for application compatibility before upgrading to Vista.

There are two primary methods of performing an application compatibility test. One method is geared primarily toward smaller companies and home users, while the other method is intended for use in enterprise class environments. Because everyone’s needs are different, I will show you both techniques.

The Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor

The tool of choice for smaller organizations (or for home users) is the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor. The Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor is a simple (but effective) tool that is designed to test to see if a PC is ready to be upgraded from Windows XP to Windows Vista.

Although this tool is intended for smaller organizations, do not let that fool you. The tool does a very effective job of making sure that the system in question is adequately prepared for the upgrade. Using the tool simply involves downloading it, running the Setup Wizard, performing a scan, and looking at the results.

You can download the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor directly from the Microsoft Web site. The tool will run on any version of Windows XP, so long as it is 32-bit. Once the tool has been downloaded, simply double click on the file that you have downloaded to run the Setup wizard. Setup is extremely simple.

Once Setup is complete, you must run a system scan to check the PC’s Vista compatibility. Pretty much any product that requires you to scan a system (anti virus, disk repair program, etc.) requires you to sit and wait while the scan completes. This tool does require you to wait for about five minutes for the scan to complete, but the wait is not a complete waste of your time, because the tool gives you information about the differences between the various versions of Vista during your wait, as shown in Figure A.

Figure A:
During the system scan, the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor gives you information about the differences between the various versions of Windows Vista

When the scan completes, you will see a summary screen, similar to the one that is shown in Figure B. Notice at the top of the screen that the first piece of information that you are given is a definitive answer as to whether or not the computer can run Vista.

Figure B:
The summary screen provides you with a definitive answer as to whether or not the system is compatible with Vista

The lower portion of this screen provides you with some basic information regarding Vista’s system requirements, the computer’s hardware devices, and applications installed on the system. As you can see in the figure, this machine met all of the necessary system requirements, but there were a few hardware devices for which the tool had no compatibility information. Clicking the See Details button (in the Device section) displays a screen showing which devices the tool had no information on. Had there been device compatibility issues, those would have appeared on this screen as well.

The bottom portion of this screen contains a section on application compatibility. As you can see in Figure B, the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor has identified some problems with some of the applications installed on this machine. Clicking the See Details button (in the Programs section) causes the utility to display the screen shown in Figure C.

Figure C:
The Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor identifies applications that are known to have compatibility issues with Windows Vista

As you can see in the figure, the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor displays the name, vendor, and version number for each application that has Vista compatibility issues. The utility also displays a summary of the action that is required in regard to the application. In this particular screen shot, it appears as though the required action message is completely generic, but that is not the case. I have had this screen to tell me that if I uninstall an application prior to the upgrade, I will be able to reinstall it after the upgrade with no issues. The point is that the utility does not just display the same message for every application.

Just as the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor displays applications known to have compatibility problems, it also displays a list of applications that are guaranteed to be compatible with Vista. You can see this list at the bottom of Figure C.

If you look toward the top of the screen shown in Figure C, you will notice that the compatibility report is tabbed. This allows you to switch back and forth between system, device and application compatibility information. Notice that the tab on the right is a task list. If you click the Task List tab, you will see a screen similar to the one that’s shown in Figure D.

Figure D:
The Task List displays a list of the things that you need to do both before, and after the upgrade

Notice in the figure that the Task List displays the tasks that need to be completed prior to upgrading to Vista. The Task list also displays any tasks that you will have to do after Vista is installed. Again, the messages shown in the figure look generic, but the Task List really is worth paying attention to, because it does occasionally tell you something important that you need to do. For example, the Task List may tell you that you need to reinstall an application after the upgrade is complete.

Why Not Use the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor in the Enterprise?

As you can see, the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor is a great tool. That being the case, you might be wondering why you cannot use this tool in an enterprise environment. The reason why this tool is not suitable for larger organizations is because scans must be performed individually on each machine. There is no way to automate system scans or to compile a report that displays the scan results of every workstation in the organization.

One thing to keep in mind is that the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor provides you with exactly the same information as Microsoft’s enterprise class solution (Business Desktop Deployment 2007). The real value of Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor is its simplicity. The Business Desktop Deployment 2007 tool is effective for deploying Vista to large numbers of workstations, but takes a lot of work to configure. As you have seen, there is absolutely no configuration necessary for running the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor. Therefore, my advice would be that if you have fewer than 100 PCs in your organization then you are probably better off manually testing workstation compatibility by using Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor. For organizations with more than 100 PCs, you should normally use Business Desktop Deployment 2007 to assist you with the upgrade. I will discuss Business Desktop Deployment 2007 in Part 2.

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

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