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Windows 7 Update Addresses App Compatibility

Microsoft released a minor update this week for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 that addresses compatibility issues for some applications.

It's the first update for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 since the availability of the release-to-manufacturing (RTM) versions of the operating systems. The update will either improve the functioning of a particular application or block it from running.

The update implements a "hard block" to prevent an application from running or a "soft block" to just warn the user that the application running is incompatible with the OS.

Microsoft's Knowledge Base article explains that the update is designed to address problems typically encountered when running legacy games or other applications on Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2. However, the article lists a fair amount of security software, including Trend Micro Internet Security, PGP Desktop and Trend Micro VirusBuster 2008. Even Window Live Photo Gallery made the list.

The update package can be downloaded from the Microsoft Download Center in x86 and x64 versions for Windows 7. It's available in x64 and Itanium versions for Windows Server 2008 R2. The update requires a restart to take effect.

Users not helped by Microsoft's update can try to run incompatible applications by using Windows 7's desktop virtualization features. Microsoft recommends Windows 7's XP Mode desktop virtualization feature for small-to-medium organizations. For larger organizations requiring centralized management control over multiple PCs, Microsoft instead recommends using Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V). MED-V is a component in the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack, available via Software Assurance licensing.

MED-V allows users to run XP or Windows 2000 virtual desktops in Vista. However, Microsoft plans to add support for Windows 7 hosts when MED-V 1.0 Service Pack 1 is released in the first quarter of next year, according to a Microsoft blog. Oddly, the blog explains that "as it stands today, there is no support for Windows 7 or Windows Vista guests expected any time soon" in MED-V.

MED-V doesn't require special hardware virtualization capabilities to run, the blog noted. In contrast, users of XP Mode have to first check that the PC uses processors with built-in virtualization capabilities, such as Intel VT and AMD-V technologies.

For those facing daunting application compatibility issues and willing to pay for support, Microsoft recently rolled out a new support line for the purpose. The company also provides a free downloadable Application Compatibility Toolkit to help diagnose such problems. Microsoft partner-based support is available through the Windows 7 Application Compatibility Factory Program, described here.

Another more general resource is Microsoft's Springboard video panel discussions on application compatibility issues in Windows 7. Microsoft Technical Fellow Mark Russinovich hosted a two-part series on the topic. Part 1 discusses mitigation techniques, while Part 2 looks at virtualization solutions when those initial techniques can't be used.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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