Get up to Speed on Windows XP

Windows XP

Story Contents


Facts & Figures

Home & Pro Differences

Behind the New Wheel

Folders & Special Folders

Looking at 'My Pictures'

Windows Media Player 8

Internet Explorer 6.0

Functional Improvements

Personal Firewall

Remote Assistance

Backup & Restore

Product Activation

Hardware and Setup

Will Your Programs Run?


Beta Conclusions

Will Your Programs Run?

Several of the authors were at Microsoft headquarters in Redmond recently where we were shown a huge database of applications Microsoft has tested and is in the process of certifying for Windows XP. In some cases the company is changing the operating system, and in other cases it is working with the software makers to work on their code. The new OS also has a good set of tools for fooling older apps into working properly under XP.

The primary applications Microsoft is concerned with are games, entertainment software, personal productivity, and corporate legacy applications. Of course, only time will tell whether the company's efforts will deliver. "Compat," as application compatibility is known in the industry, is probably the last thing we as users know about with a new operating system. It's not really possible to gauge until several months after a OS ships.

For Beta 2, we tried a typical range of applications and came away pleasantly surprised. We found almost nothing that wouldn't function properly. (One caveat: None of us is a full-bore gamer, plus with hundreds of programs out there, we didn't test even half of them.) Microsoft Office 97 and 2000 worked just fine, but we expected that. Office XP also worked without a hitch, a near miracle considering that Office XP's late pre-release code crashed repeatedly under Win XP Beta 2. So it looks like the Office XP developers made some last-minute changes. Every other productivity application we tested worked without trouble too, although one of our favorite utilities, VMware Inc.'s VMware Workstation, definitely had troubles.

Windows XP provides application compatibility controls that help you make software designed to run under older versions of Windows work with XP.
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Windows XP provides application compatibility controls that help you make software designed to run under older versions of Windows work with XP.

Shareware packages we tried functioned as they should, but as a precaution we avoided utilities that work closely with the underpinnings of the system (especially disk utilities). Multimedia applications in general functioned correctly, including third-party DVD players, but the apps that ship with the Fujifilm FinePix 2400Zoom digital camera failed to operate after installation. The software for Hauppauge's WinTV-PVR board worked fine, but the integrated setup program wouldn't perform the installation. Instead, we had to use the separate setup files inside the folders for the individual apps.

The newsgroups for XP Beta 2 report problems with CD-writing software such as Roxio's Easy CD Creator 5.0 and earlier,'s LapLink Professional, and Sierra Print Artist 4.0. We think most of these incompatibilities will disappear by the time of XP's final release. The largest potential pressure point is probably gaming programs. To be a true upgrade for Windows 98/Me, Win XP must be able to run everything that can now run on 98/Me, and games are the most demanding of both the operating system and the hardware. The prognosis is good, but we're going to have to wait for the real world to give XP a try.

Microsoft includes two features in Win XP to help you with compatibility issues. First, the home page for Help and Support Services (the new Help facility) includes a link called Compatible Hardware and Software. Clicking that link lets you search for a product in a compatibility database on the Microsoft website. The second feature is called Run in Compatibility Mode: you can set the properties of any application to launch using the greatest possible compatibility with your choice of Windows 95, 98, NT4, or 2000. In our tests, this feature helped the WinTV-PVR board go further into the setup process than without it, but it still wasn't able to finish the job. But keep the feature in mind when attempting to run older software under XP. It could come in handy.

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