Testing Application Compatibility for Windows 8

Brien Posey, Freelance Writer and Former CIO | 1/7/2013 | 17 comments

Brien Posey
Ever since the release of Windows 8, I have seen a number of articles stating that any application that runs on Windows 7 will also run on Windows 8.

My personal experience has been somewhat different. I am presently running Windows 8 on several computers, and all of my applications are working correctly. However, that does not mean that the transition to Windows 8 was seamless or trouble-free. I actually had to jump through a few hoops with regard to making some of my applications work. As such, the importance of application compatibility testing prior to a Windows 8 migration cannot be understated.

I'm sure that right now some of you might be wondering what types of application compatibility problems I encountered with regard to Windows 8. There were actually three main problems that I have encountered.

The first problem that I ran into was related to an application that uses OpenGL graphics instead of DirectX. At first, this application simply would not work with Windows 8 because of Windows 8's lack of native support for OpenGL graphics. I was eventually able to resolve the problem by installing a newer version of AMD's Catalyst software. The software added support for OpenGL graphics and allowed me to run the otherwise incompatible application.

The second problem that I encountered was related to a video editing application that I use on a fairly regular basis. When I would launch the application I received an error message stating that my current version of Windows was not supported for use with the application. In all fairness, Windows 8 does feature a backward compatibility function that will allow it to lie to an application about the operating system version number. In doing so, Windows 8 is able to trick the application into thinking that it is running on an earlier version of Windows.

Although this approach probably would have solved my problems with the video editing application, I have to be honest and tell you that I did not attempt to resolve the issue using Windows 8's backward compatibility features. The vendor that makes the application released a new version at about the same time that Windows 8 was released. Since I wanted to try out some of the new features anyway, I opted for the new version rather than trying to force the old version to work with Windows 8.

The third problem that I have run into with regard to Windows 8 compatibility has more to do with the built-in apps than anything else. For whatever reason, I have had trouble getting Windows 8 to play certain types of video files (and DVDs) that worked fine with Windows 7. From what I have been able to observe, it seems that Windows 8 may lack the codecs required to play many common video file formats. Admittedly, I haven't had the time to really dig into the problem and confirm my observations. What I can tell you is that I have had trouble playing these types of video files on multiple computers, and that I had to resolve the issue by installing a third party, freeware video player.

I tell you the stories as a way of underscoring the point that compatibility issues can and sometimes do exist in Windows 8. That isn't to say that you should not make the transition to Windows 8, but rather that it would behoove you to confirm that Windows 8 will work with your applications and meet all of your business needs before you commit to the transition.

I recommend starting out by acquiring a trial version of Windows 8 that you can use for testing purposes. You can get a Windows 8 trial version from MSDN, TechNet or from a few other Microsoft sources. You can install the Windows trial on either a physical or a virtual machine.

Once you have Windows 8 up and running, there are a number of different ways to test application compatibility. One option is to simply install your applications onto your test system. The advantage to using this method is that you will be able to instantly confirm whether or not the applications install correctly, and you will be able to tell whether or not the applications run on Windows 8. However, there are a few important things to keep in mind.

First, simply installing and loading applications does not completely confirm application compatibility. You could theoretically run into situations in which certain features do not work correctly, even though the application as a whole seems to work. That being the case, it is important to do more than just basic compatibility testing. You might consider looking on each application vendor's website to see if there is any information about whether or not the application works properly with Windows 8. You should also research each application in the Windows Compatibility Center to determine if there are any known compatibility issues.

Another thing to keep in mind is that it is important to join your test machine to an Active Directory domain (assuming that your production desktops are also domain joined). Windows 8 is designed to prevent the domain administrator from running Metro style apps and from accessing certain parts of the operating system. Even though you probably aren't in the habit of letting your users log in as a domain administrator, there might be certain legacy applications that require administrative level credentials in order to function. Although I have not personally observed such applications causing any problems, the simple fact that certain parts of the operating system are inaccessible to administrators means that there is at least a possibility that legacy applications requiring excessive permissions could cause problems.

As you research application compatibility, you will most likely discover that the vast majority of your applications have no problem working with Windows 8. Even so, proper compatibility testing is an essential part of the Windows 8 migration process.

View Comments: Newest First | Oldest First | Threaded View
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eethtworkz   Testing Application Compatibility for Windows 8   1/10/2013 11:13:39 AM
Re: Compatibility Issues

Looking at their past track record[Microsoft is'nt half as arrogant as Apple here];they will make the needed changes.

It just might take some time.
Pubudu   Testing Application Compatibility for Windows 8   1/10/2013 3:26:49 AM
Re: backwards compatibility
Yes, for me  all he applications which I was used to use are work in Win 8. But I am not sure about the heavy soft ware like video editing will work as usual which use more memory.
Zaius   Testing Application Compatibility for Windows 8   1/8/2013 3:31:09 PM
Re: backwards compatibility
Backward comaptibilty is always an welcome feature. However, to reduce the burden of coding big companies like MS drop this when they build a new OS from scratch. However, I am not a very regular user of MAC OS. Does anyone know awhat hppens to the third party softwares (like printer drivers) in MACs?
nimanthad   Testing Application Compatibility for Windows 8   1/8/2013 8:02:07 AM
Re: Features like Print, Scan etc.
I'm not sure how successful this will be since my experience with windows 8 lasted only for couple of hours. Application compatibility was 50:50. Didn't try the major apps but the basic required ones were not 100% compatible
Salik   Testing Application Compatibility for Windows 8   1/8/2013 6:04:25 AM
Re: Features like Print, Scan etc.
@MS.Akkineni, Yes this is an issue. I just read your post and I mentioned in another thread of this blog about the problem that I encountered. Certainly, hardware is the most important part of the computer, it should be ensured by the Windows Service Provider that much of the most used hardware comes compatible with newer OS versions. This boosts a confidence in the users that upgrading won't cost them any bit, yet empower them with more benefits.
MS.Akkineni   Testing Application Compatibility for Windows 8   1/8/2013 4:05:49 AM
Re: Compatibility Issues

I just posted my thoughts on a similar thought.

Yup, driver software is another important area of attention. One has to expect this as a common issue during transition and be ready to handle.
MS.Akkineni   Testing Application Compatibility for Windows 8   1/8/2013 4:01:34 AM
Features like Print, Scan etc.
First, simply installing and loading applications does not completely confirm application compatibility. You could theoretically run into situations in which certain features do not work correctly, even though the application as a whole seems to work.

This is absolutely true. Some specific application features involving devices like printers,scanners,fax machines which run with their respective software libararies need special attention in testing. Because those libraries are heavily associated with Windows OS.
Salik   Testing Application Compatibility for Windows 8   1/8/2013 2:03:22 AM
Re: Compatibility Issues
Umair, I didn't really get in the depth of it, but I do actually remember my printer being not compatible with the new OS. Either the windows didn't recognize the printer driver as legitimate driver or it didn't simply not include them include the drivers. That came as an issue with the upgrade, but later I found the hardwares driver, installed it and it works perfectly fine now.
Umair Ahmed   Testing Application Compatibility for Windows 8   1/7/2013 9:21:41 PM
Overall Experience
@ Brien: Thanks for the interesting post and useful tips. As you have tested the Windows 8 thoroughly, besides compatibility what was your overall experience about Windows 8? Did you find it better and like it more than Windows 7? Does Windows 8 fulfill its claims about better speed and lower power consumption than Windows 7 on the same machine?
Umair Ahmed   Testing Application Compatibility for Windows 8   1/7/2013 8:50:16 PM
Re: Compatibility Issues
@ Salik: Thanks for sharing your experience. I agree with eethworkz, we should wait for some more time till the techies like you detect and figure out the most problems and compatibility issues :). I would like to know whether you also experienced any hardware compatibility issues with printer, scanner, camera or other devices you connect with Windows 8 PC.
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