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Free Service Checks Windows 7 Application Compatibility

Small-to-medium businesses (SBMs) trying to assess if older applications will run on Windows 7 Professional edition can take advantage of a free online remediation service.

The service, called AOK4SMB, is offered by Microsoft Gold Certified Partner ChangeBase AOK. Users can upload packaged applications to the AOK4SMB Web portal to test the compatibility of those applications with Windows 7 Professional. The service is currently available and free for up to three applications until the end of July 2010.

ChangeBase is running this service as a pilot to see if there's a demand for it, so there's no charge at present. The service has a few limitations. It does not address incompatibilities that may arise in running 32-bit applications on 64-bit Windows 7 Professional. It also doesn't work for Internet Explorer compatibility issues, according to ChangeBase's FAQ.

To use the service, users need to upload zipped installer files in the .MSI file format. MSI files typically include associated files (such as .CAB files) to support the application, but it's possible to upload those files separately from the MSI file. The tested MSI file is then returned, along with a report in PDF format.

The idea of the service is to assess applications that may not run natively on Windows 7 Professional. AOK4SMB uses three color codes to assess them. Green means that the application will run natively on Windows 7 Professional. Amber assesses compatibility issues with the installer file and those problems automatically get fixed by the service. Red means that there's a problem with how the application works, possibly because certain functionality has been deprecated in Windows 7 Professional or a driver needs updating (or worse).

Microsoft teamed with ChangeBase on the service, but it also offers its own application compatibility resource through the Microsoft Windows 7 Compatibility Center. However, this Web portal doesn't provide help for checking the compatibility of custom-built applications, and that's where ChangeBase's service may prove useful.

SMB users of Windows 7 Professional and Windows 7 Ultimate editions also have the option of running legacy applications via Windows XP Mode, which works with Windows Virtual PC. Windows XP Mode provides a complete copy of Windows XP Service Pack 3 running in a virtual machine on top of Windows 7. It allows users to continue to use their legacy applications as the SMB transitions to Windows 7.

For larger organizations, Microsoft recommends using virtualization tools in the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP), which requires having an Enterprise Agreement in place with Software Assurance. Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization, a tool included in MDOP, permits group management of desktop virtualization instances, unlike Windows XP Mode.

Smaller organizations eventually may have the option to leverage MDOP tools via a new Windows Intune service, recently rolled out in beta form by Microsoft. However, the Windows Intune service won't be commercially available for another year.

About the Author

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

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