Testing Applications for Vista Compatibility, Part 4

by [Published on 18 March 2008 / Last Updated on 18 March 2008]

This article continues the series on application compatibility testing for Windows Vista by beginning to analyze the data that was collected previously.

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

In the previous part of this article series, I showed you how to use Microsoft’s Application Compatibility Manager to compile a list of the applications that are currently installed on the workstations that you are contemplating upgrading to Windows Vista. In this article, I will continue the discussion by showing you how to make use of the data that you have collected.

When you open the Microsoft Application Compatibility Manager, you will see that it displays a summary of the data that has been collected, in a manner similar to what is shown in Figure A. This screen serves as confirmation that data has been collected, and the summary can be useful later on in the compatibility analysis process, but for right now there really isn’t anything particularly important about this default screen.


Figure A:
When you open the Microsoft Application Compatibility Manager console, you will see a summary of the data that has been collected

The first thing that you need to know about this screen is that the tree on the left is divided into sections. The section at the top, Windows Vista Reports, is the main section that is related to Windows Vista compatibility testing, so this is where we will be spending most of our time. Notice that the section below it is labeled Windows XP SP2 Reports. If you are considering an upgrade to Windows XP SP2, you could use this utility to verify that your applications are Windows XP compatible prior to taking the plunge.

Beneath the Windows Vista Reports section is a section called Applications. This is where you can see a full list of the applications that have been detected. I will come back to this section in a moment, but first, click on the Computers container found beneath the Windows Vista Reports section. When you do, you will see a screen similar to the one that is shown in Figure B.


Figure B:
The Computers section displays a more detailed summary of the information that has been collected

As you can see in the figure, clicking on the Computers container causes the console to display a more detailed summary of the data that has been collected. The screen lists all of the individual computers that have been tested, as well as the number of applications and hardware devices that are installed on each. The reason why I wanted to show you this screen first was because it contains a column that displays the number of applications with issues on each machine that has been tested. This allows you to tell at a glance which machines are potentially going to be the most problematic.

As I pointed out in the previous article though, the Application Compatibility Manager does not automatically list any application as being “Vista Compatible”. Instead, it simply points out any known issues with the applications that have been analyzed. When you look at this screen, you have to keep in mind that if a computer is reported to contain applications with compatibility issues, you can be relatively sure that the tool is providing you with reliable information. At the same time though, other applications may contain compatibility issues that the software does not know about. Therefore, you can’t assume that an application is Vista compatible just because the Application Compatibility Manager does not list any known issues.

With this in mind, click on the Applications container found beneath the Windows Vista Reports section, and you will see a screen that’s similar to the one that is shown in Figure C.


Figure C:
The Applications container lists all of the applications that have been detected on the computers that you have analyzed

This screen shows every application that has been detected as you have analyzed the various computers on your network. If you look at the column on the far right, it will show you how many computers a particular application has been installed onto. This is one of the most important pieces of information to look at for a couple of reasons.

First, you can use the number of computers that an application is installed on to help you to figure out how much work you are going to have to do. For example, if you discover that you are going to have to apply a patch to make an application Vista compatible, and that particular application is installed on every computer in the organization, then you are probably going to have to do quite a bit of work to get the patch in place.

Even if you have a mechanism for automatically deploying patches, you are still going to need to do some work. Remember, the only thing that you really know is that somebody has told you that this particular application won’t run on Vista without a patch. What happens when you apply the patch to the application, and the system is still running Windows XP though? Odds are that the patch will work fine, but you really don’t want to take a chance on blindly applying a patch, and hoping that it works, and that it doesn’t cause any problems with the underlying operating system or with any other applications.

The other reason why the number of computers that are running a particular application is such an important piece of information is because not all applications can be patched to make them work with Windows Vista. Some applications simply have to be retired. If you find an application that you cannot adapt to work with Vista, then you are going to have to make some decisions regarding the application’s importance. One way of doing this is to look at the number of systems that are running the application. For example, if only a couple of systems are running the application, then maybe the application really isn’t all that important. In fact, I have even heard stories of administrators discovering unauthorized applications during the compiling an application inventory in preparation for a move to Windows Vista.

On the other hand though, you may discover that an application that is installed on most, or all, of your computers can not be made to work with Windows Vista. In such a situation, you are obviously going to have to make some big decisions. If the application is mission critical, you may have to abort the Windows Vista upgrade altogether. I have heard of administrators running into this situation and being able to find a suitable replacement for the application. In some cases that replacement might be a newer version of the application, and in other cases it might be a completely different product that supports the same types of files as the incompatible application. In either case though, you will have to consider the costs of the of the software licenses for the replacement application prior to moving forward with your Vista deployment. You will probably also want to purchase a small number of licenses for the replacement application ahead of time so that you can make sure that the replacement application will do everything that you need it to do.

Conclusion

In this article, I have shown you how to begin looking at how many applications have known Windows Vista compatibility issues. I then went on to explain some of the implications of those numbers. In the next article, I will continue the series by taking about application analysis and testing.

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

Featured Links