Compatibility

One of my first concerns in migrating to a new operating system, from a business perspective, was the compatibility of important software. After all, there's no point in paying $39.99 for an upgrade, only to be faced with a bill of several hundred dollars to upgrade critical software.

However, when I finally made the jump, I'd had the benefit of experience with the Release Preview and two prior installations, so I had a fair idea of what to expect.

Firstly, an overview of what I found in migrating from Windows XP to 64-bit Windows 8.

  • The Compatibility Center on Microsoft's website (http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/compatibility/win8/CompatCenter/Home) should be viewed as a guide only. Most of all, don't always believe what the manufacturer's website says. Of course they'll say that their program is incompatible, as they'd much rather sell you a new product! Only rarely will you find an explanation of exactly what the issue is, whether it's anything major or just something most users could live with, or whether any workarounds exist. A wider Google search will confirm if there is a genuine problem with the app, and whether there's any patches or workarounds available.
  • The vast majority of programs worked fine, although some tweaks were occasionally required at the installation stage. Often it was just a case of the CD autorun not working properly, in which case it was just a matter of navigating to the CD/DVD drive and running Setup from there.
  • Some things, especially drivers, refuse to install because of Windows 8's driver signature enforcement. Previous versions of Windows at least gave you an option to continue the install - in the case of Windows 8 you have to reboot with DSE turned off (how to do this is explained here).
  • Some programs expect to find the old Windows XP folder structure, but often this can be overridden by manually typing in the correct folder name. For instance, 32-bit programs on a 64-bit OS should be located in the "Program Files (x86) folder", not under "Program Files".
  • Migrating all the app settings, favourites etc. is the tricky and most time-consuming part. Often you can copy the old Program Files folder for the app into the corresponding place in Windows 8 (remembering that it's "Program Files (x86)" in the case of 64-bit Windows). Then just reinstall the app to restore the correct registry entries.
  • Many other settings can be found in C:\Documents and Settings\username\Application Data\ in Windows XP, and can be copied to the corresponding folder in Windows 8 at C:\Users\username\AppData\Roaming\
    This is known to work for programs denoted with * in the following article.
  • If you're really stuck, consider setting up Windows XP in a virtual machine, and running the app from there.

The next article in this series is a list of programs I've found to be compatible with 64-bit Windows 8, including several older and less well-known apps. Where necessary I have also added a few tips and workarounds I've used to install or run them properly.

One of the more unusual items I've managed to get working is a Nikon Coolscan 2000 SCSI film scanner dating from about 1999. I've often seen posts from people trying to get these old, but good scanners working. Basic details are in the following article but if you need more specific information, feel free to contact me via the contact form.

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