Windows 7 on Server Hardware

Windows 7 compatibility: Solving Hardware, software issues

Software offers similar challenges. While Windows 7 is largely compatible with the 32-bit software applications that Windows users have enjoyed for over a decade, some applications— and indeed, entire application classes, such as security software—simply won't work properly in Windows 7. Some applications can be made to work using Windows 7's built-in compatibility modes, as discussed below. Some can't. Those that can't—like legacy 16-bit software or custom software typically found in small businesses—might be able to find solace in the new XP Mode feature in Windows 7. We examine XP Mode at the end of this chapter.

A final compatibility issue that shouldn't be overlooked is one raised by the ongoing migration to 64-bit (x64) computing. Virtually every single PC sold today does, in fact, include a 64-bit x64-compatible microprocessor, which means it is capable of running 64-bit versions of Windows 7. However, until Windows 7, virtually all copies of Windows sold were the more mainstream 32-bit versions of the system. We'll explain why this is so and how the situation is now changing in favor of 64-bit with Windows 7.

Secret: From a functional standpoint, x64 and 32-bit versions of Windows 7 are almost identical. The biggest difference is RAM support: while 32-bit versions of Windows "support" up to 4GB of RAM, the truth is, they can't access much more than 3.1GB or 3.2GB of RAM because of the underlying architecture of Windows. 64-bit versions of Windows 7, meanwhile, can access up to a whopping 192GB of RAM, depending on which version you get.

Hardware Compatibility

One of the best things about Windows historically is that you could go into any electronics retailer, buy any hardware device in the store, bring it home, and know it would work. Conversely, one of the worst things about any new version of Windows is that the previous statement no longer applies. Paul (who, let's face it, is old) often tells the story about the time he was wandering down the aisles of a Best Buy in Phoenix, Arizona, over a decade ago when Windows NT 4.0 first shipped, with a printed copy of the Windows NT Hardware Compatibility List (HCL) in his hand. He needed a network adapter but had to be sure he got one of the few models that worked in the then new NT 4.0 system.

Windows 7 users face a similar problem today, though there are some differences. First, there's no HCL available anymore, at least not a public one, so you're a bit more on your own when it comes to discovering what's going to work. Second, Windows 7 is already far more compatible with existing hardware than NT was back in the mid 1990s. Indeed, thanks to a 3-year head start with Windows Vista—with which Windows 7 shares the same compatibility infrastructure—Microsoft claims that Windows 7 is actually far more compatible with today's hardware than Windows XP was when it first shipped back in 2001. Based on our extensive testing and evidence provided by Microsoft, this is clearly the case. But then, that was true with Windows Vista as well, though overblown tales of that system's compatibility issues burned up the blogosphere during virtually its entire time in the market.

We've tested Windows 7 for over a year on a wide variety of systems, including several desktops (most of which use dual- and quad-core x64-compatible CPUs), Media Center PCs, notebook computers, Tablet PCs, TouchSmart PCs, netbooks, and even an aging Ultra-Mobile PC. Windows 7's out-of-the-box (OOTB) compatibility with the built-in devices on each system we've tested has been stellar, even during the beta, and it only got better over time. (In this case, OOTB refers to both the drivers that actually ship on the Windows 7 DVD as well as the drivers that are automatically installed via Automatic Updating the first time you boot into your new Windows 7 desktop.) On almost all of these systems, Windows 7 has found and installed drivers for every single device in or attached to the system. So much for all the compatibility nightmares.

Myths about how the Windows Aero user interface requirements would require mass hardware upgrades also dissipated during the Vista time frame. And sure enough, by the time we got to Windows 7, we stopped seeing anything other than the Windows Aero UI on every single modern (2006 or newer) PC we've tested. (With the following exception: when you install Windows 7 Home Basic or Starter, you don't gain access to Windows Aero—but this is due to limitations of the OS, not the hardware.)

As always, you could still run into hardware issues with older scanners, printers, and similar peripherals, especially if you're coming from Windows XP. Paul's network-attached Dell laser printer wasn't supported by Windows 7–specific drivers at launch (though it was in Windows Vista with Service Pack 1 and newer). But because it's really a Lexmark printer in disguise, he was able to get it up and running just fine using Lexmark drivers.

If you're coming from Windows Vista, or are using Windows Vista-era hardware, you're in much better shape. For the most part, everything should just work. TV-tuner hardware? Yep. Zune? Done. Apple's iPods? They all work (even on x64 systems). Windows Media–compatible devices? Of course; they all connect seamlessly and even work with Windows 7's Sync Center interface.

Software Compatibility

We regularly use and otherwise test what we feel is a representative collection of mostly modern software. This includes standard software applications—productivity solutions and the like—as well as games.

Sades SA902 7.1 Channel Virtual USB Surround Stereo Wired PC Gaming Headset Over Ear Headphones with Mic Revolution Volume Control Noise Canceling LED Light (Black/Red)
Personal Computer (SHENZHEN SADES DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY CO.,LTD.)
  • Sades high-performance decoding chip, USB 7.1 channel surround sound effect for PC gamers with LED light. Experience an immersive 360-degree sound field that lets...
  • Unique 4-pieces of reinforced padded headband offers levels of height adjustment for perfect fit. Extreme soft,comfortable and ventilate protein ear cushions guarantees...
  • The microphone is flexible for exact positioning. Spotlight design on the earcups. Little smart in-line Remote Control for sound and Mic.
  • Updated closed earcups design USB PC Gaming Headset covers ears entirely. Cut out external sound effectively, and with none of the irritating seashell effect many...
  • Compatible with Windows XP, Windows 10, Vista, 7, 8, 8.1. Drivers Ready to Download. MAC Generic Use. No Drivers.
DBPOWER DBPOWER Three Colors Backlit LED Gaming Keyboard
PC Accessory (DBPOWER)
  • Gamer s Equipment. 104 keys, 19 keys non-conflict, removable keycaps, strengthened space key. Specially designed keys for enhanced durability and tactile feedback...
  • 3 Colors LED Backlit. Cool LED backlighting on keyboard, 3 colors changeable breathing or permanent lighting mode. You can adjust backlit and breathing mode whatever...
  • Easy to Operate. USB plug and play, no driver needed. Anti-skid and waterproof design. Laser carving characters, non-slip design, splash proof and durable.
  • User-Friendly. Quickly control each function, multimedia keys provide shortcuts operate. ergonomic design, comfortable to operate.
  • Compatible with Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, or Windows XP, Mac OS.
Razer Inc. Razer ManO'War Wireless 7.1 Surround Sound Gaming Headset Compatible with PC, Mac, Steam Link and works with Playstation 4
Personal Computer (Razer Inc.)
  • Latency-free wireless performance audio on PC and works with PS4
  • Wireless 7.1 virtual surround sound for pinpoint precision
  • 7 days of wireless gaming on a single charge
  • Retractable digital mic for uncompromised vocal clarity
  • Quick Action Controls on the ear cups for on-the-fly audio adjustments

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