How-To Geek

Geek School: Learning Windows 7 – Managing Applications

Have you ever wondered why your favorite game from Windows 95 just doesn’t seem to run on Windows 7 but other applications do? Well we have the answer for you, as well as a few solutions for how to fix it.

Be sure to check out the previous articles in this Geek School series on Windows 7:

And stay tuned for the rest of the series, as we have many more articles over the next few weeks.

Why Do Applications Become Incompatible ?

One of the most common reasons is a Windows feature called Windows File Protection which first appeared in Windows Vista. Windows File Protection, as the name implies, protects core system files from being replaced. It does this by modifying the security ACL on the file to give only the TrustedInstaller user full access to the file, which ensures that only programs like Windows Updates can replace and edit the file. In Windows 7 the feature was renamed to Windows Resource Protection.

Security enhancements also play a big part in application incompatibility, most notoriously because of UAC (User Account Control), which did not exist in Windows prior to Vista. Similarly, the directory structure, most notably around User Profiles, changed in Windows Vista and broke many applications that were designed for the pre-longhorn area. To try and fix the situation they implemented symbolic links (sometimes called Junction Points in older versions of Windows) that redirected the old locations to the new ones.

Making Applications Compatible

Just because an application is incompatible with your operating system doesn’t mean you can’t coerce it to run. The first thing you will want to do is identify if  an app is incompatible with Windows 7. To do this, open Control Panel and click on the Programs category. Here you will see a Run programs made for previous version of Windows hyperlink. Click on it.


Then expand advanced and deselect the option to automatically fix errors, then click next.


Now click browse and find the file you are trying to run, then click next.


When the scan is done, view the detailed information.


Here you will see the issues found. As you can see the messages aren’t always that helpful, but at least you now know your application is going to have trouble running.


Using Compatibility Mode

If the application you are trying to run was specifically designed for a previous version of Windows, you can try and mimic the older environment using compatibility mode. To do this, right click on the program you want to run and select properties from the context menu.


Then switch over to the compatibility tab.


Here you will be able to set the operating system environment. You can do this by selecting the checkbox and choosing the operating system from the drop down.


Using the Application Compatibility Toolkit

The full power of the Application Compatibility Toolkit is out of the scope of this article, but there is one tool that you need to know about. The Internet Explorer Compatibility Test Tool allows you to test your local intranet sites for compatibility with the up and coming release of Internet Explorer. To get started go ahead and launch it.


Then click on the enable button.


Now open Internet Explorer, and the first thing you will notice is a little clipboard in the status bar. If you click on it you will get a message box explaining that the browser is busy being used to evaluate compatibility. All you need to do is go about browsing your webpages as you normally would. Once you are done, close Internet Explorer.


Below you can see the issues the tool found with the webpages I browsed. You can now save the report and send it off to the developers.

Continue reading to learn about application restrictions and more.

    Continue Reading »
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Taylor Gibb is a Microsoft MVP and all round geek, he loves everything from Windows 8 to Windows Server 2012 and even C# and PowerShell. You can also follow him on Google+

  • Published 03/8/13

Comments (6)

  1. indianacarnie

    NOW we’re getting somewhere! Sure appreciate this.

  2. Taylor Gibb

    @indianacarnie i see you have been following along since the first article, be sure to leave some feedback and/or ideas on where you would like to see the future of these articles going!

  3. Bob

    It would be helpful to have a complete article on how to get a Windows 7 ISO and how to make a DVD from the downloaded ISO file. Then how to use the DVD to install Windows 7 on a computer. I think that HTG may have already published an article about this but, it would help if there was a more in depth article with a step by step procedure included.

  4. Ushindi

    Thanks very much – these articles really help someone on the lower half of the computer knowledge scale, like me.

  5. vineet

    Very good article. this whole series is very useful.
    If only you could tell us about how to connect two different windows 7 laptops/pcs via wired connection (not wifi)… Please :-)

  6. 2-Bits Given

    @ Bob,

    If you want to download a Windows ISO file in order to make an installation disk, you may not find very much out there. That’s because Microsoft frowns on this and tends to view anyone sharing these disks or even ISO’s as being software pirates. In fact, if you happen to have an actual Windows installation disk from Microsoft then you may even see the words on it which specifically say, “DO NOT LEND OR MAKE ILLEGAL COPIES”. Now, I can go into the legalities of why it may still be OK to have an ISO or even a disk and still NOT have a license (which partly involves a legal concept known as “fair use”), but suffice it to say that you really do need to have a license in order to run Windows or else you’d be breaking copyright/patent laws. Microsoft just takes it a step further by assuming you shouldn’t be able to even get a disk (or ISO) if you’re not ALSO purchasing a license. (A rather arrogant assumption which may have more to do with shaking people down for money than anything else.)

    Of course, it is possible to find an ISO out there if you keep digging. However, I think I should warn you that whatever you find may also include anything from viruses, to malware or even root-kits. Some aren’t even Windows! And that’s because these public shared ISO’s usually come from someone who may simply be looking for a way to scam you either during the download or after you’ve actually used it to install. I tend to think of these public shared ISO’s as disease-ridden prostitutes (where Microsoft might even be the police) in a prostitute-legal society. They may get the “job” done but do you really want to consider it?!

    Therefore, my advice would be to find a friend willing to make you a disk copy. You may have some difficulty explaining to him/her that they’re not really breaking any laws – just bending it a little. Good luck.

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