Computer Compatibility

If you have owned more than one computer, you have almost surely run into computer compatibility issues. It is not as uncommon as you might think - a manufacturer cannot build a single computer that will fit everyone's needs. Examples of that could be a person who wants to work in 3D, and needs a graphics card that supports Open GL or has a much higher capacity of useable RAM.

An audiophile might want a better sound card to work on audio files. Each and every option can lead to compatibility issues. Lower end computers often use generic (read less expensive) components that are suitable for a computer system, but often lack in qualities that people find important.

Knowing what is compatible on your computer in both hardware and software goes a long way towards enhancing your computer experience. Here we will discuss computer compatibility, and how to both check for compatibility and what to look for before you decide to buy.

Let's Define Compatibility

Compatibility in the computer world means two things - forward and backward compatibility. Forward compatibility is nothing more than a program's ability to accept input from a newer version of itself. It does this by ignoring unknown tags and references that the newer version will have. This ability is important when you consider the high price you pay for some software applications or hardware. If it were not forward capable, then your software would be useless, and you would then need to buy the newest version to access the latest features.

Backward compatibility is a bit different, because the software has relationship with the other, instead of an attribute. In other words, a new component or software program is backward compatible if it provides all of the functionality of the old component. Backward compatibility can only exist if the new component has a direct historical ancestral relationship with the old component.

Known Issues

One of the current biggest issues with compatibility has come about with the release of Windows Vista. People with older computers found that Vista just would not work, because the hardware supporting their computer was not capable of running the strongly graphical new operating system. On release, there was an extremely long list of components and software that failed to install or crashed the system upon access.

Although Microsoft has recently released a service pack which should address a lot of these issues, it is still a new operating system. Microsoft is notorious for releasing operating systems with a lot of bugs just to get it on the market on launch date. A lot of software developers had to redo programs to allow it to run on Vista. Notable issues were with antivirus software, media players, some Bluetooth systems, network systems and a lot of graphics programs.

Vista has been out long enough now so that a lot of things have been fixed. Microsoft quickly released Vista patch KB929427, which makes good some of the more challenging application incompatibilities. I read a report online that this patch was available on the web even before you could get Vista on a CD.

Research shows that the biggest issue is drivers. Manufacturers were not releasing drivers quickly enough to afford compatibility to this new operating system, and a lot of people were finding that video cards and chipsets would just not work with the new system. Much of this has been taken care of. It is noteworthy that a lot of the information on the web is a bit outdated, so many of these problems have been rectified. That doesn't mean that there will still not be problems.

A great deal of this will come from peripherals such as printers and scanners. Because people don't go out and buy a new one each time they upgrade, it can be an issue with an older computer being upgraded to Win Vista.

What To Do

Before you decide to upgrade to Win Vista, consider upgrading to a newer computer that already has Vista running on it. There are six different editions of Vista, so be sure of what your needs are when buying. Microsoft has had a hardware compatibility list, or HCL, but my research shows that this is not so with Vista.

It is your best bet to do a lot of research online before making the switch. It can save you a lot of trouble. A good place to visit is forums. Simply type "windows vista + forums" into Google, and it will give you a lot of good forums that give the best information available. Remember, people who are on forums have "been there, done that", so it is the best place to go for compatibility issues.