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Windows Vista

Installing Windows Vista : Troubleshooting Installation Issues

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Troubleshooting Hardware Compatibility Issues

Diagnosing hardware compatibility issues related to installing Windows Vista can be done in steps. A good first step is to verify whether a particular hardware device is supported. You can do this by using the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor. This program contains the information that was previously published as the Windows Hardware Compatibility List (HCL). The information you find can generally tell you whether a particular device is supported in Windows Vista. In some cases, you will need to download and install updated drivers manually after you install Windows Vista. In this section, you’ll learn how to troubleshoot hardware compatibility issues.

Updating Device Drivers

One of the most common troubleshooting steps for Windows Vista installation issues is updating or replacing drivers. This is often necessary to address hardware that might have stopped working after the installation of the operating system. For example, you might be supporting a customer who has a universal serial bus (USB) scanner that is no longer accessible after upgrading to Windows Vista.


In the past, finding the correct device drivers for a particular hardware component could be a long and frustrating process. Customers often needed to visit their computer manufacturer’s Web site, the hardware vendor’s Web site, or the Microsoft Web site. Windows Vista includes several features designed to simplify the process of locating, downloading, and installing device drivers.

After installing Windows Vista, users should access the Windows Update feature. Although most users might think of Windows Update as a feature for downloading and installing security updates, it is also able to find relevant device drivers automatically that might have updates by scanning the system for attached hardware devices (whether they are functioning properly or not), and looking for newer versions of the required software and driver components. When hardware-related updates are found, they can either be downloaded directly (like other types of updates), or a link is provided to obtain more information.

Obtaining Device Drivers

When you are supporting customers who are experiencing hardware-related issues, using the Internet is one of the most efficient methods of supplying device drivers. What should you do, however, if the customer does not have Internet access (or if the problem is with a network adapter or modem)? One option is to use any manufacturer-supplied installation media (such as a CD-ROM that contains drivers). Computer manufacturers and third-party vendors generally include this media with new hardware. It is important to note, however, that the drivers found on this media are often not the latest available versions. Still, they might allow a device to work well enough to allow for downloading updates.

Another method of obtaining necessary drivers is using another computer that is able to access the Internet. The general process is to download (but not install) device drivers from manufacturers’ Web sites. You can then place them on removable media such as a USB memory device or a CD-ROM or DVD-ROM. You can then copy the files to the computer that is experiencing the problem.

After you have obtained the necessary device drivers, you can install them by using Device Manager. To open Device Manager, click Start, choose Control Panel, click System And Maintenance, and then select Device Manager. Figure 1 shows the default view, which displays a list of hardware devices organized by device type.

Figure 1. Using the Windows Vista Device Manager


Troubleshooting Application Compatibility Issues

Perhaps the most common problem after upgrading to a new operating system is that a previously installed program no longer works, or it behaves differently. To resolve this issue, a common troubleshooting approach is to verify compatibility with Windows Vista by visiting the software manufacturer’s Web site. In some cases, known workarounds might be listed, or software-based updates might be required to run under the new operating system.

Whenever possible, advise customers to select software that is designed to work with Windows Vista. Most programs written for Windows XP also work in Windows Vista, but some older programs might run poorly or not at all. Potential reasons for incompatibilities include the enhanced visual interface in Windows Vista.

Using the Program Compatibility Wizard

The Program Compatibility Wizard enables you to run older programs in an environment that simulates earlier versions of Windows. To start the Program Compatibility Wizard, in Control Panel, click Programs. Click Use An Older Program With This Version Of Windows to start the wizard. Figure 2 shows the first step.

Figure 2. Using the Windows Vista Program Compatibility Wizar


The wizard walks you through several steps, including the following:

  • Locating or selecting the program The program itself will most likely be located within the Program Files folder on the System drive. In some cases, however, it might be located on removable media (such as a CD-ROM or DVD-ROM) or on a USB memory device. If the program has already been installed, you can select an option to view a list of installed programs.

  • Selecting a compatibility mode Microsoft designed compatibility mode settings to emulate various settings from previous versions of the Windows platform. These options can be helpful when troubleshooting an application that does not run on Windows Vista because the version of the operating system is unsupported. The default option, however, is to not apply a compatibility mode. Included operating system versions are the following:

    • Microsoft Windows 95

    • Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 (Service Pack 5)

    • Microsoft Windows 98/Windows Me

    • Microsoft Windows 2000

    • Microsoft Windows XP (Service Pack 2)

  • Selecting display settings This step enables you to disable or modify the standard desktop elements of Windows Vista. The specific options include the following:

    • 256 Colors

    • 640 × 480 Screen Resolution

    • Disable Visual Themes

    • Disable Desktop Composition

    • Disable Display Scaling On High DPI Settings

  • Security settings To provide increased security, Windows Vista includes numerous features that are designed to make programs run with a limited set of permissions. In some cases, these issues might prevent a program from running properly. In this step, you can choose to run a program always using Administrator credentials.

After you have selected the relevant options, the Program Compatibility Wizard gives you the option of testing the settings by running the program. If the settings do not resolve the problem, customers should contact their software vendors for more details.

Using Software Compatibility Modes

The Program Compatibility Wizard provides users with a guided method of locating programs and providing appropriate compatibility settings. This is a good method for users who are new to Windows Vista, but it can take several minutes to walk through the steps. Fortunately, there’s a quicker alternative to accessing the same settings that are available through the wizard.

You can view and modify compatibility settings for a program manually by accessing the Compatibility tab of a program’s Properties dialog box. Figure 3 shows the options that are available. Table 1 provides additional details related to the settings and their purpose.

Figure 3. Viewing settings on an application’s Compatibility tab


Table 1. Description of the Compatibility Tab Settings
SettingDescription
Compatibility ModeRuns the program using settings from a previous version of Windows. Try this setting if you know the program is designed for (or worked in) a specific previous version of Windows.
Run In 256 colorsUses a limited set of colors in the program. Some older programs are designed to use fewer colors.
Run In 640 × 480 Screen ResolutionRuns the program in a smaller window. Try this setting if the graphical user interface appears jagged or is rendered improperly.
Disable Visual ThemesDisables themes on the program. Try this setting if you notice problems with the menus or buttons on the title bar of the program.
Disable Desktop CompositionTurns off transparency and other advanced display features. Choose this setting if window movement appears erratic or you notice other display problems.
Disable Display Scaling On High DPI SettingsTurns off automatic resizing of programs if large-scale font size is in use. Try this setting if large-scale fonts are interfering with the appearance of the program.
Privilege LevelRuns the program as Administrator. Some programs require Administrator privileges to run properly. If you are not currently logged on as an Administrator, this option is not available.
Show Settings For All UsersEnables you to choose settings that apply to all users on this computer.

Reinstalling Windows Vista

Windows Vista includes numerous tools and features for troubleshooting a wide variety of potential installation issues. In some cases, however, customers might choose to reinstall the operating system. This should generally be considered a last resort because it can result in the loss of all operating systems and installed applications.

Before starting the reinstallation process, it is very important to create a backup of important data files. Tools such as the Backup and Restore Center  and Windows Easy Transfer can help make the process easier. To reinstall Windows Vista, start by booting the computer from the installation media. Several different repair-related operations are also available for managing the most common issues.

Getting Additional Troubleshooting Assistance

So far, you have learned about several different ways to obtain updated information about hardware and software compatibility for a device or program. Over time, and as new products are created and updated, details related to compatibility issues might change. Additionally, you might encounter various error messages or other issues that can prevent the system from working optimally.

Microsoft has provided a central starting point that can assist customers and Consumer Support Technicians with resolving the most common types of issues they are likely to encounter. You can find the Windows Vista Solution Center at http://support.microsoft.com/windowsvista. The site includes groups for various types of issues, such as these:

  • Installing and upgrading

  • Hardware

  • Configuring and maintaining

  • Networking

  • Security and privacy

Each section includes steps that can help resolve the problem or that can provide more details about the issue.

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