Windows 7 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.

Source of Information : Wiley Windows 7 Secrets (2009)

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