The tech helper: Troubleshooting Windows 7 compatibility

You’ve got Windows 7 up and running. That was the easy part.

Now comes the challenge of getting all of your hardware and software to run properly with the new operating system.

Everything from unrecognised device drivers to application compatibility can give you headaches in Windows 7 if you’re not sure how to correct the problems. Read on for some answers.

Q: Every time I start Windows 7, it tries but fails to find a USB device driver. An error message tells me about this every time I start the computer. Everything is plugged in and working, so I’m not sure what is missing. How can I find out?

A: This can be a tough issue to solve, since there could be a lot of causes. So start by using a process of elimination.

If you have any internal add-on USB cards in your PC, remove them.

Make sure, too, that you have downloaded and installed all of the motherboard chipset and device drivers from the manufacturer of your motherboard or computer. Unplug all your USB devices (except keyboard and mouse, if these are USB-based), and restart your computer.

If you still see an error, you know that it’s caused by something inside your PC, which would again point to an internal add-in card or a chipset issue.

You can also turn to the free Unknown Device Identifier ( >, a small utility which will give you more information about every device that shows up in the Windows Device Manager as “unknown” or with a yellow exclamation mark next to it. The utility works with all recent versions of Windows, including Windows 7.

Q: I have an older application -- Adobe InDesign CS2 -- that does not seem to run well under Windows 7. I don’t want to buy an updated version. What are my choices?

A: First, since the program is already installed, you should try Windows 7’s built-in Program Compatibility tool, which sometimes allows older applications to run on the new operating system without any issues.

Open the Start menu, and type “program compatibility,” and then select the search result labeled “Run programs made for previous versions of Windows.” The Program Compatibility tool opens, and after you click Next, you’ll be able to select the misbehaving program from a list of currently installed applications, or you can choose “Not Listed” to browse to the application’s location on your hard drive.

You could also, however, simply navigate to the exe file that opens the troublesome application, right—click it, and select Properties from the pop-up menu.

In the Properties dialog box, select the Compatibility tab, click “Run this program in compatibility mode for,” and then select the version of Windows for which the program was designed. From the same dialog box, you can also choose various screen resolutions to use while running the program.

If those steps do not work to your satisfaction and you are running Windows 7 Professional or Ultimate, you can download and install the Windows XP Mode add-on ( >, which will install a complete copy of Windows XP inside of Windows 7.

You can then launch XP, install your old application, and run it -- all without losing the benefits of running Windows 7 for the rest of your work.

Q: How do I find out my registration key for Windows 7 after I have installed the operating system? I want to re-install the system on a new computer, and I lost my original license key.

A: Microsoft makes it difficult to retrieve your registration key from inside the operating system, presumably to combat piracy.

Normally, you need to keep the little license key sticker that comes with the original disk.

If you no longer have it, all is not lost. The free Magical Jelly Bean Keyfinder utility ( > can ferret out your Windows key, regardless of whether you’re running Windows 7 or one of the older versions of Windows. Once you get that key, write it down on the installation CD.

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Printable version | Jul 9, 2020 8:01:07 AM |

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