How-to: Check Compatibility with Windows 8.1

Windows 8.1 start screenIt’s here: Windows 8.1. Boot to desktop, a Start button, and more user friendliness. But – is your software and hardware compatible with Windows 8.1?

Windows 8.1 is an upgrade with serious issue for a significant number of users. And there’s no option to back-out to Windows 8. Affected users are stuck with it or forced to re-install Windows 8.

So before you walk into trouble, check your computer is compatible with Windows 8.1

Windows 8.1 Issues
Microsoft decided to introduce new hardware requirements related to 64-bit chipsets. Hardware support for CompareExchange128 is mandatory or else no upgrade to Windows 8.1. You will need to check your 64-bit CPU is listed in the Microsoft Compatibility Centre as supporting CompareExchange128.

More common are graphics issues. Black screens can occasionally can be fixed by updating the graphics driver, although how you do this when you have a black screen can be tricky… Fuzzy, blurry, or hard to read fonts in desktop applications is caused by an erroneous Display setting, so again, check your graphics card (and other hardware) against the Compatibility Center and check whether the manufacturer offers drivers specifically for Windows 8.1. The same goes for mouse control.

Gamers have discovered that Steam doesn’t officially support Windows 8 on some hardware: Grand Theft Auto IV does not work on Windows 8.1 for a large number of gamers.

Checking Compatibility Center
Before downloading and running a full scan, you can manually query the Microsoft Compatibility Center to find out whether your devices, apps, or games are compatible with Windows 8.1.

Popular products are listed on the front page. The search will come up and a list of matching products with compatibility information on the right. and a menu of categories, types, and brands on the left. If found, each product has its own page with a full compatibility report and a verdict on its overall compatibility based on a community rating. With luck you might find in the community discussion issues or fixes not addressed by the Compatibility Center’s report and vote.

Windows 8.1 Upgrade Assistant
For a full system analysis, download and run the Windows 8.1 Upgrade Assistant, a utility that will scan your current hardware and software setup for compatibility with Windows 8.1.

It’s not exactly an encyclopaedia, but is will give you the headline news on how likely 8.1 is to work.

Check for Manufacturers’ Windows 8.1 Drivers
Don’t rely on the Microsoft tools, check for drivers yourself. Anything you have that is specialist or old hardware, go back to the manufacturers’ sites and look for specific Windows 8.1 drivers. This may be the most reliable way to discover if 8.1 will work for you.

Back up first
The usual rule applies; before you upgrade, back up your data first.

If it all goes wrong
There is no backing out of the install; you cannot downgrade to from 8.1 to Windows 8, unless you created a system image in Windows 8 first. If 8.1 fails, you should be able to re-install Windows 8 and restore the system image. AJS

Related: Why Windows 8 has flopped

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