Windows x64 offers 32-bit compatibility on user software level. It does not support 16-bit software any more. In terms of changeover, this is a similar situation as it was in case of the 32-bit changeover. This situation is, however, better by one aspect: now, compatibility of a new operating system is highly extendable by means of virtualisation. Although the original purpose of virtualisation, of course, was not the extension of compatibility, it is still a very good, often the only possibility to do it.
This article deals with solutions offered by VMware Workstation software. For the test, we installed VMware Workstation Version 5.5.1 build-19175 on a Windows XP Professional x64 Edition operating system. VMware Workstation is not a 64-bit program but promises x64 compatibility. That is, it installs on the host system in an x64 environment and can run guest operating systems, even 64-bit ones. The program supports 64-bit guest systems only when the host system is running on a 64-bit processor with native virtualisation capabilities. Regarding compatibility, VMware gives only brief information. Alternatively, a small program (Processor Check for 64-Bit Compatibility) is available for download , which performs the necessary test and returns the following message when the given environment does not support 64-bit guest systems:
CPUs offering native guest 64-bit virtualisation possibilities are presently quite rare. Simply put, this means that installing 64-bit systems in an existing 32-bit environment (or installing 64-bit systems on another 64-bit system) is probably not possible. In terms of operability, this is not a serious problem as this situation is more common when getting acquainted with new systems. Nevertheless, those who need to run a 64-bit system in a 32-bit environment, are not in a hopeless situation either. They can build their hardware easily in technical terms. In fact, it is only a matter of finances.
In practical terms, running 32- and 16-bit systems in a 64-bit environment is much more important. For running 16-bit applications, virtualisation is the only possibility. In case of 32-bit applications, virtualisation may help when x64 compatibility is not sufficient. Moreover, VMware Workstation basically supports different platforms, e.g. Linux on Windows or vice versa.
DOS software have not yet disappeared either. Many accountants use DOS programs and many love old DOS games. In a 64-bit environment, virtualisation is the only way to run such software. However obsolete DOS may be, those who have a well-working DOS environment would not be happy to leave it due to technical problems. Moreover, version tracking or the continuity of data often makes the abandonment of DOS impossible. Dual-boot or removable-media systems may be alternatives but would raise other issues. VMware Workstation makes DOS installable on X64 without any problem:
Autoexec.bat and config.sys files are to be configured as usual. The CD drive should be installed appropriately. VMware Workstation emulates USB mouse (mouse is of course also to be installed) and keyboard as PS/2 peripherals so that DOS can handle them.
Vmware Workstation is also good at emulating a 16-bit Windows on x64. Windows for Workgroups 3.11 installs in the above-mentioned DOS environment without any problems:
Windows 98 also installs without any problems. It recognised the emulated video card as a standard controller. After installing VMware Tools (VM - Install VMware Tools), the appropriate driver was integrated into the system and both usability and speed was significantly improved.
Windows XP Professional (32-bit version)
The same applies as in the case of Windows 98. Guest system speed is surprisingly fast.
SUSE Linux 10 (32-bit version)
Also installs without problem and can be used very well: