What is Backward Compatibility | What are the Applications of It?

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Backward compatibility adds another feature to the world of technological invention. This technology allows users to fast forward with any evolution in software without totally altering all features of previous versions. It has implications ranging from gaming consoles to the software industry. The article will assist you in fully understanding the term and what is the necessity of it.

What is Backward Compatibility

What is Backward Compatibility?

Backward compatibility is the ability of a device, program, or software to continue to work in a newer version even though files were created with the older version. This technological inclusion provides users the opportunity not to lose any important data. When new features are added to a program and backward compatibility is incorporated the program will be able to run both in its older form and newer form. For hardware, it refers to the ability to use a tool on previous version devices, for example, some of the Cat5 and Cat6 cables can be interchanged if they support backward and forward compatibility. For OS support, compatibility telemetry features are used.

We see thousands of apps are updated on a regular basis and those apps do not seem to lose their storage or memory. How is this possible? The reason behind it is the same. This technology in software or program is so much useful in the sense that users need not start all over again as the updated software or program recollects all the necessary information of its previous version, like for updating drivers, you can choose some universal drivers to use in both legacy and newer gen systems. Firmware updates are much more difficult to incorporate this feature, but still, some come with it. Even many programs and operating systems rely on compatibility mode to grow the user base.

Application Field of Backward Compatibility

Backward compatibility is widely used in computer hardware, software, gaming consoles, cyber security, and so on. Here we have shared the uses of backward compatibility on them.

1. Gaming Consoles

This compatibility technology is heavily used in the field of gaming. We all are acquainted with PlayStation or Xbox consoles. The manufacturers bring newer versions of these devices to the market on a regular basis with more advanced features, and they incorporate backward compatibility on the updated console so that older games can be played with it as well. For example, if PS5 does not contain backward compatibility you would not be able to play FIFA14 or FIFA15 with it because these games were made for PS4. Here the manufacturers add all the important features of PS4 to the PS5 and of course the newer ones too. As a result, the gamer is able to play his/her favorite old games with a new console.

3. Smartphones

Backward compatibility has huge implications in the smartphone industry. We can think about the revolution of the android operating system. Newer versions of android phones are opened to market on a regular basis and these phones come up with all the newer features but do not eradicate all the older ones.  Besides that, backward compatibility is also used in the smartphone network section. You can have a 3G/4G connection on a 5G connection-supported smartphone.

4. Software Industry

Software and apps use backward compatibility for being able to user friendly. It encourages users to update their apps knowing that previous data won’t be removed from the memory.

Also, when you will take a look at the software development industry, you will find out that the AWK language is compatible with its successor of it, Perl scripting language. And it happens because of backward compatibility.

Moreover, you can see backward compatibility in the computer software too. You can take Microsoft Office 365 as an example. A user may jump from MS Office 07 to MS Office 10, but his created file with the 07 version is able to run with the 10 version, as of course this compatibility is enabled by Microsoft.

5. Cybersecurity 

For cyber security purposes, backward compatibility also has been used. Basically, when you will observe the cryptographic process, you can see its use. You can take T-DES and DES as examples. DES was used in securing Government data. In the 70s, T-DES was introduced which is the successor of DES. Basically, both of them are used in encryption. T-DES offer three keying option for encryption. Basically, it was implemented in T-DES to make this encryption compatible with the predecessors, DES.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Backward Compatibility

Technology has both advantages and disadvantages and the same thing goes for backward compatibility too. Here are the advantages and disadvantages of backward compatibility – 


  1. There you will find some software that needs to be started from scratch whenever you update them. But the software that has backward compatibility allows you to resume your journey where you have stopped before upgrading.
  2. It helps to keep older versions of hardware and software. And they can be accessed whenever you want.
  3. If you running a shop that includes telecommunication and gaming products then you will be beneficial through backward compatibility. Because users often tend to spend less money to upgrade their machines. 


  1. Sometimes you may have a system crash issue on your devices. Whenever you will try to run new data, there is a chance that older software won’t be able to read them and as a result, the app or your device’s system may crash.
  2. You will encounter data inconsistencies issues. 
  3. You won’t get proper hardware support.
  4. With newer technology, some of the older game versions may not support it. And for a gamer, it is not acceptable.
  5. Need to work carefully when updating or developing an application because if the device doesn’t support the updated API then there will be consequences.

Backward Compatibility Testing

An updated software, program, or device must be backward compatible in various conditions and environments of the computing world for it to be user-friendly. These factors or conditions testify whether it is backward compatible or not. Some of the factors are-

1. Compatibility of Hardware

The updated program has to run smoothly on older monitor settings, batteries, memory, or other hardware components.

2. Compatibility of Network

Network, bandwidthethernet, and internet standards of older versions must not change with the newer ones.

3. Compatibility of Operating System

Users may or may not change their operating system, but a backward enabled program always runs well across various older versions of Windows or Mac OS.


As technology is evolving every day so are modern-day devices, programs, and software. The demands of users are also diversified; they want more user-friendly platforms; also they do not wish to lose any data stored on these platforms. Backward compatibility technology has been invented minding all these demands and is certainly capable of restoring your favorite features.

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