Simple Guide to Desktop Application Testing

Woman is working on a computer.

Before we start with the guide, let’s first define what desktop applications are. Desktop applications are software programs that execute locally on personal computers or laptop devices. For example, text editors, video games, audio and video players, programming IDEs, and similar. Though, do note that not every software shown on a computer is considered a Desktop Application, such as, for example, web-based applications that are executed within a web browser, and not directly on the computer.

Recently we published an article that goes over some of the differences between Desktop and Web applications.

Pre-Conditions for Testing

The testing process begins with key activities that will create the foundation for our testing activities.

  • Defining the Testing Scope - The first step in desktop application testing. This includes identifying the different types of tests that will be conducted and the expected outcomes.
  • Plan the Testing - Once the scope is defined, the testing plan should be created. This should include the test cases and testing procedures.
  • Preparing the Test Environment - The test environment should be set up with the appropriate hardware and software configurations. This is important to ensure that the tests are conducted in a controlled environment.

Test plans for Desktop application testing usually consist of basic testing types like:

  • Installation and Uninstallation Testing
  • Compatibility Testing
  • Functional testing
  • Upgrade testing

We’ll go over the main points that the QA needs to pay attention to while performing each of the above-mentioned testing types.

Installation and Uninstallation Testing

Installation Testing

Before everything else, QA Engineers must check if the software can even be installed on a device.

Installation testing is done to ensure that the installation process of the application is smooth and error-free. This includes testing installation on different operating systems, configurations, and hardware platforms.

When testing the installation:  

  • Ensure that the installation process is well-documented, and the instructions are clear and easy to follow.
  • Check the system requirements and ensure that the installation works properly on the required operating system and hardware configurations. For example, check how an application installs on different versions of Windows: Windows 10 vs Windows 11.
  • Verify proper installation of dependencies such as libraries, drivers, and components.
  • Document issues, if any are present when installing the software.
  • Test the installation on multiple environments, as different hardware and software configurations may cause variations in the process
  • Check that the program runs after installation.

Uninstallation Testing

The QA should additionally perform uninstallation testing after the software has been installed.

Uninstallation testing is done to ensure that the application can be uninstalled smoothly and without any leftover files or registry entries

Some factors that need to be taken into account when performing uninstallation testing:

  • A complete uninstallation ensures that no trace of the application remains on the system.
  • Check that the uninstallation process does not delete any user data or files that were created or saved by the application.
  • The process should provide clear and concise error messages and allow users to recover from any errors that occur during the uninstallation process.

Compatibility Testing

Compatibility testing of a desktop application is an essential process to ensure that the application can run on different hardware, operating system, and software configurations.

Some key factors to verify when performing compatibility testing of a desktop application:

  • Compatibility with different versions of the target operating systems. For example, the application works consistently on different versions of Windows, macOS, or Linux.
  • Compatibility with different hardware configurations, including CPU, memory, and graphics card.
  • Functionality with different screen resolutions, including high-density displays. Ensure that the application is readable and usable on different screen sizes.
  • Compatibility with different input devices, such as mouse, keyboard, and touch screen.
  • Functionality with different languages, character sets, and time zones.
  • Accessibility to users with disabilities. The application is compatible with screen readers, supports keyboard navigation, and provides accessible UI elements.

Functional Testing

Functional testing is used to ensure that the application is working as expected. It includes testing features and the user interface.

When performing functional testing of desktop applications, the QA engineer should:

  • Identify the key features and functionalities of the application and create test cases to verify each of them.
  • Test user interfaces, data input/output, data validation, and data integrity.
  • Test for error handling and exception scenarios.
  • Verify that the application meets the defined requirements and works as expected.

Upgrade Testing

Upgrading allows the customer to move to the latest and most stable version of the product and leverage the newest improvements.

Upgrade testing is done to ensure that the application can be upgraded from one version to another without any issues. This includes testing the upgrading on different operating systems and hardware platforms.

Key factors that need to be considered:

  • Test the upgrade process on different versions of the application to ensure that the process is smooth and error-free.
  • Verify that data is migrated properly during the upgrade process. Verify that the new version of the application functions as expected and all existing features continue to work as intended.


In this article, we discussed only the most basic types of testing that can be applied to Desktop applications, however, there are also other types, such as Performance testing, Security testing, Accessibility testing, UX testing, and many others. We hope this simple guide will help you in setting up and testing Desktop applications. If you’re interested in automating the Desktop application testing process, you can check out our article on Open-Source Automation Testing Tools for Windows Desktop Apps.

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