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Portability in high-level computer programming is the usability of the same software in different environments. The prerequirement for portability is the generalized abstraction between the application logic and system interfaces. When software with the same functionality is produced for several computing platforms, portability is the key issue for development cost reduction.
Strategies for portability 
Software portability may involve:
- Transferring installed program files to another computer of basically the same architecture.
- Reinstalling a program from distribution files on another computer of basically the same architecture.
- Building executable programs for different platforms from source code; this is what is usually understood by "porting".
Similar systems 
When operating systems of the same family are installed on two computers with processors with similar instruction sets it is often possible to transfer the files implementing program files between them.
In the simplest case the file or files may simply be copied from one machine to the other. However, in many case the software is installed on a computer in a way which depends upon its detailed hardware, software, and setup, with device drivers for particular devices, using installed operating system and supporting software components, and using different drives or directories.
In some cases software, usually described as "portable software" is specifically designed to run on different computers with compatible operating systems and processors without any machine-dependent installation; it is sufficient to transfer specified directories and their contents. Software installed on portable mass storage devices such as USB sticks can be used on any compatible computer on simply plugging the storage device in, and stores all configuration information on the removable device. Hardware- and software-specific information is often stored in configuration files in specified locations (the registry on machines running Microsoft Windows).
Software which is not portable in this sense will have to be transferred with modifications to support the environment on the destination machine.
Different operating systems, similar processors 
When the systems in question have compatible processors (usually x86-compatible processors on desktop computers), they will execute the low-level program instructions in the same manner, but the system calls are likely to differ between different operating systems. Later operating systems of UNIX heritage, including Linux, BSD, Solaris and OS X, are able to achieve a high degree of software portability by using the POSIX standard for calling OS functions. Such POSIX-based programs can be compiled for use in Windows by means of interface software such as Cygwin.
Different processors 
As of 2011[update] the majority of desktop and laptop computers used microprocessors compatible with the 32- and 64-bit x86 instruction sets. Smaller portable devices use processors with different and incompatible instruction sets, such as ARM. The difference between larger and smaller devices is such that detailed software operation is different; an application designed to display suitably on a large screen cannot simply be ported to a pocket-sized smartphone with a tiny screen even if the functionality is similar.
Software can be recompiled and linked from source code for different operating systems and processors if written in a programming language supporting compilation for the platforms. This is usually a task for the program developers; typical users have neither access to the source code nor the required skills.
In open-source environments such as Linux the source code is available to all. In earlier days source code was often distributed in a standardised format, and could be built into executable code with a standard Make tool for any particular system by moderately knowledgeable users if no errors occurred during the build. Some Linux distributions distribute software to users in source form. In these cases there is usually no need for detailed adaptation of the software for the system; it is distributed in a way which modifies the compilation process to match the system.
See also 
- Mooney (1997). Bringing Portability to the Software Process (PDF). West Virginia University. Dept. of Statistics and Computer Science. Retrieved 2008-03-17.
- Garen (2007). "Software Portability: Weighing Options, Making Choices". The CPA Journal 77 (11): 3
- Lehey (1995). Porting UNIX Software: From Download to Debug (PDF). Retrieved 2010-05-27.