Create an XP Mode for Windows 7 Home Versions & Vista

One of the cool features in Windows 7 is XP Mode. However, it’s only available for Windows 7 Professional and above, leaving Home Edition and Vista users out of luck. Today we’ll show you how to create your own XP Mode to run on Vista or Windows 7 Home Premium.

How does this work?

Windows 7 Home Premium and Windows Vista are not licensed to run the free XP Mode download from Microsoft.  In fact, if you select Home Premium on the XP Mode download site, you will see the following message:

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Last week we showed you how VMware Player could help you run XP Mode without hardware virtualization. Even VMware Player doesn’t have a link to import XP Mode if you’re computer is running 7 Home Premium or Vista.

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However, if you have a legal copy of Windows XP, then you can easily recreate XP Mode with the free VMware Player.  This article will show you how quick and easy it is to get a virtual copy of XP running on any computer, even if it’s running 7 Home Premium or Windows Vista.

Getting Started

First, download and install VMware Player (link below).  It is a free download, but requires registration.

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You may see some prompts about installing drivers; simply approve them.  We didn’t see them on our latest test, but have in the past.  When you are finished installing VMware Player, you will have to restart your computer.

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Create your own XP Mode

Once your computer is rebooted, start up VMware Player and insert your Windows XP CD in your CD drive.  In this example we used a copy of Windows XP Professional, but it would work the same with any edition of XP.

In VMware Player, click the link at the top that says “Create a New Virtual Machine.”

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VMware automatically detects your Windows XP CD, and says it will install it with Easy install.  This will let you install XP with only 5 clicks!  Click Next to continue.

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Now enter your XP product key, and name and password of your choice.  We named it XP Mode to make it obvious what this virtual machine is for!

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Here VMware will automatically enter your operating system’s name and the default location to save the files.  Simply press next to accept the defaults, or change them if you wish.

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You can choose how large you want your virtual hard drive to be; the default is 40Gb, but you can choose a different size if you wish.  Please note that the entire 40Gb will not be taken up on your hard drive.  Our clean install only took up 1.4Gb on the computer.

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That’s all the settings.  You can review and make changes here, or simply press Finish to start installing XP.

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From here on, VMware will take over.  You do not need to click anything else until XP is fully installed!  It will automatically run the installer, format the virtual hard drive,

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Copies XP files to the hard drive,

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And finishes the install.

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Everything will work automatically, so you can literally leave it unattended while it’s installing.  In our tests it took about 20 minutes to install.  When it’s done, you’ll be presented with the Windows XP desktop ready for use!

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VMware Player will automatically launch the VMware Tools installer to integrate your virtual XP with your computer.  It may have to download or update the tools, so if you see the yellow banner at the bottom of your window simply click Update Tools or Install Tools depending on you situation.

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The tools will automatically download and install, though you may have to approve an UAC prompt.

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Once the tools are downloaded or updated, they should automatically run in XP. If not, click Start, then My Computer, and finally double-click on the CD drive which should say VMware Tools.

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Now, simply run the Tools installer with the Typical setup type, and reboot XP when it’s finished.

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Now your XP is fully installed and setup, so you can proceed to integrate with your computer just like XP Mode!

Integrate XP Mode in VMware Player with Windows 7 or Vista

The real advantage of the default XP Mode in Windows 7 is that the XP programs are fully integrated with their Windows 7 counterparts.  You can run them seamlessly with other programs, copy between them, and even open and save files to the same folders.

Let’s set this up in VMware.  Copy and paste from Windows 7 or Vista to XP in VMware is activated by default.  To use your XP programs seamlessly with Windows 7, click VM on the top of the VMware window, and click “Enter Unity.”

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You can easily access any program or file in XP mode through a dedicated XP Mode Start Menu.  When you hover over your Windows 7 Start button, a new button called “Windows XP Mode” will above it.  Click there to access a full start menu from XP Mode right in Windows 7.

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And it works the exact same in Windows Vista.

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Here is an IE 6 window from XP running side-by-side with IE 8 in Windows 7, thanks to VMware Player!

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And notice, this is guaranteed to work on any edition of Windows 7 or Vista, including Home versions.

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By default, the virtualized windows will have a border and the VMware logo on their edge.

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To remove this logo, click VM in the VMware player window, then settings.  Click on the Options tab, and choose Unity on the left.  Now uncheck the boxes that say “Show borders” and “Show badges.”

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Without having the VMWare borders and badges give everything a more authentic XP Mode look and feel.

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You can even use removable devices, such as flash drives, in XP in VMware Player.  Whenever you connect a new device to your computer, VMware will remind you that you can add it to XP.

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Simply click VM, then Removable Devices.  Select your device name, and click Connect.

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Save Files in XP Mode to My Documents in Windows 7 or Vista

By default, files created in XP in VMware Player will be saved inside the virtual machine.  It’s more convenient if they’re saved directly to the My Documents folder in Windows 7 (or the Documents folder in Vista), so let’s change this.  Click VM, then Settings.  Click the Options tab, and then choose Shared Folders on the left.  Now click the bullet for “Always enabled” and check the box for “Map as a network drive in Windows guests.”

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Now click Add at the bottom of that window.  This will let us add a shared folder.

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Let’s add the My Documents folder from Windows 7 (or the Documents folder in Vista).  Click Browse, and then select your My Documents folder.  Click Ok, and then click Next.

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Make sure the box is checked that says “Enable this share” and then click Finish.  You can now close the settings window as well.

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Back in XP, click Start, then right click on My Documents, and select Properties.

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Click Move to find the new My Documents folder.

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Find the folder we just shared from Windows 7 or Vista by clicking My Computer, then the drive that says “Shared Folders on ‘vmware-host’” or something similar.  Now select the folder we shared, Documents, and click Ok.

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Click Ok in the main properties window.  It may offer to copy the files from your old My Documents folder to the new one; choose Yes to make sure you have all of your documents in Windows 7.

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Now, whenever you go to save a file in XP, it will automatically save in your My Documents folder on Windows 7 or Vista, depending on your circumstance.  You can repeat the same process for any folder you wish, such as your My Pictures and My Music folders.

Conclusion

And that’s all there is to it!  You now have a fully functioning copy of XP running right inside your 7 or Vista computer.  Almost everything works the same as XP Mode in 7 Professional or Ultimate.  The only difference is that you used your own copy of XP, but if you have an old copy already then it doesn’t cost you any more than XP Mode would.  And, even if your computer is running Windows 7 Professional, you may find it easier to use a copy of XP you already own instead of importing XP Mode.  VMware Player does a great job at integrating XP with your computer, and in our tests it worked as good or better than the actual XP Mode.

You can actually run Windows Virtual PC on any Windows 7 computer, even ones running Home Premium that aren’t eligible for XP Mode.  You could install XP in it, then install Virtual PC’s integration components, and it will work exactly like the default XP Mode.  However, we’ve found VMware’s solution easier to use and much faster to setup.  If you would like to try this out, download Virtual PC at the link below (be sure to select Professional as your edition of Windows … even though Home Premium is licensed to run Virtual PC and can run it fine, the download isn’t offered by default).

Links

Download VMware Player 3

Download Windows Virtual PC if you wish to run XP in it

Matthew digs up tasty bytes about Windows, Virtualization, and the cloud, and serves them up for all to enjoy!

  • Published 02/23/10
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