Our Look at XP Mode in Windows 7

If you’re worried that some of your old but trusty software applications won’t run on Windows 7, Microsoft solves the issue with XP Mode. Today we bring you an overview of XP Mode by looking at how to install it, what it looks like, and determining if your system can run it.

Note: XP Mode is a separate download that only works in Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise and Ultimate editions.

Can My Computer Run XP Mode?

If you have a new computer you might assume that it should be able to run XP Mode right? Not necessarily. Your system CPU will need to be able to support hardware virtualization. An Intel processor uses Intel Virtualization Technology and an AMD processor would be AMD-V with their Virtualization capability. One of the easiest tools I have found is SecurAble from the Gibson Research Company. It doesn’t require installation and quickly tells you if your CPU is capable of Hardware Virtualization.

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If it’s not available or locked off, you might be able to go into the system BIOS and activate it. Look carefully in the BIOS because the setting is not always clearly labeled. If you still don’t see it, you might be able to update to the manufacturers latest version and get it to work. Make sure you know what you’re doing when updating your system BIOS and follow all the manufacturer’s steps, otherwise you can turn the PC into a giant paper weight.

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If your system doesn’t support Hardware Virtualization, unfortunately you won’t be able to run XP Mode.

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Install XP Mode for Windows 7

To get everything rolling you will need a couple of files (links below) and the first one to download and install is Windows XP Mode.

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Secondly, download and install Windows Virtual PC. After installing this one a reboot will be required.

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After you get back from the restart, go to the Start menu and click on Windows Virtual PC.

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Enter in a password for the VM and click on Remember credentials if you don’t want to enter it every time it’s launched.

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Agree to the EULA and choose if you want automatic updates or not.

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Just wait a few minutes while it sets up.

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Now you are ready to start using XP Mode.

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Using XP Mode

If you’ve ever ran XP or another OS on a virtual machine before, running XP mode in Windows 7 should be familiar. XP operates like it would on a stand alone machine. You can navigate through the OS the same way as you normally would. There is no pointer capture like there is in other VM apps, just click on the screen to operate the XP operating system.

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The version of Windows is XP Professional SP3.

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You can easily send the Ctrl+Alt+Del command. To completely turn off the machine the first time you will need to shut it down from this screen.

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You can use USB drives as well, just click USB on the toolbar and choose the drive you want XP Mode to recognize.

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It will share drives that are connected to the Windows 7 machine to the XP VM.

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While playing around in XP on your Windows 7 machine is cool, the main reason for XP Mode is to run applications that only work with XP on the new OS. You need to install the XP compatible program on the virtual machine first, just like you normally would. In this example I installed the old school MusicMatch Player version 7.5 on the XP VM.

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To run the apps in XP Mode you need to close out of the VM first.

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Then go to the Start menu and Windows Virtual PC \ XP Mode Applications and the app you want to run.

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The virtual machine process starts up but you don’t see the whole OS, just the application you want to run. You can use it just like you would if it were installed on Window 7.

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You can also go into the VM settings and change things like allocating more memory, hard drives, networking settings…etc.

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Conclusion

This feature is mainly geared toward businesses who have proprietary apps that only work with XP, but a professional geek can definitely get some great use from this feature. I tested this on a Windows 7 32-bit machine with 3GB of RAM and everything ran very smoothly. I have read reports saying the performance is slower on notebooks and desktops with slower hardware but you’ll need to try it yourself to find that out. It will also work with Virtual Hard Drives created on the Windows 7 machine which is pretty cool for easily sharing files. If you’re a hard core geek and have hardware that will handle XP Mode this should get you started in finding cool ways to use it.  

Download XP Mode and Windows Virtual PC

Download SecurAble

Brian Burgess worked in IT for 10 years before pursuing his passion for writing. He's been a tech blogger and journalist for the past seven years, and can be found on his about me page or Google+

  • Published 10/27/09
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