How-To Geek

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.


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.


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


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.


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


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


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.


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


Just wait a few minutes while it sets up.


Now you are ready to start using XP Mode.


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.


The version of Windows is XP Professional SP3.


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.


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


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


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.


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


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


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.


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



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

Comments (16)

  1. SHai

    Do VM Ware Player and XP Mode the Same Thing?

  2. equinox

    eh, may if you did some google work. Anyway the answer is yes, the idea and the technique is the same: virtualization of a operating system.

  3. Jon

    I have this on my RC7100 build but when I run an XP program in either XP Mode or as an XP Mode Program and try to open a file from my w7 file system I get the following error:

    File not found, or error loading file

    Is there a specific auth setting?

  4. romeo pericic

    I had a few programs but found different solution. Right click on programs setup.exe, go to properties, then compatibility – windows xp.
    That did it for me. The program was installed without a glitch.
    Great site Guys

  5. TheBigOldDog

    What about Home Premium users? Is there a work around to allow it to run? I know VirtualPC 2007 will run on Win7-64 but It sure would be nice to use the Win7 version…

  6. Santo

    Most of the branded consumer PC’s does not have Hardware Virtualization, an example HP.
    So, for this to work, one should have a custom build computer or a high end commercial branded PC’s.

    If any one has come across a branded consumer computer with this feature do let me know.

  7. Richard Whiddon

    Virtualization as a solution to the compatibility issue is a huge trap set by Microsoft for the unwary. If you have the wrong chip, you are out of luck if you need XP compatability. Best Buy yesterday sold me a Sony Vaio and an uprgrade to W7 Professional so I could run my XP only application. The computer has the Core 2 Duo 7540 chip and will not run XP mode, which I discovered during install. When my heart rate got below 200 I returned to Best Buy and found that no one knew that only some chips support virtualization. We looked for a replacement and found that they had only 1 machine that had a chip that supported virtualization (a high-end HP machine with an i7 processor). The Consumer Reports Annual Electronics issue lists about 40 laptops with ratings. Only 2 of these laptops contain a processor that supports virtualization (both being $1200-$1500 machines and rated middle of the pack by consumer reports).

    A friend of mine in Houston bought a Vista equipped laptop with a free upgrade to W7 a few months ago. Of course, the machine has the Intel T6500 chip and will not support virtualization. What does he do now?

    Virtualization is a brilliant solution to the compatibility problem, and you can have it if you are willing to spend $300-500 more for your computer.

  8. Danix180

    VMware player does the same thing as XP mode and it does it better. On top of that it runs even if your machine does not support hardware accelerated virtualization. Much better than MS’s Virtual PC. Try it.

  9. Bobber

    How is XP Mode in Windows 7 different from setting the Program executable’s properties “Compatibility mode” to Vista, XP, Windows 2000, or Windows 98/Windows ME, etc, etc? It seems as though that would have more flexible capabilities.

  10. Dominick

    Just a minor correction:

    “After you get back from the restart, go to the Start menu and click on Windows Virtual PC.” should actually be “…click on Windows XP Mode”

    You can tell from the image that is what you did, but some might be confused.

  11. Netbob

    More things about XP Mode…
    – I bought a T6400 processor PC last year and while it is a 64 bit processor, and it does have a VT enable option in the BIOS, it is NOT a VT enabled processor. I just bought a T8100 on eBay which was a VT enabled processor and XP Mode works fine.
    – The version of VIrtual PC that works on Windows 7 (Pro, Ent and Ult) requires a VT enabled processor but will only create a 32 bit guest OS.
    – If you require a 54 bit guest OS, you will need to use VMware or Virtual Box. Vmware has Unity mode which is sort of like XP Mode in that you can run the app from Windows 7.
    – Some programs will just not run on Windows 7 so if you need these, XP Mode is good for that but the thing I like XP Mode the most for is a secure browser session that if you get infected with spyware of a virus, you can just blow the XP Mode virtual machine out and reinstall it.

  12. Netbob

    duh, that would be 64 bit not 54 bit. ;-)

  13. doug

    i am setting this up now.
    i have an asus p5ql-em mb and
    an intel E8500 cpu. 3.16 ghz core 2 duo lga 775
    2 gb memory
    so far everything seems to be working as expected.

  14. doug

    are there any benefits to running a virtual xp machine with win 7 as apposed to having a dual boot system. other than having xp in a window

  15. Olman

    Oh, there is one more “little” detail .
    The virtual machine needs and puts aside 1Gb of your memory.
    You cannot use it while the vm is not in use. It is taken “for keeps”.

    So, to enjoy the xp mode within Win7, you need
    – the right version of OS
    – the right kind of CPU
    – enough memory, with 1GB to SPARE

    But, the bright side of it is that you may use xp 32 bit software on a virtual xp mode, within a win 7 64 bit system.
    In short, to use virtualization, you have to need it baaadly.

  16. Irshad

    My account’s software is not working on full screen mode in XP mode of windows 7. Can somebody answer why?

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