I will be writing a review of Windows 7 in due course, but here is a preview of a key feature that will interest many readers.
Windows XP Mode
Windows XP Mode is aimed at small business users who wish to run their Windows XP-era applications on their Windows 7 desktop. They might have avoided upgrading to Windows Vista owing to an incompatibility with their old programs or the simple reason of “Windows XP does the job.” However, as they buy new computers later this year or by January 2010, they might find a copy of Windows 7 included with the purchase, or they may have other compelling reasons to upgrade.
An exciting optional feature that was kept under wraps until recently was Windows XP Mode (XPM). This feature will work in certain editions but is an additional download.
Windows XPM is not recommended for corporate deployments. Wait for Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualisation (MED-V) Version 2.0, which will be released as a beta 90 days after the general availability (GA) of Windows 7.
Windows XPM is for SMBs
Windows XPM stand-alone is intended for small and medium business (SMB) users who can install their XP applications themselves and who might not have IT Professional staff. Each PC has its own virtual Windows XP environment that is controlled and managed by the user.
Windows XPM is best suited for older business and productivity applications such as accounting, inventory and similar software. These applications tend to conform to the basic Windows Application Programming Interface (API ).
Windows XPM not for Consumers
Windows XP Mode does not have 100 percent compatibility with all Windows XP software. It is not aimed at home users because many consumer programs require extensive use of hardware interfaces such as 3-D graphics, audio, and TV tuners that do not work well under virtualisation today.
After installation, XP Mode is available from the Windows 7 Start menu. It displays a regular Windows XP desktop and you can install your old software from there just as you would on a Windows XP machine. Thereafter, those programs appear just below the Windows XPM menu item.
Of course, there’s always a catch. Not all CPUs will support Windows XPM. You need hardware-based virtualisation (go and check your CPU specs now). Intel and AMD have CPUs that have this feature but don’t assume all recently purchased CPUs support hardware virtualisation. See these sites for more information.
My PC is about six months old and has a Core 2 Quad processor – the Q6600 chip. I checked this Intel page to confirm that I’ll be able to test this feature when I get my hands on it:
The next thing to check is for BIOS support on your motherboard. I have an Asus P5K SE/EPU and its user guide mentions Vanderpool support is enabled by default (you can turn it off). Vanderpool was the code name for Intel Virtualisation.
While Windows XPM isn’t for everyone, it will certainly address the need of some businesses that need to run legacy applications.
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