Windows 7 XP Mode

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.

Key Facts

  • Windows XPM is included with Windows 7 Professional, Windows 7 Ultimate and Windows 7 Enterprise customers.
  • Windows XPM combines Windows Virtual PC and a pre-installed virtual Windows XP environment to enable users to run many older applications.
  • Windows Virtual PC enables users to launch virtual applications from the Windows 7 Start menu.
  • Windows Virtual PC includes support for USB devices and is based on a new code base that includes multi-threading support.
  • Windows XPM is pre-configured with the Windows XP firewall and can apply updates automatically from Windows Update. It is not pre-configured with anti-virus or anti-malware software, which need to be sourced separately.

IT Professionals
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.

  • MED-V v1 is currently available for Windows Vista and it enables Virtual PC deployment in larger organisations. It provides centralised management, policy-based provisioning and virtual image delivery.
  • MED-V v1 builds on Microsoft Virtual PC 2007 to help enterprises with their upgrade to Windows Vista when applications are not yet compatible.
  • MED-V v2 will add support for Windows 7 (both 32 bit and 64bit) and Windows Virtual PC.

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.

In Use
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.

Ash Nallawalla

Search strategist experienced in large, complex websites. SEO consultant.

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1 Comment

  • bodydetox on 30 July 2009

    the interface of Windows 7 is great but in my opinion Windows XP is still a very solid and stable operating system. Right now, I would never give up XP for Windows 7.

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