One of the new and interesting features in the Windows 7 Release Candidate (RC), mentioned a few days ago, is the ability to utilize a virtual Windows XP with Service Pack 3 environment for application compatibility.
This feature is called Windows 7 XP Mode and builds on Windows Virtual PC 7. The new Virtual PC now offers features like clipboard sharing, printer sharing, USB support and application publishing.
About Application Compatibility
While most applications, developed for Windows XP will normally run on Windows Vista and Windows 7, a couple of applications will not. A common tactic to approach these applications is to use Compatibility Mode, but for some applications Compatibility Mode doesn’t offer a solution, because, for instance, these applications:
- Use specific (deprecated) Windows features
mIRC is such an application, which will error on exit, because it wants to utilize the Windows Agent, which is no longer present.
- Install specific drivers
Daemon Tools is a classic example of this kind of applications
- Use dongles
Previous versions of AutoCAD, for instance required these to start up the program
For most of these applications Windows XP Mode offers a solution, but still a few exceptions exist:
- Applications that require DirectX
Since Windows XP Mode utilizes a virtual Windows XP installations and Windows Virtual PC doesn’t offer DirectX (yet), you can’t, for instance, play games in Windows XP Mode.
- 64bit applications
Since Windows Virtual PC doesn’t offer 64bit guest support, you can’t use Virtual XP Mode to solve compatibility issues with 64bit applications, you’d typically install on a Windows XP x64 installation.
Install Windows XP Mode
To use Windows XP Mode in the Windows 7 Release Candidate (RC) follow the following steps:
Meet the requirements
Make sure your computer meets the requirements for Windows 7 and Virtual PC 7.
Your computer should be equipped with the minimum system requirements to run Windows 7 (at least a 1 GHz processor and 1 GB RAM) and should have Data Execution Prevention (DEP) and Hardware-assisted Virtualization turned on in the BIOS.
While 1GB of RAM is recommended for 32bit systems and 2GB of RAM is recommended for 64bit systems, one should know that running a Virtual Windows XP installation allocates RAM. By default Windows XP Mode allocates 256MB of RAM.
Several tools exist to check whether Data Execution Prevention (DEP) and Hardware-assisted Virtualization are turned on in the BIOS. A common tool is SecurAble. Microsoft offers a special webpage where people can check their hardware. There, links to the more accurate tools can be found for Intel processor-based systems and AMD processor-based systems:
- AMD Virtualization™ Technology System Compatibility Check Utility
- Intel® Processor Identification Utility
Get the Windows 7 Release Candidate
Windows Virtual PC 7 and Windows XP Mode can only be installed in a supported manner on the Release Candidate of Windows 7. Download and install Windows 7 Release Candidate, build 7100.
It really doesn’t matter whether you install the 32bit (x86) or 64bit (x64) version of the Windows 7 Release Candidate. Both will do, as long as you meet the requirements above.
Get Windows Virtual PC 7 Beta
Download and install the Windows Virtual PC 7 Beta package corresponding with your Windows 7 Release Candidate installation (32bit or 64bit).
Once you’ve downloaded either Windows6.1-KB958559-x86.msu, (for x86 installations of Windows 7) or Windows6.1-KB958559-x64.msu (for x64 installations of Windows 7), double-click it. Review the end-user license agreement and accept it to install the update.
Once the installation is done, restart the computer.
In contrast to other Windows update packages (*.msu files), Windows Virtual PC will be installed and ready for use. Two shortcuts should be present in the Start Menu:
- Virtual Machines
- Virtual Windows XP
The first shortcut is the Virtual Machines folder in the profile of the logged on account. This folder acts as the new Virtual PC console. Experienced Virtual PC users will find most of the features from previous versions in the streamlined user interface of this folder, although after initial installation the folder is empty.
Get Virtual Windows XP
The easiest way to get your hands on the virtual Windows XP with Service Pack 3 installation is to follow the Virtual Windows XP shortcut in the Start Menu. This shortcut will redirect you to the Windows XP Mode Beta download location. Download the Windows XP Mode package, corresponding with your Windows 7 installation (32bit or 64bit)
Virtual Windows XP is a pretty hefty download, but the 445MB contains everything you typically find in a Windows XP with ServicePack 3 installation: It is a compressed and sysprepped installation.
Although a 64bit download of Windows XP Mode Beta is available,
Windows XP Mode offers a 32bit Windows XP installation only.
After downloading double-click VirtualWindowsXPMode.msi
Follow the on screen instructions to install, configure and automatically run your virtual Windows XP installation:
- Agree to the Virtual Windows XP License Agreement
- Specify a password for Virtual Windows XP
- Specify Automatic Update Settings
- Start Virtual Windows XP
Install & publish an application
Your own applications
Install the application, that needs Windows XP compatibility, inside your virtual Windows XP installation, like you would with every other application on every other Windows XP installation. After installation, open the application once. When your done close the Virtual Windows XP screen.
A shortcut to the application will become available in the Start Menu of your Windows 7 installation, appended by ' (Virtual Windows XP)'.
Built-in Windows applications
Since the Windows XP with Service Pack 3 installation Microsoft ships for XP Mode contains all the games, it’s easy for users to use these games when the games in Windows 7 are disabled by an administrator. Most built-in Windows applications have been excluded from publishing, however.
You can easily get shortcuts for these applications to appear in your Windows 7 Start Menu by editing the registry in the Virtual Windows XP installation and deleting the key corresponding to the application in:
HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Virtual Machine\VPCVAppExcludeList
Also, if a shortcut is not already present for your application in the Programs folder of the All Users Start Menu you need to manually create one.
Windows XP Mode offers Windows XP compatibility for 32bit applications, that don’t require DirectX. It is easy and fast to set up when you meet the requirements. If you require additional features in the enterprise though (like central management and deployment), Med-V is for your weapon of choice.
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