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How To: Setup XP-Mode on Win 7 Basic, Premium

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 44 comments

Get that Windows XP Mode to work on the locked versions of Windows 7 quick!

One of the more interesting new tools that Windows 7 features is Windows XP Mode.  Essentially, Windows XP Mode is a fully functional version of Windows XP that operates within Windows 7, much like how Parallels Desktop works on the Mac.  By allowing users to seamlessly run Windows XP applications within Windows 7, application compatibility problems become virtually a thing of the past. 

Unfortunately, not all Windows 7 users have access to Windows XP Mode since it is not available in Windows 7 Home Premium and other less costly versions.  In this article however, we will walk you through the steps needed to install Windows XP Mode, regardless of Windows 7 version.

Step one: Visit Microsoft's Windows XP Mode download site.  Select Windows 7 Professional as your operating system, 32bit or 64bit respectively, and select your language.   If you select Windows Home Premium edition, the site will not allow you to download the required files.

Step two: As the instructions on screen should now state, download and install the three files in order: Windows XP Mode, Windows Virtual PC, and Windows XP Mode update.  The site may ask you to install a Windows Activation Update to verify that you have a non-pirated copy of Windows installed, which should be fine for most users to do.


If you receive the error "This update is not applicable to your computer." when trying to install Windows Virtual PC, you may have selected the wrong operating system in step one; try the other Windows 7 Professional option.  If you receive the error "Unable to stat Windows Virtual PC because hardware-assissted virtualization is disabled", you can ignore that error for now since the Windows XP Mode update will resolve that issue.

Step three: Once the three files have been installed, you will need to restart your computer. 

Step four: At this point, Windows XP Mode is installed, but it will fail to load on a Windows 7 Home Premium system if we try to access it from the Start Menu.  To bypass this limitation, we will start by opening up Windows Explorer (the shortcut is Windows Key + e) and navigate to the Windows XP Mode home directory.  On most computers this location will be: C:\Program Files\Windows XP Mode\

Step five:  Right click the file entitled Windows XP Mode base.vhd and select properties.  We currently lack the permissions needed to remove the read-only attribute that is preventing us from modifying this file, but we can fix that.  Click the Security tab and then click the Advanced button.

Step six: In the Advanced Security Settings window, click the Owner tab and click the Edit... button.  Accept any security pop-up.

Step seven: In the Advanced Security Settings window, select your current Windows user name from the list.  In this example we will select steve as the user name, but that will likely vary from user to user.  Once the name has been selected, click OK.  If a Windows security message pops up, click OK on that too.

Step eight: Back at the main Advanced Security Settings window, click the Permissions tab.  Select Everyone from the Permissions entries box and then click the Change Permissions button.

Step nine: Select Everyone in the Permissions entres box and then click the Edit... button.

Step ten:  In the new window, check the box for the Full control permission.  This should set all the permissions to Allow automatically.

Step eleven: Click OK, then OK again, then again, then again and then again once more. You should now be out of all the property setting windows for the file we have just taken ownership of and be back in Windows Explorer.  It is now recommend that you create a backup copy of the Windows XP Mode base.vhd file, which will be useful to have if you ever choose to restore your Windows XP virtual environment back to a fresh state.

Step twelve: Click Start > All Programs >  Windows Virtual PC > Windows Virtual PC.  In the window that opens, click Create virtual machine from the toolbar. 

Step thirteen:  In the new Create a virtual machine window, enter any name for your Windows XP mode virtual machine and then click Next.  Unless you wish to change how much memory your virtual machine will use, just click Next again. 

Step fourteen:  When at the Add a virtual hard disk step of the virtual machine setup, select Use an existing virtual hard disk and then click the Browse button.  We want to locate and select the Windows XP Mode base.vhd file that we were modifying earlier, which is usually located in the C:\Program Files\Windows XP Mode\ folder.  It is up to you if you wish to enable the undo disks option also.  Click Create when done.

Step fifteen:  We should now have Windows XP Mode installed on our system in a functioning form.  To access the virtual Windows XP environment, simply double click the newly created virtual machine file listed.  You can now also replace the non-functioning Windows XP Mode shortcut listed in the Start > All Programs > Windows Virtual PC menu with a link to your new working virtual machine.

As a side note, it is important to realize that although Windows XP Mode is now installed, the Windows XP virtual machine will be without a valid license and will be subjected to a limited time grace period before requiring activation.  While there are a slew of clever ways to bypass this activation problem, the easiest and most recommended way to truly avoid all these issues is to simply upgrade from Windows Home Premium to Windows Professional.  Upgrading also entitles you to other added features, such as host-side Remote Desktop and increased maximum RAM support.   


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Top Comments
  • 20 Hide
    theholylancer , April 19, 2010 4:57 PM
    did toms just posted a workaround to microsoft's market segmentation?

    sweet!

    although i wonder if microsoft will throw a lawyer grenade in.
  • 11 Hide
    fancarolina , April 19, 2010 5:11 PM
    zorky9Stupid question - Will DX9 games run faster on XP mode?


    To my knowledge DirectX isn't supported under Virtual Machines. XP Mode will have an emulated graphics driver it won't have direct access to your hardware nor will it even know what it is.
Other Comments
  • 20 Hide
    theholylancer , April 19, 2010 4:57 PM
    did toms just posted a workaround to microsoft's market segmentation?

    sweet!

    although i wonder if microsoft will throw a lawyer grenade in.
  • 0 Hide
    pollom , April 19, 2010 4:57 PM
    Dam I bought w7 pro, only for windows xp mode.
  • 4 Hide
    gnookergi , April 19, 2010 4:58 PM
    The only people who would make any use of the XP virtual machine would most likely already have the proper version. Cool to know though - I guess.
  • -6 Hide
    zorky9 , April 19, 2010 4:59 PM
    Stupid question - Will DX9 games run faster on XP mode?
  • 11 Hide
    fancarolina , April 19, 2010 5:11 PM
    zorky9Stupid question - Will DX9 games run faster on XP mode?


    To my knowledge DirectX isn't supported under Virtual Machines. XP Mode will have an emulated graphics driver it won't have direct access to your hardware nor will it even know what it is.
  • 7 Hide
    pollom , April 19, 2010 5:11 PM
    zorky9Stupid question - Will DX9 games run faster on XP mode?

    no, windows xp mode emulate s3 trio 32/64.
    I recommend VM ware for playing games in virtual PC, but windows xp mode for business applications work fine; I use windows xp to run freescale code warrior and works great.
  • 4 Hide
    razor512 , April 19, 2010 5:18 PM
    zorky9Stupid question - Will DX9 games run faster on XP mode?



    nope you cant game in the xp virtual environment (little to no hardware acceleration. your best bet is dual booting windows 7 and windows xp, dx9 games run faster in windows xp than they do in windows 7 (most people should have a extra copy and if not, simply look for any old computer in the trash (dumpster diving :)  ) and use a cellphone cam to take a pic of the windows xp serial or buy a copy from a site like ebay, if you search you can get one for a really cheap price.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , April 19, 2010 5:19 PM
    XP Mode isn't all it's cracked-up to be. I have a client that needed to run an older XP-compatible app: Top Producer 6i (ver 1.03a) and despite all the compatibility tweaks I've tried, it just doesn't run as seamlessly or reliably. I'll reload the machine with real XP this coming week. Buyer beware -- some XP apps will run flawlessly, others simply will not.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , April 19, 2010 5:23 PM
    Question,
    Is it possible to use an existing XP OEM CR-ROM to rebuild a working version, or use the license key of a version of XP that you already own?
  • 0 Hide
    fancarolina , April 19, 2010 5:30 PM
    ProDigit80Question,Is it possible to use an existing XP OEM CR-ROM to rebuild a working version, or use the license key of a version of XP that you already own?


    If you already have a SN and CD then just install it under MS Virtual PC or VM Ware Workstation.
  • 0 Hide
    sonic_dumpster , April 19, 2010 5:54 PM
    VM Ware is 1000x better than xp mode crapola! I can't imagine MS really cares since xp mode is so lame.
  • 0 Hide
    sonic_dumpster , April 19, 2010 6:07 PM
    fancarolinaIf you already have a SN and CD then just install it under MS Virtual PC or VM Ware Workstation.



    I transferred an OEM install to a VM Ware. Had to activate. Called the man in India, I answer honestly, and he activated my virtual machine. Botton line is that so long as you are not using a license on two computers, you are fine. More than one computer then you should pay, thats it!
  • 1 Hide
    danielgr , April 19, 2010 6:27 PM
    I personally use VirtuaBox, which is free and works pretty nicely, although I do it for a Linux Install.
    For old XP applications I rather use XP-mode because it's better integrated on the system. Indeed, I rather launch those apps as a program from the start menu than bothering to launch a Virtual Machine and then go open the program on the virtual OS. That integration is the whole point of XP-mode; I don't think Microsoft intended to build a better Virtualization soft than those already available in the market for free. If you don't need it, simply install your old Win XP on something like Vbox and you won't need to buy any expensive Win7 version.
  • 0 Hide
    deweycd , April 19, 2010 7:09 PM
    I agree with danielgr, XP mode was made for integration and not for replacing existing solutions. It does the integration extremely well without intefering with win7. As for options, MS's virtual machine is limited but they never intended to produce a full product. You tend to get what the product is made for and not much else. This is true for all software.
  • 0 Hide
    bydesign , April 19, 2010 7:16 PM
    @deweycd It is meant to be a full product, but it is limited and sucks.
  • 0 Hide
    jecastej , April 19, 2010 7:21 PM
    Very nice to know.
    Does Open GL apps have the same drivers limit?

    I need to check if I need any upgrade from my graphic apps before going to W7
  • 0 Hide
    SlickyFats , April 19, 2010 7:43 PM
    So far I haven't been able to get anything to work within XP mode. I guess I am just using it wrong. I have 7 Pro. Nothing installs into XP Mode. I have a webcam that no longer works in 7, thought it would work in XP mode, nope won't install. POS
  • 0 Hide
    tommysch , April 19, 2010 7:53 PM
    zorky9Stupid question - Will DX9 games run faster on XP mode?


    Stick to XP if you have a legacy computer, if not loosing 2-3 FPS in the worst case scenario inst that bad.
  • 0 Hide
    mdillenbeck , April 19, 2010 8:51 PM
    Interesting. Tom's, do realize that you need a licensed copy of windows to run in virtually (according to Microsoft). I assume with the tiers that support XP Mode the cost of an XP license is built in - but for the other versions with this work around, I suspect that would be the equivalent to pirating a copy of XP (unless you buy a copy - at which point I'd say use VMWare instead).

    ProDigit80Question,Is it possible to use an existing XP OEM CR-ROM to rebuild a working version, or use the license key of a version of XP that you already own?

    Depends... if you are talking about an OEM license that came with a name brand computer, you are out of luck (dell, etc). I tried virtualizing a copy of a Gateway, replace the OS with linux, and then use VMWare player to reinstall the OS on the same computer. Since it is keyed to the specific hardware, it did not recognize it as the same computer due to hardware virtualization. I am sure there is a crack or work-around somewhere out there I don't know about, but I was too lazy to find it.

    A regular OEM copy if uninstalled may require calling up Microsoft to activate and stating that it is only on one computer. I constantly upgrade my hardware, so I have to do this about every year or two (typically when I replace the motherboard). They ask if the copy is only on one computer, which "yes" is my answer. Further inquiries and I explain I upgrade my hardware a lot as well as wipe and reload my entire OS regularly. Of course, Acronis Workstation has reduced this (as other imaging software would also).
  • 0 Hide
    Drag0nR1der , April 19, 2010 9:03 PM
    I have no need of this... I dont have any software that wont run perfectly fine under either windows 7 with no changes, or by running it in xp SP3 compatibility mode.

    TBH I doubt if anyone really needs this anymore except for some business users who may well be running custom built software, and dont want to pay for someone to update it.
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