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Win 7's XP Mode And VirtualBox: When You Need Windows XP

XP Mode Requirements

Windows XP Mode has some surprisingly stringent requirements.

1) You must be running Windows 7 Professional or Ultimate. Windows 7 Home Premium users or Vista users of any flavor are not currently supported.

2) Windows XP Mode requires hardware support for virtualization. For Intel CPUs, that means the CPU must be VT-x capable, while AMD processors need to support AMD-V. You can find a list of supported CPUs on Wikipedia.

3) Even if you meet those requirements, Windows XP Mode may not run, because your BIOS needs the ability to enable hardware virtualization. Most current-generation motherboards can enable hardware virtualization, but often ship with the capability disabled. You’ll need to manually enable the feature in the BIOS setup.

Setting Up XP Mode

We installed and tested the release candidate for Windows XP Mode running on Windows 7 Ultimate. You first need to install Windows Virtual PC, which is available, oddly enough, as a standalone Windows update package.

After Windows Virtual PC is up and running, you simply launch the self-installing package. The installer looks and behaves like an odd blend of an application and an operating system install.

Looks like an OS installer…sort of.

You even get the “Help protect your computer” screen, as you would with a Windows XP OS install.

Just like the real thing.

XP Mode defaults to 512MB of RAM for the virtual machine, so you may want to run Virtual PC setup on the XP Mode VM and configure it with more RAM, depending on your app needs.

XP Mode forces you to create a login and password, unlike an actual physical install of XP.

When you run Windows XP Mode, it’s just like running a copy of Windows XP. You’re on the XP desktop, and navigate the virtual machine just like you would Windows XP on any hardware. If you click on the close button, the VM “hibernates,” enabling faster startup.

But just running a copy of XP isn’t all that useful. If users have to toggle back and forth between two different operating systems, confusion might result. Instead, you want to create encapsulated applications.