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

Virtually There

There are a couple of gotchas to be aware of, whether you’re running Windows XP Mode or VirtualBox and a licensed copy of Windows XP.

First, there’s the issue of keeping two different operating systems updated: the host OS and the virtual machine OS. It’s not that big a deal for a handful of users, but multiply it by 50, 100, or more, and you’ve got a support challenge in a business environment.

The second problem is hardware support, including drivers. Standard stuff, like USB memory keys, optical drives, and so on, work fine. But anything exotic could be problematic. We’ve already mentioned the issues with VirtualBox and 3D, for example. We've already seen Parallels enable access to multiple GPUs in a Xeon 5500-series system with Workstation 4.0 Extreme, but this functionality is limited to a handful of HP workstations and not yet available on the desktop.

Given the issues, why would a home or small office want to run something like Windows XP Mode?

One main reason is security. For example, a shared family PC means that the kids are using Web browsers and surfing the wilds of the Internet. Even if you’re running robust anti-virus software and firewalls, it’s all too easy to accidentally download a Trojan or other nasty malware. The solution: encapsulate all the browsers using Windows XP Mode. The user experience will be pretty transparent, and the virtual machine adds another layer of protection.

The other reason is the whole issue of legacy apps. Small businesses often rely on software written on aging applications, whose providers may even be out of business. That leaves them stuck running on hardware that’s obsolete, and parts can sometimes be hard to find. Running XP Mode allows the company to update their hardware, but still run their old apps.

If the main objective is running older apps, then performance won’t really be an issue. Any modern system capable of running Windows 7 will run older apps in Windows XP Mode, and probably run them better than the old hardware. The key pitfall will likely be drivers for custom hardware. We’ve run into problems with new motherboards where the application required data collection through a parallel printer port, and many systems no longer ship with parallel ports. For the most part, however, XP Mode should serve nicely.

VirtualBox is a good fit if the user is fairly sophisticated and wants to run a variety of different operating systems. You can easily run Linux inside of Windows, Windows in Linux, and DOS inside any OS. For everyday users with older apps or wanting an added bit of security, Windows XP Mode is likely to fit the bill. But be aware that you’ll be supporting more than one operating system.

  • abhinav_mall
    Dont we need a licence for XP ?
    Reply
  • coonday
    It could just be me, but all this talk of Windows XP virtualization makes me feel old. My how time flies.
    Reply
  • apache_lives
    Hmmmmmmmmm dual boot or seperate machines will always be better then "virtual" anything - i buy new machines every 2 years and i still have the old ones - i keep the same OS on it and anything that doesnt work on my new one (usually with new os etc) i leave on the old machines, same deal with Windows 98, dos etc - SEPERATE MACHINES
    Reply
  • Vorador2
    abhinav_mallDont we need a licence for XP ?
    It seems that 7 Business and Ultimate already include the necessary license for XP.

    And btw, dual boot is better.....but newer hardware don't always have drivers for older OS, and when you need to work multiple applications in parallel and share data between them you don't have the time or the leisure to shutdown and reboot in different modes or change between computers. And virtualization has come a long way so the performance penalties for running virtualized OS are minimum.
    Reply
  • bustapr
    So I can't play some of the best xp only games with this ?
    No thanks. I like my xp game collection, which get more graphicky 3d than 2d age of wonders.
    Reply
  • bustapr
    And it looks like xp mode is a mess to set up and maintain. I'll admit xp mode is a nice addition, but not including in W7home premium doesn't sound too good for the people that are getting their upgrade coupon from vista HP to W7 HP. And to constantly update and maintain xp mode and W7 separately would be a bit tiring.
    Reply
  • apache_lives
    bustaprAnd it looks like xp mode is a mess to set up and maintain. I'll admit xp mode is a nice addition, but not including in W7home premium doesn't sound too good for the people that are getting their upgrade coupon from vista HP to W7 HP. And to constantly update and maintain xp mode and W7 separately would be a bit tiring.
    Paying a premium for extra features is normal - nothing new there
    Reply
  • psouza4
    What games don't run on 7 that only run on XP, bustapr? I'm sure there are a few, but the vast majority run just fine. I imagine the ones that don't *are* really old and would run virtualized just fine. And that's the point.
    Reply
  • denroy33
    Just dual boot.
    Reply
  • hellwig
    Because of these issues, VirtualBox is a great solution for power users, but probably not a good fit for non-technical PC users in a standard office environment.
    Why is it ok for employees to be idiots? If you have to shield the fact that they are running a Win XP app, maybe they shouldn't be allowed access to the computer system.

    One main reason is security. For example, a shared family PC means that the kids are using Web browsers and surfing the wilds of the Internet. Even if you’re running robust anti-virus software and firewalls, it’s all too easy to accidentally download a Trojan or other nasty malware. The solution: encapsulate all the
    browsers using Windows XP Mode. The user experience will be pretty transparent, and the virtual machine adds another layer of protection.

    Are you sure about this? With the Windows integration, files downloaded in XP mode are stored in the Win7 system, right? This means if you download a trojan, it gets stored on your main OS with everything else, right? I don't think that's more secure. Regular virtual machiens are secure because they are entirely encapsulated, if you download a virus, you wipe the virtual image and its gone. With XP mode, you download a virus, it infects your primary OS, not the XP-Mode OS, unless I misread something.
    Reply