Tip: Configure Your Windows 7 System to Run Legacy Apps in a Virtualized Windows XP Environment

Windows XP Mode is an optional download for the Professional, Enterprise, and Ultimate editions of Windows 7. It provides a licensed copy of Windows XP with Service Pack 3, saved in Virtual Machine Hard Drive Image (.vhd) format. When run in Windows Virtual PC, or another compatible program, this virtualized installation of Windows XP lets you run applications that might not run well in Windows 7. Windows XP Mode is also handy if you have an older device with a proprietary driver that hasn’t been updated for Windows Vista or Windows 7. If it worked great in Windows XP but doesn’t work in Windows 7, give it a try in Windows XP Mode.

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NOTE: Windows Virtual PC requires a computer with hardware-assisted virtualization. That means the CPU has to support either Intel Virtualization Technology (Intel VT) or AMD Virtualization (AMD-V). In addition, hardware virtualization must be enabled in the BIOS. Both Intel and AMD offer an array of processor options, some that support hardware virtualization and some that do not. If you’re buying a system expressly for the purpose of running Windows XP Mode, be sure it meets these requirements.

Download and Install Windows XP Mode
Setting up Windows XP Mode requires two free downloads—first is a small download that enables the Windows Virtual PC host program, followed by a separate download that installs, configures, and activates the licensed copy of Windows XP SP3. Follow these steps:
1. Go to the Windows Virtual PC site and click Download Windows XP Mode and Windows Virtual PC.
2. Select your Windows 7 system type (32-bit or 64-bit) and language.
3. Follow the Web site’s instructions to download and install Windows Virtual PC, and then Windows XP Mode.
4. Restart your system.
5. Launch Windows XP Mode by opening the Start menu, choosing All Programs, clicking Windows Virtual PC, and then clicking Windows XP Mode.
6. Accept the license agreement and enter a password for the default administrative account. If you select Remember Credentials (Recommended) in this dialog box, whenever you launch Windows XP Mode from your Windows 7 desktop or Start menu, you’ll be logged on automatically with the saved credentials.
7. Allow the setup process to complete, then customize and secure your new Windows XP installation to suit your needs and preferences. If you create additional user accounts, be aware that the system will let you create accounts without passwords but won’t let you log on to those accounts.

By default, Windows Virtual PC shares your computer’s optical drives with Windows 7. But while the virtual environment is running, AutoRun is disabled. To install an application from a CD or DVD in Windows XP Mode, you must run the virtual environment, insert the disc, open My Computer in Windows XP, and run the application’s setup program.

After you have installed a program in this manner, you can run it “seamlessly” by launching it from the Windows 7 Start menu. It will have a Start-menu shortcut in the Windows XP Mode Applications folder. Applications installed in Windows XP Mode and launched from the Windows 7 Start menu run on the Windows 7 desktop, without visible elements of Windows XP Mode. Note that the applications take longer to launch, because the virtual environment must be initialized.

From the Microsoft Press book Windows 7 Inside Out by Ed Bott, Carl Siechert, and Craig Stinson.

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