Windows 7’s new XP Mode lets you seamlessly run virtualised applications alongside your regular Windows 7 applications—so your outdated software will continue to work. Before we begin, you’ll want to make sure your system meets the requirements:
- Processor: Processor capable of hardware virtualisation, with AMD-V™ or Intel® VT turned on in the BIOS.
- Memory: 2GB of memory recommended.
- Hard disk requirement: 20MB hard disk space for installing Windows Virtual PC. Additional 15GB of hard disk space per virtual Windows environment recommended.
Make sure that your processor supports hardware virtualisation, and double-check that the hardware virtualisation setting is enabled in your BIOS (the setting is often not enabled although your processor may be supported). You can use the official Intel Processor Identification Utility if you are running Intel, or you can can use previously mentioned SecurAble to determine whether or not your AMD or Intel processor will support XP Mode.
Next, you’ll need to install two software packages on your PC:
- Download and install the Windows Virtual PC Beta, which is the virtualisation software that powers “XP Mode”.
- Download and install the Windows XP Mode Beta, which is a specially crafted XP virtual machine.
Once you’ve completed those steps and restarted your computer, run the Virtual Windows XP item in the start menu, add in a password and make sure to choose to remember the credentials if you want the integration features to work smoothly.
Once the wizard is complete, hopefully you will see a dialog that sets up XP for use, which will take quite a while. If you receive a message that hardware virtualisation is not enabled, reboot your computer and check that the BIOS option is enabled, usually found under the advanced settings page.
If all goes well, you’ll see a Virtual Windows XP window, complete with a notification to install antivirus software—since XP Mode is nothing more than Windows XP in a virtual machine, you should take the advice and install your favourite antivirus application, especially if you’ll be downloading files in the VM.
At this point you will need to install your applications in Windows XP, and make sure to choose “All Users” anytime you are asked who to install the software for—the integration features won’t work with software that installs just for your user account. If you can’t install for everybody, you can simply choose “Open All Users” on the start menu, and copy a shortcut to the application into the start menu’s programs folder.
Once your applications are installed and shortcuts are in the All Users start menu, they will magically show up in the Windows 7 start menu under the Windows Virtual PC -> Virtual Windows XP Applications folder.
Depending on the state of the virtual machine, you will be prompted to close it in order to switch into “virtual application” mode. If the virtual machine was hibernated, you will see a slightly different prompt, but the general idea is that it can’t be running while you are in application mode.
And now, success! The Chrome window in the front is an XP-mode window—you’ll notice that windows running in XP mode don’t seem to take advantage of the slick Windows 7 drop-shadows, and you won’t see a thumbnail in the taskbar or Alt-tab.
XP Mode is an entirely useful feature, and could really come in handy for applications that don’t work in Windows 7 (or Vista). If you’ve had time to try it out since your upgrade to Windows 7, let’s hear how it’s working for you in the comments.