Windows 7 XP Mode
I'm getting ready to upgrade my XP system to Windows 7. I've heard there is something called 'XP Mode' that will allow me to run XP programs. What exactly is XP Mode and which programs will need it?
What is Windows 7 XP Mode?
Yes, Windows 7 will have an available feature called XP Mode, which will allow users to run a virtualized Windows XP, either in a separate window, or on the Win7 desktop. XP Mode is aimed primarily at business users who have programs that run on Windows XP, but will not work properly on Vista or Windows 7, due to the new system architecture and improved security measures.
If you'll pardon a little geekiness, the problem results from programmers bending the rules of writing Windows code. Instead of using the documented, official programming interfaces (API), some programs have hooks directly into the operating system, or they rely on certain undocumented side effects of using the API calls on Windows XP systems. One specific example is programs that write temp files in restricted folders, instead of to the designated folder for temp files. These shortcuts and sloppy techniques worked fine on XP, but they will cause some programs to work improperly or fail on Windows 7.
Windows XP Mode gives users with "XP-only" programs a way to run those older application on the Windows 7 desktop, without making modifications to the source code.
Which Programs Will Require XP Mode?
Keep in mind that most of the software currently running on Windows XP systems will work fine on a Windows 7 machine. But there are some exceptions to the rule. Here are a few of the "bad boys" that will not work on Windows 7:
- Internet Explorer 6 - Yes, IE6 is still used in some business environments where later versions of IE cause a conflict with existing enterprise software.
- Adobe Acrobat 7 - It's old but it still works fine. And because it costs a couple hundred bucks per license, many businesses are sticking with it rather than paying for upgrades.
- Some enterprise software - As mentioned before, some programs developed using undocumented XP features will not work under Windows 7. It's difficult to say which applications are affected, without detailed knowledge of the innards of the programs.
- Certain hardware drivers - There are plenty of printers, scanners and other peripherals that work on XP, but not Vista. And that means they won't work on Win7, either. That's because the manufacturers have decided not to provide driver software for these older devices. Instead of spending money to replace all that hardware, consumers and businesses can use XP Mode to keep them chugging along under Windows 7.
This is not an exhaustive list, by any means. Although the problem will mostly affect business users, I've read that some consumer-level software such as games and personal information managers may also have problems on Windows 7. In some cases, the only way to know for sure will be to try running the program on a Windows 7 system. But even then, there may be subtle problems that can go unnoticed. So when in doubt, run your older mission-critical software in XP Mode.
How Does XP Mode Work?
When I was a newly-hired programmer at IBM in the early 1980s, I heard a speech given by one of the company's top salesman. And one quote from that day has stayed with me. The salesman said, "People always ask me 'How do computers work?' I tell them 'They work great!' And I sell a lot of them." So that's my answer: "XP Mode works great!"
But in this context, I suppose I should give a few more details. XP Mode will not ship with Windows 7, but it will be available as a free download. To start, you'll need to to download and install two things: a preconfigured Windows XP SP3 environment, and a special version of Windows Virtual PC. It's the Virtual PC software that works the real magic, by emulating the XP hardware/software environment, and enabling you to run XP programs seamlessly on Windows 7.
But there's a hitch. XP Mode will be available only to customers who have the Professional, Enterprise, or Ultimate version of Windows 7. Most home users will have the Home Premium version, because it will be pre-loaded on PC solds to the consumer market. If you run a small business, or you have older peripherals that you can't part with, be forewarned and buy one of the Windows 7 editions that supports XP Mode.
XP Mode: Hardware Requirements and Alternatives
Actually, there might be another hitch. You can't run XP Mode on just any PC, even if you have the right version of Windows 7. XP Mode requires at least 2GB of memory and a special feature called "chip-level virtualization" on the CPU. If your PC is Intel-based, you need a processor with "Intel VT" to play the XP Mode game. AMD machines need a processor with "AMD-V" support. Older PCs with Celeron or Pentium processors will not cut it. And even on newer machines that DO have the chip-level virtualization feature, it might well be turned off by deafult. Check your BIOS to see if chip-level virtualization is supported and enabled.
I should mention that there are alternatives to using XP Mode. Virtualization tools such as VMWare and Parallels will allow users to run a virtual XP environment, in a window on the Windows 7 desktop. It won't be quite as slick or tightly integrated, but it will work, even for those with Windows 7 Home Edition. And if you're looking for adventure, you can even run XP on Linux or put Windows on your Mac using the same virtualization tools.
Are you planning to use XP Mode on a Windows 7 system? Post your comments and questions below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 10 Jun 2009
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Windows 7 XP Mode (Posted: 10 Jun 2009)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved