Windows 7 XP Mode

Category: Windows-7

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?

Windows 7 XP Mode

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...

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Most recent comments on "Windows 7 XP Mode"

Posted by:

13 Jun 2009

This article is most interesting, as I am currently running Windows XP Pro 64 bit, Server 2003, and there are quite a few programmes that don't have support. There are no drivers for my Canon A720IS camera, and in particular, I have Video Editing programmes that work fine on XP, but have an issue with my Graphics card, an ATI Radeon HD 4800 series. I had been waiting for Win7 in the hope that these problems will be solved. Will the XP Mode be able to make use of all the RAM? I have 4GB. I really enjoy your newsletter and articles. Thank you.

EDITOR'S NOTE: I would think yes.

Posted by:

david leroy wolfe
13 Jun 2009

I will not be using windows 7,micosoft is trying to make another buck,and this is just another nightmare,like vista for 2 years or better,been there done that crap stay with windows xp ,and will be fine.

Posted by:

13 Jun 2009

You gotta love Microsoft, forget the majority of users that could really use this option and put it with the larger profit versions. This is a great idea, although I will continue to use VMWare myself, it has never failed me when it comes to a os workaround.

Posted by:

16 Jun 2009

Looks like M'soft are going to rip off the punters again !!! I think Linux is the way to go from now on, lets hope that the Magazines and web sites give lots of simple to follow advice on how to change over.

Posted by:

18 Jun 2009

Microsoft *needs* to "legacy" Windows XP, much as it did DOS when Windows 95 came out. They need to realize that there is a multitude of software programs that will be moved from old PC's to new PC's - some of which will not run on Windows 7 and cannot be replaced.

I work at a Civil Engineering firm. Some of our more esoteric software was written by Engineers - who really don't know "programming", just how to write software to get things done. Their software, which at the time cost us hundreds of dollars each, will never be re-written for Windows 7, yet is invaluable to us. (Some of our more obscure software was written by "companies" that no longer exist, and still run under DOS.)

If Microsoft abandons a "Windows XP" mode of operation, and it looks like they have already made its implementation pretty torturous, it will be doing a disservice to millions of users who have made many of its employees millionaires, if not billionaires.

Posted by:

18 Jun 2009

You should've mention VirtualBox virtualisation solution too. It's light and it's free. It has versions for Windows, OS X (Intel Macs), Linux (multiple distros supported), [Open]Solaris hosts. I personally run both winxp and win7 on kubuntu without problems. It supports Windows (all versions since 3.1), Linux, Solaris, BSD, IBM OS/2 and other guests.

Posted by:

25 Jun 2009

I've been running Win7 RC 64-bit on a quad core AMD box for about 3 weeks now. Tested Vista and XP on the same box, and win7RC works noticeably better. XP can't use the 4 GB of ram efficiently, and Vista is just slow anyway. Win7 is what Vista should have been - looks and works the same (only twice as fast), with most of the problems fixed (aside from compatibility with poorly written code). It should really be called Vista SP3...

So far, I am loving Win7. Only one problem so far - the Vista LAN driver (dated in '07) shipped with my MB would not install due to the windows version check. The Vista driver dated 12/08 from Realtek's website worked just fine. The hardware guys are already on it. I suspect anything with a Vista driver will have a Win7 driver, because the only problem to fix is the OS version check.

Oblivion (my favorite older game) would not install under Vista, never bothered to find a fix. I'll see if it works in WIN7, and see if I can try the virtual XP on the RC version, and report back.

Posted by:

Ken Newhouse
30 Aug 2009

I have a Gateway P-6860FX notebook with 4gigs of ram running Windows 7. I installed an X7900 Intel Core 2 Extreme cpu over a year ago.The BIOS: Phoenix Technologies LTD R01-A1P

(94.29.00) 03/10/2008 supports overclocking this chip up to 3Ghz and I have been running it like that with no problems.That cpu also supports Intel VT but there is nothing in the BIOS to enable it. Is there an updated BIOS available that will enable Intel VT and if so where can I download it for free? The Phoenix Technologies BIOS Update Agent wants $30 to upgrade my BIOS.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The vendor's website is always the best place to look for BIOS updates.

Posted by:

14 Oct 2009

I've got XP [oem] on my C drive and Windows 7 ultimate on another partition... will i be able to use my existing XP OS in windows 7's XP mode..?

EDITOR'S NOTE: I don't think it's a "bring your own XP" deal. As far as I can tell, you must download a special version of XP that's preconfigured to work with XP Mode, which runs in a virtual machine environment. Of course, you could always install your own virtual machine software, and run your XP there.

Posted by:

21 Oct 2009

Maybe you covered this already. Sorry to ask it again. What size partition do you recommend for Win7? The answer must assume there will be SP1 and Sp2, and patches and .....


EDITOR'S NOTE: In general I recommend only ONE partition. The exception is for dual boot systems. If you're creating a new partition for W7, make it as large as possible.

Posted by:

17 Nov 2009

Funny how he states that the problem is programmers not sticking the rules regarding Microsoft's API, then the first program on his list of programs that don't work is IE6!

EDITOR'S NOTE: IE6 was released in 2001. Is it surprising that a program written 8 or 9 years ago might have trouble with an operating system two generations removed?

Posted by:

30 Jul 2010

Chip level virtualization is no longer required, but is recommended.

Posted by:

shrikant ranade
19 Jan 2011

i have done some Documents in words in windows xp mode. then i exit from windows xp mode.
then i tried to search location of my files on all drives of hard disks but i cannot find it .
so please tell me on the location of files.
can i make changes in this file in windows7(os

Posted by:

12 Feb 2012

I've noticed some quirks running XP Mode:
1. All open tasks are saved when I close XP Mode, instead of closing them; how can I change that?
2. When XP Mode is open but control is transferred back to Win7, sometimes XP Mode opens up again when I click on any task on the Win7 taskbar (the clicked task also opens, but behind XP Mode so that it cannot be seen). How can I fix that?

Posted by:

06 Apr 2012

Win 7 is crap. Gives less freedom for the users, and has an ugly surface. I have no reason at all to use 7. XP has the best XP mode :)
XP 4ever! ♥

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