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Windows XP Mode on Windows 7: Virtually Worthwhile

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Learn more about how to install, configure and use the handy-dandy Windows XP mode environment that Microsoft makes available for free to owners of Windows 7 Professional, Ultimate, and Enterprise. Ed Tittel shows how you can use this virtual PC based environment to run older applications that don’t work with Windows 7 or Vista, inside a virtual machine running Windows XP instead.

One of the more interesting aspects of Windows 7 is the inclusion of a virtual machine for Windows XP SP3 that works within a new, updated version of Virtual PC. This as-yet-unnamed version is newer than Virtual PC 2007, and is required to support the download that Microsoft offers to owners of Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise and Ultimate editions. It includes a prefab virtual machine (VM) that’s ready to run XP on your behalf.

You can read more about this free add-on to those Windows operating systems on the Windows XP Mode and Windows Virtual PC page on the Microsoft website, where you’ll also find download links for the revised version of Virtual PC and its Windows XP Mode add-in.

Windows XP Mode Overview

Before you run out and start downloading anything, you must be aware that Windows XP mode comes with its own list of requirements and foibles, all of which you must consider—and some of which you’ll want to investigate—in advance. First and foremost, it’s worth considering why you might (or might not) need or want Windows XP mode in the first place.

Windows XP Mode (which I’ll abbreviate as XPM from here forward in this story) was designed to provide support for legacy software that won’t work in a Windows 7 environment. Although Microsoft’s intent was primarily to support older business applications, XPM will also let you run old DOS or Windows games that don’t require hardware acceleration (alas, those that do won’t work on XPM, either). If you try installing and/or running older software on Windows 7 that won’t work, and fiddling with its own compatibility settings doesn’t do the trick, XPM is definitely worth a try. Compatibility even extends to ancient versions of Microsoft Office, which some companies keep around because of massive macro libraries they’ve never upgraded.

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