In this how-to article I am going through how you can set up and use XP Mode in Windows 7 for solving an application compatibility issue.
First of all; What is XP Mode exactly? XP Mode for Windows 7 is Microsoft’s new and brilliant solution to legacy compatibility. One of Microsoft’s biggest challenges has always been backwards compatibility. Their biggest customers are businesses and selling a huge corporation on the idea of upgrading their OS’s is not an easy task to undertake. Being backwards compatible has thus been important. The problem with this has always been that keeping legacy code around hampers the development of a new and better OS. Windows 95 had to be backwards compatible with Windows 3.11 and thus kept support for 16bit applications around while introducing 32 bit computing to the masses. In Windows 7 Microsoft has not made a clean break with the past, but still keeps legacy code in the OS, but they have – I think – introduced the way to solve this problem for the future; XP Mode. XP Mode is a version of Windows XP running in a virtual machine within Windows 7, but made seamless so that it appears that application are running in Windows 7. In order to run the applications in XP Mode you find them exactly where you would have found them had they been running in 7, you can even pin them to the taskbar, like native Windows 7 applications. This implies that in future versions of Windows, Microsoft may make a clean break with the past and remove redundant legacy code, and solve that particular problem with a solution similar to XP Mode – plain brilliant. In Windows 7 XP Mode is available for people running Windows 7 Professional, Ultimate and Enterprise editions.
I had thought of testing XP Mode, but had put it off for the time being. Then I encountered serious problems with an application (Elkjøp Fotoservice – a brand specific version of CEWE Fotoservice) in Windows 7. I just could not make this app run in Windows 7. So I decided that it was time to test XP Mode on a real problem…
In order to download the RC of Windows XP Mode, head over to this site and follow the instructions there.
NB! It is important to note that in order to run XP Mode you need Windows Virtual PC and that this again requires a CPU with the Intel Virtualization Technology or AMD-V feature turned on. The Microsoft download site for Windows Virtual PC and Windows XP Mode RC provides links to pages where you can check whether your PC is capable of this and whether this feature is turned on or not. I recommend that you perform this check prior to downloading and installing XP Mode.
After downloading the two applications; Windows Virtual PC and XP Mode, you start off by installing them in the reverse order pr Microsoft’s installation guide;
To install Windows Virtual PC RC and Windows XP Mode RC
1. Install Windows XP Mode RC:
Double-click WindowsXPMode_nn-NN.exe (where nn-NN is the locale, for example: WindowsXPMode_en-us.exe) and follow the instructions in the wizard to extract and install Windows XP Mode RC.
2. Install Windows Virtual PC RC:
Double-click Windows6.1-KB958559-x86.msu or Windows6.1-KB958559-x64.msu (depending on your architecture).
3. Reboot Windows 7 to complete the installation.
4. To start Windows XP Mode RC Setup:
Click Start, click All Programs, click Windows Virtual PC, and then click Windows XP Mode.
5. Follow the instructions in the wizard to complete Windows XP Mode RC Setup and Configuration. Record the password that is provided during the Setup because it is required to log on to your virtual machine.
Setting up XP Mode
While setting up Windows XP Mode you will be greeted with a tutorial explaining what XP Mode is, as well as an intro to how you install an application. The following screenshots show some of these;
Underneath you can see the familiar warning that Windows XP is loading your personal settings.
And here is the XP desktop ready for first use. Note that you need a separate Anti-Virus application for the XP Mode.
Installing applications is done exactly like you did in XP itself. Here I have double-clicked the .exe file for the Elkjøp Fotoservice.
Running applications in XP Mode
The really neat thing with XP Mode is that once you have installed your applications in it there is a seamless integration with Windows 7. As you can see from the screenshot beneath I go into the Start menu – All programs – Windows Virtual PC – Windows XP Mode Applications to find my application and can run it from here. As I stated above you can also pin an XP Mode application to the taskbar if you need easy access to it.
And here is the application running in XP Mode;
Does it work?
The big question then is; Does it work? Well – yes, it does. But – do not expect stellar performance. When starting an application in XP Mode it takes quite a while before the application shows up on the desktop, and although this is just my personal experience, I don’t think that the application will run as fast as it would in a native XP environment. But as a solution for having just that particular application that you just have to have run on your Windows 7 system, and you have exhausted all other efforts to make it run, XP Mode works just fine. For me, I could not get the Elkkjøp Fotoservice application to work satisfactory in Windows 7, and after having installed it in XP Mode it is working just fine, and I can once again make and order my Photo books online. That said, I am looking forward to a Windows 7 compatible release of the said application.
XP Mode is at the time of writing available as a RC download. I expect that the final version of it will be available as a Windows Update for Windows 7 Professional, Ultimate and Enterprise by the time Windows 7 hits the store shelves on 22 October.
Try it out, and tell me what you think.