Installing XP Mode on Windows 7 RC

After playing around with windows7 beta on my laptop (Lenovo ThinkPad T60) I was very impressed. I did a straight upgrade from Vista SP1 and noticed a great performance boost and all my apps still worked.

Now the RC is released I have done a fresh install on my laptop, this time going for 64-bit. I have to say that the performance actually seems worse. I guess this is because of Lenovo’s vista drivers not being present anymore.

After I completed the essential first couple of steps (changing my logon screen image, listening to all the new sounds, checking out the Themes etc ;-)) I decided to give XP mode a shot. If you haven’t heard of XP Mode, it is a Virtual PC package that allows you to seamlessly run XP apps in Windows 7. On the one hand this is unnecessary for me because all my apps run perfectly in Windows 7, however, its nice to have a free fully-licensed virtual OS on my laptop.

Walkthrough: Setting up XP mode in Windows 7

  • Enable Hardware Virtualisation bits in the BIOS (varies from vendor to vendor)
    • Mine was located in the ThinkPad’s BIOS under Config>CPU>Intel Virtualization Technology
    • You will also need to make sure you do a hard reboot after changing the setting for it to work
      (i.e. don’t just “Save & Exit” the BIOS, completely turn of your PC)
  • Download & install Windows Virtual PC Beta (~5mb, installs just like a windows update patch)
  • Restart PC
  • Download Windows XP Mode Beta (~450mb)
  • Run the file
  • Choose an install location and wait while the setup installs the VHD file 10:29
  • After ~3 mins you will get a UAC prompt image
  • 2 mins later the setup was complete
  • I know have a folder C:Program FilesVirtual Windows XP that contains three files
    • KEY.txt – the XP license key
    • Virtual Windows XP.vhd – the virtual hard disk file (1.1GB)
    • VXPEULA.txt – a 3634 word license agreement, I’ll save reading that for later
  • Now these bits are installed you should have a “Windows Virtual PC” folder on your Start Menu
  • This contains a shortcut to the currently empty folder “Virtual Machines”
    • Although this links to a folder, it is actually where you create VMs (through a simple wizard), edit configuration settings and also start a VM, all through the toolbar.
      image  image
    • You can also “Pin” this shortcut to the start menu to get a reasonably useful jump list
  • Clicking on the “Virtual Windows XP” icon starts the initial setup for XPM
    • Accept the license terms
    • Set a user password
    • Next, it will ask you whether or not you want to enable automatic updates
    • After this point it will crash if you haven’t set up virtualisation in your BIOS, enable it and re-run the setup. 
      • ‘Virtual Windows XP’ could not be started because hardware-assisted virtualization is disabled. Please enable hardware virtualization in the BIOS settings and try again.
      • Not that I would do something stupid like that 😉
  • You will then get a progress bar for ~15mins
  • After that is complete the XP Desktop should appear
  • You can now use this as you would any other VM.
  • The “magic” starts happening when you install a new app.
    • I downloaded the latest version of Firefox (3.0.10) and installed it within the XP VM
    • Now on my Windows 7 host I have a new folder on my start menu under “Windows Virtual PC” called “Virtual Windows XP Applications”
      • Notice there are no shortcuts for the built in Windows XP apps like IE6 or MSN Messenger.
      • You can create these by simply adding a shortcut in the XP “All Users” start menu, this takes a few minutes for it to show up in Win7 and it doesn’t seem to work at all for some apps (i.e. pinball, msn messenger)
    • If you click on the apps from Windows 7 while the VM is open you will get the following prompt
      • This is to do with licensing and there is an EULA violating patch you can apply to prevent this but that is unnecessary for me
      • You also get a similar prompt if you try to launch the VM will the an app is running
    • When the XP machine is “closed” it can initialise itself in a special “virtual app environment”.
    • The Win XP apps can then runs seamlessly on Win7 including XP themes and all the app settings as configured in the XP VM
    • Launch an app from the special start menu folder
      It’s quite amazing, at first, how it works but the novelty soon wears off
    • Once you have an app open you can easily launch any other XP program even if there is no shortcut on the start menu
      • Open up IE6 or Windows Explorer and use the address bar to browse XPs hard disk
      • You can then launch any program you like!
  • Another potentially powerful thing you can do is attach the XPM virtual hard disk to your Win7 file system
     image image
    • By doing this I was able to browse the folders within and launch Pinball! It also worked for wordpad and other simlarly simple apps but IE and WMP wouldn’t load
    • You can do this while the XP VM is open making it is to copy any files over if necessary

        Manual setup

        Don’t forget, Windows Virtual PC isn’t just for XP Mode. It can be installed on Windows 7 Professional SKU and above.
        You can choose to do this all manually if you have your own licenses or want to set up a VPC with Vista

        • Download & install Windows Virtual PC Beta
        • Create a new VM and install OS
        • Install the relevant RAIL QFE to the guest OS to allow seamless running of apps (XP sp3, Vista)


        There are still a few tweaks to be made with the GUI/UX (like integrating the XP apps onto the taskbar with aero functionality) to make it completely seamless but overall they have done a great job to make it as easy as possible.

        It was a smart move by Microsoft to prevent the furore caused by Vista not running old apps, even though most apps have been updated for compatibility by now anyway!


        Windows Virtual XP homepage

        Microsoft XPM Guide for Small Business (better than mine!)

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