Windows 7 XP Mode Review and Thoughts

Thursday, May 14, 2009

I finally got around to evaluating the hyped up XP Mode on Windows 7 RC. I do not understand what all the hype was about! Before you even begin to install the Virtual PC Beta and Virtual Windows XP executable you need to check if your hardware will run it (yes system requirements are higher than just running Windows 7).

Hardware support:
Unlike VMWare workstation or player, VirtualBox, and the older VirtualPC, XP Mode requires CPU virtualization support, also known as AMD-V and Intel-VT. By default, even on newer machines, this is not enabled by default in the Bios. Therefore you need to check if your CPU supports it and then enable it. GRC has released a small tool that will tell you if your CPU supports this feature or not. The tool is called Securable. Once you confirm your CPU supports this and enable it on the Bios, you need to make sure you have the recommended 2GB of RAM and 15GB of HD space to run (see where I am going with what the hype was about?).

Setting up:
Once you are back in Windows 7, install Virtual PC Beta first, then Virtual Windows XP. Reboot and when you are back up go to the start menu and start Virtual Windows XP. The setup is pretty easy and doesn't take too long. Microsoft claims you will need a separate XP license once it is out of beta so this would be the part where you shell out more money to Microsoft. After a bit of patience you will see a virtual VM player running and a start menu.

Installing applications:
Now is when you install any legacy application that you have been using for years and doesn't work on Windows 7. This is the biggest issue I see. First of all, how many users actually have the install media or bits for this legacy software? If you do have the media or bits did you try it on Windows 7 with compatibility mode? If it still does not work you need to ask yourself why are you still using this software? Don't get me wrong I have had clients that require Windows 98 for some legacy software that does their finances. Want to know my recommendation, if your machines require Windows 98 why are you buying a Windows 7 capable machine without upgrading that software first?

Once you get the applications installed and running from within the VM Player screen you can close Virtual XP window. In a few moments you will get a new start menu folder titled: Virtual Windows XP Applications. You can now start the applications and it will seem like they are running on Windows 7 but it really is a VM. This is much like Unity on VMWare.

Good idea, horrible decisions. Microsoft has gone with a VM based solution for compatibility issues instead of a Thin-App technology like Microsoft's own App-V. In an organization, administrators will now have to deal with two Windows instances per machine. This means patching the host AND the client. The hardware requirements are ridiculously high, you will basically need to buy a new machine to get this going. Finally you will need to buy a Windows XP license as well.

In conclusion, XP Mode does not live up to all the hype. I don't even think Microsoft should include it by default. If a user wants to run Virtual machines they can download their own application and run it. Integrating Virtual Windows XP with Windows 7 reminds me of integrated IE in a way. Every new OS Microsoft shows these great Beta and RC releases and then the final product comes out with so much bloat that it's horrible. I am happy with Windows 7 RC and if they release it like this I would be happy. Microsoft you are almost at the finish line, don't fumble it now!

Till next time,
Jorge Orchilles


One response to “Windows 7 XP Mode Review and Thoughts”
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Lebon14 said...

I do not agree that you need to buy a Windows XP licence. Here's why.

If you have bought and set computers with Windows XP and those computers will be replaced by a new computers with Windows 7, why not use their licence in XPM? You save LOT of money. Does Microsoft need to know? NO.

Also, today, almost all middle-line CPUs have Virtualisation technology and, also, habitually, in enterprise, when you change for a newer OS such as W7, you will also plan on those :
- Upgrade software
- If software han't been developped since win9x years, then buy a new software and give course to people that will be using it
- Buy new computers that will be used for a long time. This is a long-time investment.
- etc.

By the way, I don't if you checked but, WinXP mode barely use 20MB of RAM on the machine...

(crossposted on Sevenforums)


May 16, 2009 at 1:24 PM