Install and Setup Virtual XP Mode in Windows 7 – AppCompat Series

3/18/2010 – Update: Windows XP Mode will no longer require hardware Virtualization technology

The Microsoft team announced an update to Windows XP Mode today that will make it a more accessible to PCs in small and midsize businesses who want to migrate to Windows 7 Professional but have applications that still require Windows XP. Windows XP Mode will no longer require hardware virtualization technology to run. This change makes it extremely easy for businesses to use Windows XP Mode to address any application incompatibility roadblocks they might have in migrating to Windows 7. – Read more here on the Windows Team blog

Windows XP Mode is a virtual machine package for Windows Virtual PC containing a pre-installed, licensed copy of Windows XP Service Pack 3 as its guest Operating System. XP Mode provides an additional layer of application compatibility in windows 7, which means that, you will have additional time to migrate your existing applications to the new operating system. XP Mode applications run in a Terminal Services session in the virtualized Windows XP, and are accessed via Remote Desktop Protocol by a client running on the Windows 7 host.

Windows XP Mode will work only under Windows Ultimate, Professional and enterprise flavours


Your hardware should have a virtualization capability such as Intel VT or AMD VT in the CPU and also this feature should be enabled in your BIOS settings (Update: Windows XP Mode will no linder require hardware Virtualization Technology – check the first section of this article).

In addition because XP mode is running a virtual instance of Windows XP; it needs additional RAM and Disk Space.

XP Mode can be downloaded from here!!!

Install the executable which you get as a download, along with the Virtual PC Update. Once installed, you can just trigger it in a single click from the start menu.  A tutorial will also run to help you. Once the setup is done, the XP mode will run in the Virtual PC. You can install all the incompatible applications in the XP mode VM.

startmenu_XPMThis will automatically publish all the shortcuts in the start menu. From there on, you can go to windows 7 start menu, open the application from the (Start Menu->Programs->Windows Virtual PC->Windows XP Mode Applications). You can also pin the application to the start menu or Task bar.

Pre-installed integration components allow applications running within the virtualized environment to appear as if running directly on the host, sharing the native desktop and Start Menu of Windows 7 as well as participating in file type associations.

When you invoke the application for the first time, you will get this below dialog. This is just setting and configuring your Virtual mode. Also, you may see the risk dialog near the system tray.


risk_trayThis signifies that a Proper security is needed – You should consider Windows XP in XP Mode as just another OS on your network. So the deal here is that, you should patch the system, run antivirus on it and keep it protected just like Win 7.

Internet Explorer ver 6 and 8 Flock Together

Many organizations have their internal websites and web applications which have their compatibility concerns while moving to a different browser or a different version of the same browser (IE6 to IE8). Redesigning and modifying this will involve a lot of effort and time. Using the Windows XP Mode, you can have 2 versions of Internet Explorer running on your machine.  This signifies that, you can have your internal web-applications launched from the IE6 (through the Virtual XP Mode).



The Virtualization layer is so well made that, when we go to the default directories from the application, it points to the Windows 7 machine and not the Windows XP Virtual Machine.

For eg: I am running a Adobe reader 7.0 from the Virtual XP mode (see image), and when I did an open file from the File-> Open dialog, I get the Windows 7 Desktop and not the Windows XP machine.

This also takes care of the file extentions. I mean, if you dont have a adobe reader installed on your Windows 7 machine, having a file say, test.pdf will autmatically associate itself to the Adobe reader of the Virtual XP and open the file.

Summing Up

Applications running in Windows XP mode do not have compatibility issues as they are actually running inside a Windows XP virtual machine and redirected using RDP to the Windows 7 host.  As an IT-Pro, you also save a lot of time in training the user on how to run this app in the new OS. It also eases the user to use the applications as if they are running the applications natively from Windows 7.

Graphic intense applications (like 3d games, AutoCAD etc) do not have an optimal functionality in the XP Mode.  Also, some enhancements which can be made to nurture the User Experience is to provide the desktop snapping for left, right screen alignment and Takbar icon of the application (as of now, we get a Virtual machine Taskbar Icon).

For More Compatibility articles, Check here –

Just wanted to add these 2 documents available on the Microsoft download center about Windows 7 XP Mode

The Complete Application Compatibility Series


  1. Nice read. I hope you are going to cover various other aspects of WinXP mode including deploying and management in a enterprise scenario. Looking forward for more..

  2. I feel relieved to say I'm looking forward to playing with that. Will have to schedule a weekend for that upgrade. Thanks!

  3. Never bothered to know more about XP mode! But this article clearly explains advantages of having it. I didn't know about many of the facts mentioned here, for ex: File extension association. First thing I'm going to do after reaching home is to install XP Mode!

  4. Unfortunately, it would not work Ramya. This would work, only if WIndows 7 is installed on a machine and not in a Virtual infrastructure.

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