“XP Mode” is part of Windows 7 and is designed to make the transition from XP as smooth as possible. It runs a full copy of Windows XP in the background so that users can install and run all applications that are not compatible with Microsoft’s latest OS. However, there are some performance issues and problems users might run into when using “Virtual Windows”. In this blog post, we’ll give you a step-by-step guide on setting up Windows XP Mode and drastically increasing the performance of this virtual Windows version.
Why XP Mode?
Windows XP Mode is hugely important for companies upgrading to Windows 7. In some cases, an organization’s line of business applications only works with Windows XP. This same problem affects end users whose favorite program might be unique to XP and doesn’t work with Windows 7.
There are several reasons for this. The most likely is, an organization ceased business before Windows Vista or Windows 7 hit the shelves, or an organization did not release an update or a newer version with Vista or Windows 7. It’s also possible that an organization or user relies on a specific feature of the (older) XP version of a software product that has been removed in later versions. No matter what the reason is, Windows XP Mode is a savior!
What you need
To run older applications under XP Mode, you’ll need Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise, or Ultimate. The “XP Mode” is not available on Windows 7 Starter or Home Premium. It doesn’t matter if you’re running 32-bit or 64-bit, XP mode will work regardless of the Windows architecture.
Here’s a tip for frustrated Home Premium or Starter users: There’s an “Anytime Upgrade” feature in your Start menu or when you right-click on “Computer” and select “Properties.” Using this feature, you can purchase an in-place upgrade to Windows 7 Professional, Business, or Ultimate. This process is easy but, obviously, it comes with a fee.
Let’s move onto the hardware. We recommend using at least a Core 2 Duo (or similar) 2 GHz processor and have 2 Gbytes of main memory and 20 Gbytes of free hard disk space for XP Mode. Simulating or “virtualizing” this Windows XP computer takes up a lot of resources. Your Windows 7 and the simulated Windows XP will share the same hardware, including a shared processor, memory, hard disk, etc. Therefore, it’s best to make sure your PC is equipped to deal with the added load.
We also highly recommend a processor with the so-called “hardware virtualization” feature. This is a feature that processor manufacturers started shipping in PCs three years ago. It allows the virtual Windows XP to run almost as fast as the real deal. Without hardware virtualization, you will likely notice a slower performance when working with older programs. To check if your PC supports hardware virtualization, go to Microsoft’s Download Center and download “Microsoft Hardware-Assisted Virtualization Detection Tool.” By running this app, you’ll be able to determine if your PC has this function:
However, as we mentioned, hardware virtualization is nice to have for full performance, but it is definitely no longer a must. If you’ve met all the hardware requirements, you’ll need a few of downloads to enable Windows 7 XP Mode:
- Download XP Mode. Simply go to this website, select your Windows 7 edition, and start the download for Windows XP Mode.
- Download “Windows Virtual PC” from the same website. This software is the basis for simulating a PC inside your PC.
- Optional: The update KB977206 is required for PCs without hardware virtualization (see notes above).
Setting up Windows XP Mode
- First install “Windows Virtual PC” and restart your computer. Then, start the Windows XP Mode (WindowsXPMode_en-us.exe) installer.
- Hit “Next” and “Next”, again, then wait for the installer to create the virtual hard disk file. This file will include the entire XP operating system and all installed programs. Click “Finish” to launch the Windows XP Mode setup assistant:
- Accept the license terms, hit “Next” again and enter the password for your Windows XP machine. Make sure that your simulated Windows XP is always up-to-date. To do this, select the “Help protect my computer…” setting and move on to the next step. Finish, and then click on “Start Setup”.
- After a few minutes, Windows XP Mode will start up. In the next section, we’ll guide you through some essential configuration steps.
Configuring, using, and fine-tuning Windows XP Mode
By default, Windows XP mode is probably not configured the way you want it. In its default position, it’s not especially tuned for performance. There are many performance-draining elements in Windows XP that are necessary for a “real” XP PC but not for the virtual Windows XP environment. Here are the most essential steps for setting up, using, and optimizing it:
- Share an Internet connection: Running your older Windows XP application might require a working Internet connection. To see if your XP Mode is connected, launch Internet Explorer:
If the default IE website does not appear, click on “Tools” (in the XP Mode window) and “Settings”. Go to “Networking” and select your network adapter, instead of the default setting:
Hit “OK”, wait for a few moments, and try it again.
- Use Windows Update to install the latest updates: Once your virtual computer is connected to the Web, make sure to download the latest updates. Click on “Start” and go straight to “All Programs/Windows Update.” Install all the prerequisite updates and, once you’re finished, select all the “High Priority” updates using the “Custom” view, like this:
Then, go to the optional software category and install those updates which might be necessary for your virtual Windows XP machines.
- Disable sounds: With older applications, you may get annoyed with the typical XP clicking and beeping sounds. To turn these off, go to “Start”, “Control Panel”, and click on “Sounds, Speech, and Audio Devices”. Click on “Change the sound scheme”. Select “No sounds”, hit “No”, and then click on “OK”.
- Optimize performance permanently using Turbo Mode: Our own TuneUp Turbo Mode is perfectly suited to a virtual environment. With one click, it disables many features that, especially in XP Mode, aren’t necessary and only consume memory and processor resources, such as automatic defragmentation, maintenance tasks, synchronization features, or support for digital cameras. This stuff is important for XP PCs, but not for running your older programs.
To check out TuneUp Turbo Mode, go to http://www.tune-up.com/download/ and download the 15-day trial of TuneUp Utilities. Install the program and click on the “Turbo Mode” button:This will launch the configuration wizard. Make sure to check every feature, except “Postpone automatic updates”. At the end of the wizard, check “Turn on permanently”.
Hit “Finish” and fire up Turbo Mode for maximum performance.
- Install your old programs: Insert the CD or DVD with your XP program. Then go to “My Computer” and install it as you normally would. If it’s a program you downloaded, you’ll need to access the hard disk drive on your “real” computer. To do this, go to “My Computer” and look at the “Other” category.
Each of these drives is a physical drives and is easily accessible to share files between your real PC and XP Mode. In some cases, running a setup installer from one of these shared drives might end up in an error message. If you encounter this issue, copy the file from your PC to the XP Mode Desktop and run it from there. That should do the trick!
- Run your old programs: Finished installing all the legacy applications? Then log off from Windows XP (“Start” > “Logout”) and hit the “X” to close the virtual machine. Now, all the programs you installed will be available directly in your Windows 7 start menu—it’s pretty cool:
In the future, as soon as you launch one of these Windows XP Mode applications, the virtual XP will run in the background. But the actual program feature will, in fact, appear as regular program window under Windows 7:
And that’s it for now! We’ve shown you how to install, configure, and run XP Mode. In a future article, we’ll show you some fantastic tips and tricks to optimize and tweak XP Mode even further!
5 Responses to “Setting up and tuning Windows XP Mode”
- Setting Up and Tuning Windows XP Mode (Part 2) » TuneUp Blog about Windows
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