Setting up Virtual Windows XP (aka “XP mode”) in Windows 7

by Shijaz Abdulla on 21.05.2009 at 13:09

Last evening, I installed Windows 7 Ultimate Edition x64 Release Candidate (RC) on my Lenovo W500 notebook. Since I was moving from Windows 7 Ultimate x32 Beta, this meant a complete re-installation, as there is no upgrade option from beta to RC.

The installation was pretty smooth and I did not have issues with drivers for the standard hardware on this notebook.

After installing the RC, I decided to try out Virtual Windows XP (or ‘XP Mode’ as the media calls it). Here’s how I went about doing it:

  1. Restart the computer and enter BIOS. Make sure Hardware Assisted Virtualization (HAV) is enabled.  (Hint: Look under CPU options) This requires a processor that is HAV enabled with technologies like Intel VT or AMD-V, which is common on most of recent machines.
  2. Download Windows Virtual PC. This will require a restart at the end of the installation.
  3. Download XP Mode Beta. This is a 400+ MB download.
  4. Complete the installation, see screenshots below:
  5. Check out the Start Menu, you will find Virtual Windows XP.


  6. When Virtual Windows XP starts for the first time, it will take a while. Once it has started, you will find the Windows XP Virtual PC instance as below:
  7. Right click on the Windows XP Start menu and choose Open All Users.
  8. Place shortcuts to the Windows XP programs that you want to publish in Windows 7 in this folder. All shortcuts you place here will automatically appear in the Windows 7 Start Menu! Let’s put Internet Explorer 6 as an example:
  9. Close the virtual machine. You cannot open a virtual Windows XP application while the virtual machine is open, and you will be prompted to close the machine.
  10. On your Windows 7 Start menu, point to Windows Virtual PC > Virtual Windows XP Applications. You will find the XP shortcuts you placed in Step 8 here!
  11. Open your Windows XP application from the Windows 7 Start menu. See Internet Explorer 6 from Windows XP running side-by-side with Internet Explorer 8 from Windows 7!
    Notice the Luna theme of Windows XP is maintained on the IE 6 window, even while it is running on Windows 7.

How does one end a process running on the Virtual Windows XP machine?

Simply by opening the Windows 7 Task Manager, the user can see both Windows 7 applications as well as Windows XP mode applications in a single interface. The user may end the Windows XP task (labeled ‘(remote)’) from the same Task Manager instance:


XP Mode is a really cool feature that will help organizations running Windows XP to make the move to Windows 7 much easier. Legacy applications that do not support running on Windows Vista or Windows 7 can still continue running on XP mode, just like we ran Internet Explorer 6 on Windows 7 in this example. The user simply clicks on a shortcut on the Windows 7 Start Menu or desktop and the Windows XP application opens, giving the end-user a seamless experience.

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