Print 16 comment(s) - last by Master Kenobi.. on May 18 at 5:57 AM

Should you fail to close out the VM properly, Microsoft has you covered.

This was merely a shortcut added to the All Users\Start Menu on the XP VM. This window appears when selected from Windows 7.

The Virtual Machine explorer window.

The Virtual Machine properties page.
Let's take a test drive through the new XP Mode and Virtual PC under Windows 7.

XP Mode is Microsoft's solution to legacy application compatibility under Windows 7. I won't get into the details a second time, but if you're curious how it works, check out the previous post on the subject.

With the Windows 7 RC Release, we have been able to now download and install the Virtual PC Beta, as well as the XP Mode package included with it. The first thing we will notice is that running the XP Mode Virtual Machine prompts us to create a password and let the initial setup start.

On the first 32-bit system I attempted to start up the XP Mode VM I was met with an immediate blue screen and reboot. On the second system, this one a high powered Core i7 64-bit edition I found myself stuck in an endless Initialization cycle. So far I'm 0-2 and this new XP Mode/VPC Beta is not looking so hot. Both cases I had made an upgrade from Beta to Release Candidate and that may have something to do with the problems encountered.

A clean reload on the first system with a fresh copy of the 32-bit RC presented a fully functional XP Mode system. XP Mode is fast and defaults to a mere 256MB of RAM during setup and use. You can of course adjust this but for now it seems to do just fine as is. Unfortunately, the XP Mode can be a little tricky to utilize and trips over itself if you don't shut it down after messing around inside it. Shutting it down however proves tricky because the standard Shutdown button in the Start Menu is missing, replaced with a simple "Disconnect" button.

The easiest way to handle switching from container to apps is to treat this XP Mode as you would a Remote Desktop or Remote Terminal Session with a Windows Server. Use the "Log Off" as you would in Remote Desktop, and simply close the container window once the login prompt shows up. Unlike Remote Desktop, logging off doesn't close the container, presumably to allow for the usage of multiple accounts like an ordinary XP installation. Once the system is logged out, you can safely utilize the XP applications once again seamlessly from Windows 7.

Possible problems you might encounter would include not logging out before closing the container. Should this happen there's no need to worry, unless you left something unfinished running on the VM. Attempting to launch one of the applications published to Windows 7 will merely give you a prompt asking if you want to launch the app anyway or go back into the VM to do a proper log off. Launching the application will force log off the XP session, losing any unsaved work you had there.

One thing I noticed during all this testing was the insane amount of CPU utilization during the startup and shutdown of the VM. During the initial startup or initialization when running an app the first time the CPU usage took a solid 80-100% of a Core 2 Duo core, giving it a 40-50% total system draw. Memory demand seemed low during the entire process but clearly launching the VM and getting it running in the background takes significant CPU power to accomplish. Once the system loads and sits in the background ready to handle your requests CPU usage drops back to around 1-2%.

At this point I'm fairly impressed but want to see just how far this pass-through goes and what the limitations are. To test this I created a shortcut to the Administrator's account desktop (Any folder will work it seems). I placed this shortcut in the All Users"Start Menu directory and closed down the VM. I found the shortcut and was able to access it from Windows 7. Opening the shortcut gives me the familiar Explorer window navigated to the path I specified in the shortcut, as well as access to all of its files. Furthermore it appears I can utilize it for navigation, file creation, modification, and more.

In fact I was able to kick off an install of 7-zip from within this environment and have it ready for use without messing with the host container at all. The only caveat to this is that the container seems to prevent dragging and dropping files to and from the window, regardless of having the VM Additions loaded. In VMWare, Virtual PC, and other products it was always possible to drag files from the host to guest systems and vice versa. This functionality is locked out unless you explicitly launch the XP container as a standalone VM. Any applications seem locked behind bulletproof glass preventing direct interaction with the host system. This is handy for security purposes I suppose as nothing gets in and nothing gets out.

The normal Virtual PC window for managing all of your Virtual Machines is no longer present. Instead, navigating to your user directory will present you with a "Virtual Machines" folder. Inside this folder you will find all of your virtual machines with the management program integrated right into the explorer shell much like Music, Video, and Pictures are with their respective programs. Given this trend it's safe to assume Microsoft is trying to back off from opening full applications for simple common tasks and merely integrate most of those functions into the shell whenever possible. 

There are three options on the shell that are required to make the VM's work. One is the "Create new VM" and it operates exactly like VMWare, VirtualBox, and VirtualPC did before. The "Settings" button can be clicked at the top or you can alternatively find it on the right-click menu of each VM. The Settings page hasn't really changed. The addition of a few new options such as "Auto Publish" are present but otherwise it's the same ever popular VM Properties panel. Something else to note is the "Open" button near the left side. Clicking this allows you to open the VM's with something other than VirtualPC, potentially allowing other vendors to plug in here as well. To use this, simply select the VM you want to open, click the "Open" dropdown button and all of the VM programs installed can be selected. Selecting one causes the VM to immediately launch from the selected application.
XP Mode is a solid product and definitely something I look forward to Microsoft expanding in the near future. So far XP SP3, and Vista SP1 (or 2 if you have the RTM) can be loaded as guest systems according to Microsoft. Software to allow the usage of pass-through utilities in both versions is available from the Virtual PC webpage, under the download types for the VirtualPC Client it's in the box marked "Developers".

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

Practical Usage
By Alpha4 on 5/11/2009 10:51:48 AM , Rating: 2
Virtualization is still a mystery to me. Is it possible to interface with a virtualized Windows XP session simultaneously with Windows 7? Does it have to run like an application that you "bring to front"?

One configuration I would love to explore is running Windows XP as independently as possible. This means allocating a set amount of unshared memory, one or more CPU cores through affinity controls, an unshared partition or drive, maybe even an exclusive rendering pipeline by assigning a seperate display adapter and most importantly disassociated mouse and keyboard input.

Is any of this possible?

RE: Practical Usage
By Master Kenobi on 5/11/2009 11:03:10 AM , Rating: 5
Is it possible to interface with a virtualized Windows XP session simultaneously with Windows 7?

XP Mode can run as individual applications or as a VM container (Think remote desktop to another system from your computer).

Does it have to run like an application that you "bring to front"?

Yes, and no. If you want to use it for anything (interact with it) then yes. If you just want it running when you need it then no.

This means allocating a set amount of unshared memory,

VM's recieve a pre-sent amount of RAM taken from the total RAM of the host system.

one or more CPU cores through affinity controls

Doesn't work that way. Intel Virtualization (Works on the CPU) allows the VM to interface with the chip, and your Intel processor will figure out where priorities belong.

an unshared partition or drive

A VM's "hard disk" can indeed be a physical drive or partition, you need to set this up when you build the VM for the first time.

maybe even an exclusive rendering pipeline by assigning a seperate display adapter

VM's utilize a generic virtual graphic adapter and do not link to different physical ones. They utilize the primary with limited capabilities.

most importantly disassociated mouse and keyboard input.

No. They use the same keyboard and mouse. Again, think of a Virtual Machine the same way you utilize Remote Desktop or Microsoft's Terminal Services Client.

If you are talking about server virtualization, then you can indeed control things like CPU affinity and resources a little better. But running a VM on any computer, and running a server virtualization system are two completely different issues.

RE: Practical Usage
By Alpha4 on 5/11/2009 12:47:00 PM , Rating: 2
That is a lot more clarification than I was expecting. Thanks a million Kenobi!

One last question, if I may ask; Can Windows 7 and the VM network with eachother through TCP/IP? Are there any special VMware networking protocols?

My dreams of running a Starcraft LAN on a single machine are otherwised crushed. ><

RE: Practical Usage
By Master Kenobi on 5/11/2009 1:43:19 PM , Rating: 2
Can Windows 7 and the VM network with eachother through TCP/IP?

Absolutely. They both will obtain different IP's from your DHCP server and thus (from a network standpoint) be two completely different systems. This is however configurable, you could make them share the same IP but I generally don't advise that.

Are there any special VMware networking protocols?

No, VM's simply share the physical card but operate 100% separately as another physical machine would. Standard TCP/IP or IPX/SPX is what they will use for communication.

RE: Practical Usage
By plowak on 5/11/2009 1:01:48 PM , Rating: 2
May I suggest two PC boxes and a KVM switch, with shortcuts to commonly used folders within each system. This may not be as elegant as VM but it's a lot cleaner with none of the problems found with VM's. Of course with laptops, that's another story. I opted for simplicity over elegance when I quit trying to make OS/2 Warp work for me.

This will be great
By omnicronx on 5/11/2009 2:54:07 PM , Rating: 2
As long as Intel decides to add VT-x support to all their chips. Mostly only the high end chips have them, no Atom based chips do (except for the more expensive z series), and many Core chips don't either. I'm not talking the lowest of the low either, even some new quad core chips do not have VT-x.

Can't remember where but I was reading an article about dells Vostro 420 line. They showed the 6 available Intel CPU's and two of them (Quad 8200 and Duo E7400 if I remember) did not have this functionality.

Until they do, this will be nothing more than a viable solution for business. There will be no removal of old code in the next version of Windows without widespread VT-x adoption. For reference, almost all AMD chips as of AM2 have the VT-x equivalent (AMD-V)

RE: This will be great
By Master Kenobi on 5/11/2009 6:00:54 PM , Rating: 2
I think the VT-x is where Intel is trying to separate the consumer and business/enthusiast markets these days.

By Army1156 on 5/17/2009 11:20:10 AM , Rating: 2
Shutting it down however proves tricky because the standard Shutdown button in the Start Menu is missing, replaced with a simple "Disconnect" button.

How is that tricky? You even called it a "simple" button.
Tricky simply buttons they are, indeed.

RE: Tricky?
By Master Kenobi on 5/18/2009 5:57:17 AM , Rating: 2
"Disconnect" isn't a real shutdown. It simply puts the VM in a hibernated/suspended state. Command line is the only sure fire way to kill it completely. Failure to shut it all the way down or log off prior to a "disconnect" means you get a nasty little error about the VM still running with a logged in user.

Fiddled any with the USB support?
By 16nm on 5/11/09, Rating: -1
RE: Fiddled any with the USB support?
By fatedtodie on 5/11/09, Rating: 0
RE: Fiddled any with the USB support?
By 16nm on 5/13/2009 9:22:41 AM , Rating: 2
As a whole, Google beta versions are solid. Microsoft beta versions? not so much.

RE: Fiddled any with the USB support?
By Master Kenobi on 5/11/2009 10:19:19 AM , Rating: 2
It's something I didn't touch on too much, but intend to in a future article going over some of the advanced featured of XP Mode. Basically there are two types of USB devices.

Shared and non-shared. In the VM under the USB menu you have all present USB devices to use. If its already tagged with "Shared" (seems to be storage devices only so far) then both OSes can use it at the same time. For a flask disk, I see it as a network drive listed under My Computer as category "Other". If you want exclusive access simply select the Flash Disk from the USB menu and it will take control, kicking Windows 7 out of it. All host hard disks (USB or otherwise) get mounted as special "network" drives in the XP Mode OS. So far I've gotten flash sticks, eSATA drives, USB thumb print sensors, and an iPod to properly work under XP Mode without having to take direct control over it in XP. Default settings for most devices seems to work quite well.

Driver's aren't an issue because if you recall XP and Vista/7 use completely different driver systems. Hence the original problems with Vista. Both systems simply need to have their appropriate driver to utilize the device, with common ones like flash drives being supported out of the box. Windows 7 didn't recognize a device I plugged into it, but XP did as soon as I loaded it's driver (This was a label printer).

Hope that clears up some confusion.

RE: Fiddled any with the USB support?
By plowak on 5/11/2009 1:16:30 PM , Rating: 2
What is a flask disk? A flash disk?

By Master Kenobi on 5/11/2009 1:47:38 PM , Rating: 3
Yea, played too much world of warcraft last night.

By Pandamonium on 5/11/2009 10:28:41 AM , Rating: 2
As much as I like Google, their beta sites are hardly as complex as an operating system.

“And I don't know why [Apple is] acting like it’s superior. I don't even get it. What are they trying to say?” -- Bill Gates on the Mac ads
Related Articles
Windows XP within Windows 7
April 28, 2009, 8:48 AM

Latest By Christopher Jennings

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki