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Windows 7's XP Mode has been improved in a new release candidate. This innovative virtualization feature allows applications to be run within the XP guest OS and seamless integrate with the Windows 7 environment. The front browser is running in XP, while the back is running in Windows 7.  (Source: LILkillaBees Blog)
Windows fans are invited to test out the innovative new OS feature

One of Windows 7's most interesting features is going to be the Windows XP mode, available on Professional and Ultimate editions.  Typically, virtual machines are only supported via separately purchase software from vendors such as VMWare or Microsoft.  This limits virtualization's audience and appeal, leaving out many everyday users.  So Microsoft decided to do something unique and bundle Windows 7 with a virtual machine with Windows XP inside.  This allowed them not only to bring virtualization to the masses, but also to seamlessly integrate compatibility for legacy applications.

The feature, however, was only in rough form in the beta candidate and previous release candidate builds.  Yesterday Microsoft release a new release candidate that at last added a near-finalized version of this functionality.  The build is available here and runs Windows XP SP3. 

Aware of security risks, Microsoft has accompanied the build with a warning that users should install anti-malware and antivirus software to protect Windows XP.  It has been speculated that malicious users could exploit the virtual machine's lack of certain security features -- such as ASLR (Address Space Layout Randomization) or an Internet Explorer Protected Mode -- to perform guest-to-host attacks.  This problem is minimized by the fact that the install comes with a firewall and that Microsoft will be offering free antivirus support for XP as well as Vista and Windows 7 this fall (a second beta is expected to drop soon).

Brandon LeBlanc, a Windows communications manager at Microsoft comments on the new RC build, stating, "Windows XP Mode is specially designed for small and medium-sized businesses to help ease the migration process to Windows 7 by providing additional compatibility for their older productivity applications. The newly updated Windows XP Mode now works with the RC and RTM versions of the Windows 7 Professional, Ultimate and Enterprise SKUs."

The differences in functionality of the new XP Mode and the old are subtle, but significant. Windows XP applications running on the Windows 7 task bar can now be accessed by right clicking.  Disk sharing between Windows 7 and Windows XP mode can now be disabled and users can choose where there Windows XP differencing files are stored.  USB devices can now operate within Windows XP without needing to go into fullscreen mode, useful for accessing content from programs like Word 2003 running in XP Mode.  Finally, a tutorial about XP Mode is now included, a great feature for new users.

Tom Quillin, director of Intel vPro Ecosystem Development lauds the feature, praising that its not only a fun toy for home users, but a valuable asset to businesses.  He states, "The increasing prevalence worldwide of PCs based on Intel Core 2 processors with Intel Virtualization Technology is enabling a variety of new applications that provide business opportunities for greater manageability, security and cost reduction. Used with Windows XP Mode, Intel Virtualization Technology helps small- and medium-sized businesses migrate more efficiently from Windows XP to Windows 7.

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Just a thought...
By smackababy on 8/5/2009 9:39:27 AM , Rating: -1
As much as I applaud MS for doing this, I can only feel this step was made to avoid negative press upon relased that Vista had with compatibility issues.

Personally, I love Windows 7 so far. I will be buying a copy upon release. With that said, there is still lots of work to be done to get over the preception Vista has given the (millions it seems) of uninformed bashers.

RE: Just a thought...
By SiliconJon on 8/5/2009 9:48:22 AM , Rating: 2
7 is working well for me, too. Though I love this, as those programs that have poor support or heavily tasked programmers behind them that may not have a lot of time to get them 7-Ready that I love to use and don't work well, or at all, on 7 can be given a life raft.

Just so long as third parties don't use this as an excuse to stall their Windows 7 support!

RE: Just a thought...
By 3minence on 8/5/2009 10:14:50 AM , Rating: 4
I know a number of senior IT folks (namely ex-Unix types) who swear they will never upgrade thier company to Vista and Win7. The ignorance of that claim is astonishing. Eventually, companies will not release XP drivers for new hardware. Already companies are providing sub-par XP drivers for hardware. Like it or not, you can not stay on XP forever.

Unfortunately this will give some programmers and companies an excuse to not replace old incompatible software. People need to see this for what it is, a tool to give them time to upgrade/replace their software in a timely and controlled manner; a stop-gap measure. Vista's incompatibilities caught a number of us by surprise. Win7 provides a good compromise in response to it. But, people being people, some will still ignore the future and then scream loudly when the next version of Windows no longer provides this legacy support.

RE: Just a thought...
By aegisofrime on 8/5/2009 11:52:45 AM , Rating: 3
To be fair, it does depend on their company's needs.

If all they are doing is just running word and excel, I doubt Windows 7 or Vista is going to help them do their job better.

RE: Just a thought...
By Sazar on 8/5/2009 11:56:50 AM , Rating: 4
If the software is no longer supported, it is likely going to cost them a fair bit if something does happen.

Incremental tech refreshes are usually not as troublesome, time consuming or expensive compared to a full-fledged change which requires re-training your employees and introduction of new software.

I completely agree that it depends on your company's needs but the company itself should understand that if the rest of the customer's it is doing business with is using Office 2007 (for example) and it is chugging along on Office 95, there will be a little bit of a disconnect.

RE: Just a thought...
By Ranari on 8/5/2009 12:09:57 PM , Rating: 2
Looks like I'll be buying Windows 7 on release. I actually really like Windows Vista, although I was an idiot and bought the 32bit version. I never had an issue with it like everyone complained about. I think it's a pretty great OS.

But! I want to play my old games like Thief: The Dark Project and such, which I can't get to run. There is a way to fenangle it, but I'm not technically savvy enough to get it working. I'm hoping with the improved XP mode with W7 that I'll be able to just load and go. Gosh, I can't wait!

RE: Just a thought...
By Motoman on 8/5/2009 12:42:13 PM , Rating: 2
...maybe I'm misremembering, but I thought I read somewhere that the WinXP emulation was going to be essentially sans-graphic acceleration - hence, useless for games.

Can anybody confirm?

RE: Just a thought...
By The0ne on 8/5/2009 2:02:41 PM , Rating: 2
I can probably chimed in a bit. I've been using XP mode for a while and more so with RTM. I've actually been advising people to avoid using it really simply because performance isn't there. By this I mean if you were to compare it to running XP SP3 under VMWare, VirtualPC (standalone) or VirtualBox. And yes, I have done that as well.

And while I didn't look too deeply into the XP download, it does appear to be a "modified" version. This may not be important if you are just running simple apps.

If you have no other solution to run your old apps then by all means this is a good solution. If you can download VirtualBox and install your own copy of XP (legal that is) that would work much better.

And lastly, graphics on VMs are limited. 3D is very hard to come by but 2D works ok most of the time. This is for games.

RE: Just a thought...
By iamezza on 8/7/2009 12:33:27 PM , Rating: 2
You're best bet is to run a dual-boot with Windows XP on a separate partition or drive if you want to play old games and for them to run well. Most games don't run well (or at all) with virtualization.

I dual booted Windows 98 / 2000 for a long while for this reason and play on doing the same with XP(32bit) / 7(64bit).

RE: Just a thought...
By mikefarinha on 8/5/2009 5:12:33 PM , Rating: 2
If all they are doing is just running word and excel, I doubt Windows 7 or Vista is going to help them do their job better.

If they are only running those applications then the company is probably no larger than 10 people.

Most businesses run more than just a browser and an office suite. The small companies at least have QuickBooks in addition to the ones you listed above. Once a company starts to grow beyond a handful of employees they start to need specific management software at a minimum.

RE: Just a thought...
By qrhetoric on 8/5/2009 1:03:03 PM , Rating: 3
My company is finally upgrading me to Vista. I'm so excited.

RE: Just a thought...
By darkxuy on 8/5/2009 2:18:10 PM , Rating: 2
To Vista? Are you sure? i mean, why??

RE: Just a thought...
By goz314 on 8/5/2009 1:57:12 PM , Rating: 3
Already companies are providing sub-par XP drivers for hardware.

This comment isn't exactly a revelation. HW vendors have been providing sub-par XP drivers off and on since XP was first released. It's not a new phenomenon that has somehow been brought about by the pending release of Windows 7.

RE: Just a thought...
By Fox5 on 8/5/09, Rating: 0
RE: Just a thought...
By damianrobertjones on 8/5/2009 11:07:54 AM , Rating: 2
I'm excited as it's... free. Thank you Microsoft. Other than that, I'll use VMWare Workstation for the other installs. People complain if they do, complain if they don't.

I consider it to be nothing more than something you will or won't use and above that, I'm not bothered. Anyway, if it's that bad, then duel boot XP with Win7.

RE: Just a thought...
By Mojo the Monkey on 8/5/09, Rating: 0
RE: Just a thought...
By The0ne on 8/5/2009 2:07:36 PM , Rating: 2
RTM makes dual booting impossible for me. I've tried so many ways but none has worked so far. RTM doesn't offer you the Boot Loader any longer. It wipes away anything version of OS you have and keeps its own.

Hiding the drive didn't solve it either although there are workarounds for that. Installing on different partitions/drive wasn't successful as well.

I'm open to suggestions from anyone who has successfully configured this setup. Please note, however, that this is for Windows7 RTM (7600) and XP SP3. Yes, I've Googled.

RE: Just a thought...
By wetwareinterface on 8/5/2009 10:41:27 PM , Rating: 2
the simple trick is install xp sp3 first, then install win 7 and use the new boot manager. it will recognize older windows installs and automatically make an entry in the boot list for older windows versions. on that page you can select which (if you have more than 1) older os to boot to.

if that's not custom enough use easybcd to make changes to boot order and what is listed and how it's labeled from within win 7 after everythings installed.

it seems your problem is you are trying to install win 7 first and win xp second. the dual boot options are geared mostly for people who are moving from one os to the new one and assume you already have the older os installed on your machine. it's not geared to someone who wants both and is starting fresh. it will be doable but it just isn't how they thought out implementing it and who would be using it.

if you already have win 7 installed and lots of programs going under it and don't want to re-set it up...

you could get a trial version imaging program, make an image of win 7, re-do the partioning and install xp first on the second partition/drive, then put the imaged win 7 back on the first partition/drive and run easybcd to point to xp as an optional boot.

or use a third party boot manager like acronis disk director or linux's grub

or install xp on second partition/drive, use win 7 install disk to automatically repair installation, use easybcd to point to xp

RE: Just a thought...
By queuetrip on 8/18/2009 12:45:14 PM , Rating: 2
When installing new operation systems for dual boot, install each operating system to a new hard drive alone. (so it will be 'drive c'. )
if the os is not installed alone the drive letter will be other than 'c'.
after all of the os's have been installed alone, connect all the drives and use some 'BCDEDIT' magic and the drives GUID, that should allow the windows' dual boot.

now, if someone had 'WIN ninja os' skills, the drive letter could be changed but I don't know how.

I just use the 'install OS alone on HDD' then the BIOS boot menu to dual boot winXP and vista. (i use the vista boot screen to choose between win7rc and vista)

RE: Just a thought...
By LRonaldHubbs on 8/5/2009 1:05:53 PM , Rating: 3
I'm not sure that's such a good idea. Win7 would clearly win the fight, but what if XP got a decent shot in, your Win7 could end up crippled!

RE: Just a thought...
By omnicronx on 8/5/2009 11:15:49 AM , Rating: 3
Most of Vista's incompatibilities were due to hardware, so I don't see how XP mode solves things at all. On top of that, it doesn't even support hardware accelerated 3d (unless they've updated XP's RDP to send display lists like vista's does, and even that's limited support).
While this may have been the reason for many home users, I really don't believe this was the reason that Vista never really reached mass deployment (Home users are a tiny percentage of Windows Sales). It was software not hardware that was incompatible with Vista. There were many API and fundamental changes such as moving the user to mode 1 and having services run in mode 0. None of my works service based apps worked in Vista because of this.

As for home users, directshow was a big showstopper, and this is where many hardware manufacturers failed to step up to the plate. So if anything it was still the software as it was badly written drivers that were the main culprit. (I'm looking at you Creative)

RE: Just a thought...
By adiposity on 8/5/2009 1:10:33 PM , Rating: 3
After you get past the hardware problems (not really an issue on a new computer, of course), the software problems begin. We have about 10 "must have" apps that we use at my company, and two of them flat-out don't work on Vista and Windows7.

There are newer versions that DO work, but we have to pay about $50,000 (in the case of one of the apps) to upgrade our licenses to that version. In the case of the other app, the newer version is not 100% backwards compatible with the old version, so we have to make changes to our independently developed code to make it work.

Also, older AutoCAD versions are not compatible with Vista/Windows7. We have some of those licenses, which will require us to pay for upgrades (1000s).

In the case of AutoCAD, we probably would not use XP mode. But in the case of the $50,000 client which works fine under XP mode, we may just use XP mode.

It seems like the only ones getting excited about XP mode, are the people that don't realize it doesn't solve their problems, or that their problems don't exist with Vista/7.

Nope. I know what it does, and it saves me $50,000.


RE: Just a thought...
By epobirs on 8/5/2009 5:42:05 PM , Rating: 2
You couldn't be more wrong.

First, consider the failure of logic in blaming hardware. Vista runs just fine on plenty of machines that were produced before Vista was in beta. The sole issue in most cases where it doesn't run well is memory consumption. Some older machines lacked the ability to take much RAM above the 512 MB that was common for several years, and thus are bad Vista candidates even though the memory upgrade itself would be quite cheap.

The vast majority of software incompatibility issues are due to Vista's more stringent requirement for programming practices. When XP was released, Microsoft also published a guide to their preferred programming practices for better reliability and security. They also promised that apps that followed these guidelines would be viable for a long time to follow. They kept that promise. Software that complies with the guidelines runs perfectly on Vista with very few exceptions.

After years of getting blamed for the results of third party developer's bad coding practices, MS made some major changes in Vista compared to XP. Several things which had previously been condemned but allowed to run were no longer given that allowance. Vista flat out says no, you can't do that crap here. This is why no version of QuickBooks before Vista's release would run. Intuit did some really rotten stuff with the registry as a hack to enable interaction with other software instead of creating a proper infrastructure for the purpose. This was a really bad practice and Microsoft was well overdue to stop iy being done.

A lot of other examples are in-house proprietary apps that are critical to the businesses that original contracted their creation. The use of bad coding practices was endemic among these and that meant Vista was a no-go unless they could run them under XP in a VM. Two big Vista deployment I worked in were at companies big enough that their licensing with Microsoft allowed this to be done without any great additional cost. But for smaller companies this is a significant expense and involves some complexity for the users.

XP Mode solves that very well. There is a critical app that is widely used by convalescent hospitals to produce their Medicare billing. It's pretty ugly and can't even install on Vista, never mind run on it. I've already tested it with the XP Mode beta and it works perfectly, integrating with the Win7 desktop in a way that require nearly no training of existing users.

For me and my clients, XP Mode is a huge WIN .

RE: Just a thought...
By rburnham on 8/5/2009 10:47:26 AM , Rating: 2
I like Vista better than XP, and the RC of 7 has been a joy to use.

RE: Just a thought...
By omnicronx on 8/5/2009 11:00:47 AM , Rating: 2
As much as I applaud MS for doing this, I can only feel this step was made to avoid negative press upon relased that Vista had with compatibility issues.
I think thats only a small part of it. Large businesses are Microsoft's bread and butter, and when it comes down to it they are not going to take the word of a news site that says an OS is 'bad'. I think the main issue was not the press, but the great amount of proprietary and older software that just won't work with Vista/Windows 7 and as such these businesses are not able to upgrade as the cost and required support would be too high. This really has nothing to do with the home user, as lets face it, if a piece of software does not work on a single machine its not life and death.

I can think of 10 apps offhand that my business uses that will not work with NT 6.* most of which are in house software. The cost to replace this software would greatly outweigh the cost to replace an OS and this was the big problem Vista faced. It was not the 'bugs', it was not the high hardware requirements, it all came down to money. Hopefully XP mode will help the transition, although my work has opted to rewrite several pieces of their software.

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