How many Intel CPUs will fail the XP Mode test in Windows 7?

Summary:How much positive Windows 7 buzz is in danger of being wiped out in the next few weeks and months when consumers and business buyers discover that a heavily hyped new Windows 7 feature, Windows XP Mode, won’t work on some current dual- and quad-core CPUs from Intel? Also, check your desktop or mobile CPU against my list to see whether your PC passes or fails.

Some of the most popular PCs on the market today, equipped with fast and powerful dual- and quad-core CPUs, won’t be able to use the vaunted Windows XP Mode in Windows 7.

When Windows Vista launched, Intel and Microsoft both got a black eye over the infamous “Vista Capable” logo. That sticker was slapped on PCs running some of Intel’s most popular graphics chips, even though they wouldn’t run the new Aero graphics. Microsoft is still battling in court with angry customers (and their lawyers) who felt betrayed by that marketing campaign.

Now, three years later, it appears to be time for the “Vista Capable” sequel. How much positive Windows 7 buzz will be wiped out in coming weeks and months when consumers and business buyers discover that a heavily hyped new Windows 7 feature, XP Mode, won’t work on some Intel-based products? The problem is caused by the Byzantine way Intel packages its CPU technology—adding, removing, and tweaking features like bus speed and cache size to hit the widest variety of price points for PC makers.

The new Windows Virtual PC (now available as a beta release for the Windows 7 Release Candidate) requires hardware-assisted virtualization. For your PC to run XP Mode in Windows 7, the CPU has to support Intel Virtualization Technology (Intel VT) or AMD Virtualization (AMD-V), and this support has to be enabled in the BIOS.

In the case of Intel’s phenomenally confusing product matrix, VT support is added and removed from CPU models for reasons that have more to do with marketing than technology. You can’t necessarily tell from the model number whether VT support is present or not. If you buy a brand-new PC and pick the wrong CPU, Windows Virtual PC won’t be able to host the virtual machine that powers XP Mode. And spending more money can actually hurt you in some configurations.

Here’s a real-world example. Dell’s Vostro 420 is a well-built, no-frills desktop PC designed for the small and medium business market. The screen grab below shows the current lineup of CPUs that you can choose from when you build this system to order at Dell’s website. Four of the six options support Intel VT; I’ve circled the two CPUs that don’t support VT.

If you stay with the entry-level CPU, XP Mode won’t run on this PC. So you decide to upgrade the E7400 to an E8500 for $90. Problem solved! Although both are members of the Core 2 Duo family, the E8500 supports Intel VT, whereas the E7400 doesn’t.

But then you realize that for a measly $40 more you can go from a dual-core processor to the Core 2 Quad Q8200. Great idea! Unless you want to use any of those four CPU cores to run Windows Virtual PC, that is. The Q8200, you see, lacks VT support. For that, you need the Q9400, Q9550, or Q9650.

I had noticed this previously but revisited the topic today after my buddy Dwight Silverman commented, with some surprise, that his desktop PC with a Core 2 Quad Q8200 won’t support XP Mode (“Bummer”), but the Core 2 Duo E6600 in an older Mac does just fine. (“I guess I’ll be upgrading my Boot Camp partition”)

I haven’t looked at Intel’s CPU matrix since last summer, when I was researching which quad-core CPUs had some staying power. I have purchased three PCs with quad-core CPUs since then; thankfully, I avoided the Q8xxx series and went with the Q6600, Q9300, and Q9450, all of which support Intel VT.

This stuff is confusing, though. So, as a public service, I paid a visit to the Intel Processor Spec Finder, where I searched all modern CPU families, desktop and mobile, to see which ones support hardware virtualization. I copied the results to an Excel spreadsheet, created a few PivotTables, and came up with quick reference tables that can help you see at a glance whether your CPU can pass the XP Mode test.

Update: A reader passes along a recent news report that Intel plans to update five of its processors to add VT support: the Core 2 Quad Q8300, Core 2 Duo E7400 and E7500, and Pentium E5300 and E5400 are slated to get the new designs. That figures to make the landscape even more confusing, with some CPUs having VT support or not depending on the revision number.

If you’re curious whether your system has Intel VT support, check out the tables on the following two pages.

Next page: Intel desktop CPUs –>

 

For the background on this issue, see page 1.

The table below incorporates data about Intel’s desktop CPU families from the Intel Processor Spec Finder. (For a corresponding chart covering Intel’s mobile CPU families, see page 3.)

Find your CPU model under its family, and then look in the column to the right. YES means the CPU models in that row all support Intel VT; NO means VT is not supported.

Disclaimer: I believe this information is accurate, but it is possible that some mistakes may be present in the following tables. caused by inaccuracies in Intel’s documentation or by editing and composition errors. I urge you to do your own research before making any buying decisions. Even if a specific CPU appears to support Intel VT, make sure that the PC’s BIOS manufacturer allows this feature to be enabled.

Desktop CPUS

Core 2 Duo  
E4300/4400/4500/4600/4700 NO
E6300/6320/6400/6420/6540/6550 YES
E6600/6700/6750/6850 YES
E7200/7300/7400/7500 NO
E8190 NO
E8200/8300/8400/8500/8600 YES
Core 2 Extreme  
QX6700/6800/6850 YES
QX9650/9770/9775 YES
X6800 YES
Core 2 Quad  
Q6600/6700 YES
Q8200/8200S/8300/8400/8400S NO
Q9300/9400/9400S YES
Q9450/9550/9550S/9650 YES
Core i7/Core i7 Extreme  
I7-920/940 YES
I7-965 YES
Pentium D/Pentium EE  
805/820/830/840 NO
915/925/935/945 NO
920/930/940/950/960 YES
955/965 YES
Pentium for Desktop  
E2140/2160/2180/2200/2220 NO
E5200/5300/5400 NO

Next page: Intel mobile CPUs –>

 

For the background on this issue, see page 1.

The table below incorporates data about Intel’s mobile CPU families from the Intel Processor Spec Finder. (For a corresponding chart covering Intel’s desktop CPU families, see page 2.)

Find your CPU model under its family, and then look in the column to the right. YES means the CPU models in that row all support Intel VT; NO means VT is not supported.

Disclaimer: I believe this information is accurate, but it is possible that some mistakes may be present in the following tables. caused by inaccuracies in Intel’s documentation or by editing and composition errors. I urge you to do your own research before making any buying decisions. Even if a specific CPU appears to support Intel VT, make sure that the PC’s BIOS manufacturer allows this feature to be enabled.

Mobile CPU products

Core 2 Duo Mobile  
L7200/7300/7400/7500 YES
P7350/7450 NO
P7370 YES
P8400/8600/8700/9500/9600 YES
SL9300/9400/9600 YES
SP9300/9400/9600 YES
SU9300/9400/9600 YES
T5200/5250/5270/5300/5450/5470 NO
T5500/5600 YES
T5550/5670/5750/5800/5850/5870/5900 NO
T6400/6570 NO
T7100/7200/7250/7300/7400 YES
T7500/7600/7700/7800 YES
T8100/8300 YES
T9300/9400/9500/9550/9600/9800 YES
U7500/U7600 YES
Core 2 Extreme Mobile  
QX9300 YES
X7800/7900 YES
X9000/9100 YES
Core 2 Quad Mobile  
Q9000 YES
Q9100 NO
Core 2 Solo  
SU3300/3500 YES
U2100/2200 YES
Core Duo  
L2300/2400/2500 YES
T2050/2250 NO
T2300/2400/2500/2600/2700 YES
T2300E/2350/2450 NO
U2400/2500 YES
Core Solo  
T1300/1400 YES
T1350 NO
U1300/1400/1500 YES

Topics: Intel, Hardware, Operating Systems, PCs, Processors, Software, Windows

About

Ed Bott is an award-winning technology writer with more than two decades' experience writing for mainstream media outlets and online publications. He has served as editor of the U.S. edition of PC Computing and managing editor of PC World; both publications had monthly paid circulation in excess of 1 million during his tenure. He is the a... Full Bio

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