Windows 7 "XP Mode" system requirements

Windows 7 "XP Mode" system requirements

Summary: User of the higher-end editions of Windows 7 (Professional, Ultimate and Enterprise) will be able to download and install the XP Mode feature that will allow them to run a virtualized copy of XP SP3 in order to minimize compatibility issues. However, to run this you'll need a PC that's up to the job.


Special Report: Windows 7

User of the higher-end editions of Windows 7 (Professional, Ultimate and Enterprise) will be able to download and install the XP Mode feature that will allow them to run a virtualized copy of XP SP3 in order to minimize compatibility issues. However, to run this you'll need a PC that's up to the job.

So far the following system requirements have bee revealed:

  • 2GB system RAM
  • A CPU that supports chip-level virtualization

There's no such thing as a free lunch, and these additional requirements above and beyond those of the Windows 7 OS itself are to be expected.

However, there's a snag. It's not easy to tell if your CPU supports chip-level virtualization (you also need to have it switched on in the BIOS, which means digging out the manual if you're not familiar with the system BIOS). Fortunately, both Intel and AMD have tools to help you find out what your CPU is capable of.

Here's Intel's utility in action:

I have heard reports of these tools giving odd results at times, but I've never had a problem with them. If in doubt check out your processor's capabilities on the manufacturer's website.

So, XP Mode is handy technology, as long as you have a PC what can run it.

Topics: Windows, Virtualization, Storage, Software, Processors, Operating Systems, Microsoft, Intel, Hardware, Cloud, CXO

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Wow...

    I'm glad I have a Mac!
    • I'm glad I'm using..

      Linux Ubuntu 9.04.
  • Another limitation: Chip-set virtualization

    Many PCs don't have that support (Intel-VT, AMD-V).
    • There should be a WARNING on the box...

      There should be big warnings on the box like this...

      [i]WARNING: This box contains a crippled version of Windows 7 with a wide variety of arbitrary limitations like:
      1. Hard-coded maximum RAM limits designed to force you to pay us again if you actually use your computer for serious work
      2. Numerous missing features like backup, encryption, remote server access, and others you will discover accidentally when you most need them
      3. No enhanced ability to run your older software designed for Windows XP. We have it. We just won't give it to you unless you pay us again.

      We will hold your PC in this partially-crippled state until you pay us a ransom for those additional features. Make checks payable to Microsoft Extortion Center...[/i]

      Perhaps if people saw this BS in writing they would realize what a bunch of jerks Microsoft has become over the years.
      • So, if MS had not offered this, everything would be fine?

        What a bunch of whiners. Hating MS is a full time job for many people on here. <br>
        My how life must suck for those who spend all of their time hating. <br>
        You are honestly saying the average user who wants a home machine and gets home premium is going to have to worry about RAM limitations? Get over it man. Windows7, which is all most people need, only requires 1 GB of RAM, maybe 2. Yeah, I can see the average home user complaining about a 16 GB limit.
        Are you suggesting that a Home Premium user will need 196GB of RAM and they may very well be buying a rack of IBM or DELL powerhouse servers that take up 4 slots that can handle that much RAM? How senseless.
        It's just like when Vista came out, forget that MS knew it would be a hard sell but there were many Microsoft people who posted before Vista was even finished that it must be done, regardless of the consequences. Ridding backward compatibility with broken software *had* to be done. Security *had* to be done. Modularity *had* to be done, and by those metrics Vista is a sensational OS and a huge hit with those of us that were able to read Vista requirements, with tools and information posted in 9 million places for businesses and consumers to be ready for the radical departure from XP. Something people like you were screaming for, for years btw, until it happened and you had to figure out how to find something else to whine about instead. Security has barely been mentioned about Vista because it has the best security built into the OS of any available You may not be able to read specs before you buy a PC but please don't lump the rest of us that love Vista and are eager to run Windows 7 in with your kind. <br>
        The specs for each OS are there in detail for everyone to see before buying. Anyone with half of a brain can decide what capacity washer they want, or if they want the 4 cylinder of 6 cylinder model of the car they are looking at. It's no different when picking out which version of OS they want and need. And here the ABM crowd was supposed to all for CHOICE. Ha! yes, but only if it's not MS. And there is only *one* choice. How sad. <br>
        What you are saying is no different than Netbooks with Ubuntu having a CRIPPLED version, a REMIX if you will, of the OS on the machine. Every UBUNTU netbook, or ANY LINUX netbook should come in a box with large letters stating THIS MACHINE HAS A CRIPPLED VERSION OF IT'S OPERATING SYSTEM. IT ALSO HAS A CRIPPLED PROCESSOR AND VERY NOISY FANS. ALSO WHEN COMPARING PRICES YOU'LL WANT TO BE SURE TO NOTE IT HAS AN 8GB SSD AND YOU'LL BE TICKED WHEN YOU WANT TO ADD A 1TB DRIVE AND 196GB OF RAM TO IT, YOU CAN'T.
      • Классно

        Классно написал.
        Сергей Макаров
      • Продолжение

        А какую систему мне установить - чтобы работали все проги и игры которыми я пользуюсь в Windows 7 Ultimatum. Подскажи умный человек пожалуйста.
        С уважением Сергей Макаров. ((:
        Сергей Макаров
      • Продолжение 2

        мой емаил (На всякий случай)
        Сергей Макаров
    • So? What is your point? MS should punish everyone, just because...

      a few models don't support a great technology? <br>
      I hope you are only pointing out the obvious and not counting this "against" windows 7 or Microsoft and that it would have been better to hold this free option back for those that can take advantage of it. that would be quite shallow and childish, now wouldn't it. (I'm sure you don't mean it that way though, right? )<br>
      This is a great feature geared toward businesses and ANY business that has rolled out Vista will have a 99.9% odds their machines support it. Any company that is still running XP will probably do a phased or full hardware refresh when they roll out Windows 7, which is going to happen in very very large numbers. The Polls all indicate that is the case. I hope you are ok with that, cause windows 7 is a great OS. Vista is a great OS. Secure as they come, stable and modular. It is a large full featured OS but it is 2009 afterall and well over 90% of the companies that have rolled out Vista recommend it very highly. The love it according to the Gartner poll posted here last year. Of course the blogger was trying to show a slow uptake of Vista, but ignored the polls questions to those that rolled it out. Well worth a look.
      When you have most every business that invested in Vista saying it's a very good to excellent OS and client, well it speaks volumes. <br>
      Now those who can't run XP under windows 7 can still obviously install XP using dual boot, which is a snap with Vista and Windows 7. <br>
      So we have a bonus for those who have the technology and we have Windows 7, a great OS for those that don't need XP any longer. <br>
      Going by old complaints about XP's security issues and monolithic design and backward compatibility created issues, you'd think those complainers would absolute love the fact Microsoft fixed all of those issues in one jump. But alas, the skunks cannot hide their odor.
      • Diagnosis

        My point was simple, one shouldn't need the chip-set to have access to using a VM.

        I would say by your response that you should consult a physician.

        Most likely, you suffer from a blocked bile duct which is causing your condition.

        Get Help. ;)
        • It's not surprising you also consider yourself...

          a qualified medical professional. Don't worry, I work with hospital staff physicians and administration on a daily basis, they take good care of me. <br>
          I'm not out to find every tiny thing I can wrong with Linux based OSes, and anyone that simply gets vuln reports knows there are hundreds. Not once have I posted any of those shortcomings, security problems and bad code in many cases. Not once. <br>
          I will openly share my thoughts on what I believe would happen to the economy if a free product were to replace the current humongous service industry and retail industry in IT. I simply fear there would be a major loss of jobs and the health of the economy would suffer. <br>
          We see post after post about "crippled" Windows and other BS that the same person would never apply to any other product in life, or if they do have a problem with most every company with retail products having various models, functionality and price points, it's only MS they seem to target. If that were their actual problem, they would have the same feelings toward Apple and IBM.
          They have zero tolerance and lack any clear objectivity, thus their lives are wrapped up in posting MS rants. These are the people that really need help. Even the man who originally wrote the Linux kernel and still writes code for it, is totally against the radical bashing we see on these sites. <br>
          And these people wonder why they never get called back. <br>
          Technologically speaking, I think there are a small number of Linux based OSes that are close to being ready for mainstream. And I would be glad to see them competing on the market. Advertising would do for Linux based systems what 20 years of an MS attack campaign has failed to touch. What normal, well adjusted person would want an OS, free or not, that is noted for having scary religious radicals as it's spokespeople? Obviously, nobody. When Linux does gain acceptance to any real degree, those people will still think they had something to do with helping it, rather than the reality of holding it back. They've only accomplished to give it a black market thug type feel and they are totally oblivious to it. <br>
          OEMs have been harrassed on here for not doing charity work and offering PCs with Linux. I think they are sick of it so they offer a few models buried on their site somewhere. Why would a for profit company want to take on the cost of giving away "free" OSes? They do have to pay their employees, and jobs are important to all OEMs, nobody wants to have to layoff workers. In turn these for profit OEMs contribute a huge amount to the economy and job market, both huge positives and the reason capitalism, even with times like now where a small minority of people in charge got greedy, is the best economic system in the world, as the U.K., Canada, Autralia, the U.S. and others demonstrate.
          How is Dell supposed to pay the workers that install Linux OSes and configure them to user's specs? If that sale doesn't pick up service, which it won't most of the time right now as the majority buying them are Linux users and don't need it, the OEM loses money. Simple as that. Why would they subject themselves to that? <br>
          Why would not savvy businessmen have ponied up for building a Linux distribution network by now if it had anything to offer the market? THAT, to me is the big question and a very strong indicator that there is little money to be made with Linux.
          And obviously w/o money to be made, there is also a very gloom outlook on jobs and money into the market and government to pay bills by way of taxes. It doesn't offer a market driven economy enough to bother. <br>
          Now if Linux based OSes could be monetized and sold on the market as another competitor, that would be GREAT!. I've never said anything different than that. <br>
          However, can you say you are fine with Microsoft continuing to do well when they release great products? Be truthful now.
          By the way, you seem to have some hitory and personal knowledge of blocked bile ducts. Hmmm. Never been a problem here, sorry. <br>
          I suspect that whoever created the Ubuntu default theme was suffering from that problem however. Turd brown sure is an odd choice for your default desktop color, but then it might be perfect for those that use it.

          As for your "get help" plea, what kind do you need and how can we get to you?
    • RE: Windows 7 that we've ALL had the benefit of more than a year's worth of Windows 7 marketing and deployment, what was REALLY the result of limiting XP Mode to only "premium" Windows 7 users?

      One of the stupidest decisions that Redmond has ever made.

      Oh, that 20-20 hindsight...think about it. With all the new technology that Intel and AMD are churning out, the sort of stuff that average, everyday consumer is BOUND to be marketed to by the various computer manufacturers. And as such, many will get the "benefit" of having a 64-bit version of Windows to go along with that i5 or i7 processor tech. So what version of Windows do these people get? Windows 7 Home Premium.

      And what sort of older software does the average consumer have already? You guessed it...lots of 32-bit software. Exactly the KIND of Windows 7 users who really NEEDS XP Mode. Except unbeknown to most of them they were sold a bill of goods that is INDEED crippled from the very start, with no method short of PAYING for a new, "premium" version of Win7 to make their problems with all of their old software go away.

      Don't believe me? Google 'windows 7 randomly freezing'.

      The bulk of these complaints center around the 64-bit version of Win7 Home Premium, which in the Big Picture isn't so 'premium' after all. Not when you're old reliable software turns that shiny and new computer into the equivalent of a giant, electrofied paperweight.

      The average consumer won't KNOW that they're supposed to buy at least the Professional version of Win7 to get XP Mode. Hell, the average consumer won't even KNOW what XP Mode least until it's too late, and the charge has already gone through on the credit card.

      Talk about the ultimate OS double-dip. Or the hassle of returning that crippled computer in the allotted time period...assuming of course said consumer realized IN TIME that it was that locked-out 64-bit version of Win7 Home Premium that was the REAL culprit in all of their system freezing nightmares.

      And to think that there are still people that scoff at the notion that Microsoft is so dense at being user-friendly. Blindsiding consumers with what essentially amounts to being damaged goods is NOT a good business strategy. What the hell was the point of the 64-bit version of Home Premium? Agonizing the average Joe and Jane over why the heck their brand new computer freezes every so often? Making those same people believe that Windows 7 is really "nobody's good idea", after all?

      The scuttlebutt is that many of these issues will be resolved in SP1. But that's NOT the point. Microsoft should have REALIZED from Day 1 that making a 64-bit version of Home Premium that had the very REAL potential for problems with older software is going to have a very NEGATIVE effect for end users, particularly those who don't visit sites like ZDNet or are tech savvy enough to keep up with the latest tech nerd information. There is NO defense for Redmond for a gaff such as this. There is NO defense for their partner computer manufacturers for a gaff like this.

      To borrow an observation commonly used to describe a certain LA Dodger: it's just Microsoft being Microsoft.
  • More Reasons For Not Upgrading

    If you are a regular, non business consumer, you get this:

    1) Non business users can't download this for Windows 7
    2) Have to check to see if your hardware can handle XP VM IF you get ahold of a business grade Windows 7 install disc.

    Good going Microsoft, way to make the regular consumer not go to Windows 7. Many still on XP can't get the VM, even if they have a chip that works with it! WOW! Then for businesses, if they don't have the chipset, they have to upgrade hardware AND software. WOW! I can tell you this: From being a System Admin in a corporation being hit by this recession, a move to Windows 7 wouldn't happen if we needed new hardware and we probably would. I thought it was bad to limit this to businesses, but now you limit it even more. WAKE UP MICROSOFT! We are in a recession and buying new pcs isn't in the budget for most places, PERIOD. I am running a dual Xeon machine, still good, but I won't get a new machine unless it craps out, even then might get a spare around here. Businesses can't just spend like they use to. I just don't get Microsoft these days....
    • This is for non-business users.

      I'm not sure how you define a 'business user' but anyone that purchases Windows 7 Professional or higher can use this feature.
      • Artificial distinctions

        The whole version model for Windows 7 is designed to drive people to
        the $400 Ultimate version. You want encryption? Business version. You
        want media center? home version. You want both? Ultimate only, my

        It's the same model cable and satellite companies use. Put two popular
        stations on different low-cost plans, and only offer them together on
        your premium plan.
        • Stop lying

          Windows 7 doesn't work that way. Pro contains [b]EVERYTHING[/b] included in the home version, including media center. Each version is now a proper superset of the previous version, meaning they keep all previous features.

          Get your facts straight.
        • Wow, did you just take business 101?

          Of course for profit companies want you to buy their more expensive models. Every company in the world wants that. <br>
          You see, when you have a free market and your company has millions of jobs in it's ecosystem, the goal is to make money. Some call it greed, but it's capitalism and drives the economy and everyone is better off in the long run. Without for profit companies, the job market would virutally vanish. (I'm well aware of the current crisis, btw. ) <br>
          Any product is like this. Cars, TVs, Meals at a restaurant. Yeah, you can only have the salad bar for free, if you buy one of the full high priced dinners. Yeah....those SOBs. I HATE them for doing that to me!! I will get them. I will sneak up and grab a plat of salad anyway by God! <br>
          Holy crap, you people are not for real, are you?
          Just buy the Ultimate version, there are free upgrades or major deals out there every month from all of the OEMs. Just get windows 7 and you'll love it. It's da bomb.
    • Except...

      That the business and enterprise environments are the only ones which would benefit from xp virtualization, the vast majority (like 99.9%) of home windows users are not using custom written applications and all major end user applications have already been released in a version supported by windows vista, and since windows 7 is natively backwards compatible with vista applications and drivers there really isn't any problem.
      Plus most new machines being sold today have chips which supprt virtualization technology, and most end users are not using Xeon machines as a desktop.

      P.S. I'm using windows 7 right now and have been since the beta came out; haven't had any compatibility issues. I'm also a user which demands more out of their computer in terms of power, tools, and applications than most home users... And on top of it all... since when have minimum system requirements for anything stopped someone from doing it anyway, all that it means from microsoft is that if you don't meet their requirements they won't be responsible for any issues which may or may not arise as a result.
    • You're running a dual Xeon

      and how old is it? If it supports x64 it's pretty much a given that it will do virtualization. And how many home users run a dual Xeon anyway? You do realize that to support both physical processors you need to go with Pro anyway, which gives you these features.

      Or did you just want something to cry about?
    • More reasons to move to Windows 7.

      What are you talking about? You don't think it's ok for a company to have a product line with different pricing for different budgets?
      More work and maintenance goes into the professional, ultimate and enterpise versions, so that's more cost, so that's a higher price. Like any product. If you were thinking of buying a cheap 32" LCD for your home office but the cheaper model only has 720p, is that a reason to not move up to LCD televisions period? Because they have a product line with varying degrees of functionality and price points.? <br>
      Wow, here in the U.S. and Canada, and the U.K. and Australia to name a few, companies are allowed to have product lines with varying feature sets and price points, where are you from? It must suck there. <br>
      Vista is an absolute great OS that has been plauged by smear campaigns. Windows 7 is the windows every ABMer pretended to cry for for years. No more backward compatibility! Better security! A modular design!
      They get all of that and of course right away prove themselves as fakes and start complaining about a feautre that has nothing to do with the new OS and how it's getting rave reviews. Sorry dude, it's going to sell like crazy. I know that ruins your day, but someone had to break it to you.