Windows XP Mode RC - Serious improvement over beta

Windows XP Mode RC - Serious improvement over beta

Summary: Back in April, Microsoft introduced XP Mode beta for Windows 7. I covered the beta pretty extensively, and some might say rather harshly, and gave the product a disappointing F grade. However, one of the great things about this job is that you get to make a difference, and it seems that Microsoft took on board a lot of my complaints and worked on improving the product.

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Back in April, Microsoft introduced XP Mode beta for Windows 7. I covered the beta pretty extensively, and some might say rather harshly, and gave the product a disappointing F grade. However, one of the great things about this job is that you get to make a difference, and it seems that Microsoft took on board a lot of my complaints and worked on improving the product.

Today the Release Candidate of XP Mode for Windows 7 has been released, and this product is a much improved version of the beta that I originally looked at.

So, what's changed? Well, to begin with the RC seems like a more focused product. Well, maybe not the product, but the message behind the product. It's now clear that XP Mode is a "last mile" compatibility technology rather than something everyone will want or need to run. When the XP Mode beta was released, there was an awful lot of nonsense talked about what this technology would and wouldn't be capable of. This confused a lot of people, and gave others an inflated expectation of what the product could do.

There's also a clearer message when it comes to security. Microsoft now strongly recommends that XP Mode is protected by anti-malware and anti-virus software. Again, this gives end users a clear message that's easy to follow. Several security vendors now offer multiple licenses to allow the product to be installed multiple times, making it ideal for XP Mode users.

OK, but what about the product itself? What changes will you see there? Well, there are plenty:

  • You can now attach USB devices to Windows XP Mode applications directly from the Windows 7 task-bar.   This means your USB devices such as printers and flash drives are available to applications running in Windows XP Mode, without the need to go into full screen mode.
  • You can now access Windows XP Mode applications with a “jump-list”.  Right click on the Windows XP Mode applications from the Windows 7 task bar to select and open most recently used files.
  • You now have the flexibility of customizing where Windows XP Mode differencing disk files are stored. 
  • You can now disable drive sharing between Windows XP Mode and Windows 7 if you do not need that feature.
  • The initial setup now includes a new user tutorial about how to use Windows XP Mode.

These changes pretty much address all the concerns I had about XP Mode back during the beta stage. Sure, another changed I'd like to see is the requirement for hardware virtualization to be removed, but I'm assuming that this is a performance thing.

Side note: If you don't have a CPU that supports hardware virtualization (Intel-VT or AMD-V) then you won't be able to use XP Mode, or for that matter Virtual PC 7. However, there is a way to install Virtual PC 2007, with a little bit of messing about.

If you'd like to take XP Mode for a spin, here's what you need:

Windows XP Mode RC requires RC or RTM version of Windows 7 Professional, Ultimate or Enterprise. It also requires  additional 1 GB of RAM, 15 GB of available disk space, and processor capable of hardware virtualization with AMD-V or Intel VT turned on in the BIOS.  

I welcome the changes that Microsoft have carried out to XP Mode, turning it into a good, solid product. Good work Microsoft!

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Topics: Operating Systems, Microsoft, Software, Windows

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11 comments
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  • So whats their new grade rating? - NT

    .
    x21x
  • RAM requirements

    "It also requires additional 1 GB of RAM"

    So I'm guessing that means 2GB on a 32-bit host OS and 3GB on a 64-bit host OS (??)

    It also seems kind of strange that they support this on a 32-bit host OS, but they need VT turned on.
    Joe_Raby
  • RE: Windows XP Mode RC - Serious improvement over beta

    So has anyone tried to run Halo (yes the old Halo game) in XP mode?
    pctech4u
  • RE: Windows XP Mode RC - Serious improvement over beta

    It really good that Microsoft has made improvements to XP Mode. With further tweaks, this product could be the solution that gets many folks off of Windows XP. The final improvements needs to include games and the removal of the hardware virtualization. Once those two improvements are made, XP mode will definitely be the killer of any arguments as to hold on to a 8 year old operating system that desperately needs to be retired.
    Solid Jedi Knight
    • Please? I Spent a Week w/My Wife Shrieking HATE! About Win 7 RC

      It didn't run iTunes right, it conflicted with her sound card, it wouldn't install Earthlink Mailbox (which she's used since the mid-Nineties, and refuses to leave!) - and she HATED the look!

      Mind, this is the same woman who asked me how much a new Mac would cost(!)....

      PS: For myself? Soon as a shrinkwrap upgrade is available, I'm putting Win 7 on my old XP PC, b/c I still think it's the best thing MSFT has come out with in quite some time....
      drprodny
      • "It didn't run iTunes right"

        iTunes isn't designed to run 'right' on Windows. I guess it's just designed to run 'wrong'.

        Apple should just slap a 'Made for Mac' logo on it and add one of those huge fine-print disclaimers to the bottom for Windows users that they like to criticize in their TV ads.
        Joe_Raby
  • User tutorial???

    Microsoft actually added a tutorial - What a novel idea! Too bad they didn't think of this back when they introduced User Account Control in Vista. To this day there are countless Vista users (and those who switched back to XP) who complain about Vista who don't know the User Account Control exists or how to deal with it. A UAC tutorial surely would have been a good step to make Vista more universally accepted. Maybe they are starting to catch on...
    flyerbry
  • XP mode- can you edit the HOSTS file?

    The one reason I flat-out refuse to use Win_7 is the inability to edit the HOSTS file.
    Using Explorer, you can drill down to windows -> system32 -> drivers -> etc -> hosts and even open the file... but you can't SAVE it. UAC demons strike again!
    Apparently, once you've found a file, you have to ABANDON Explorer, back to Start, rigght click on Notepad, "Open As Administrator", THEN drill back down to the hosts file!
    If XP mode lets me bypass this stupendously stupid setup, it could be the Win_7 saviour!
    {Alternative: rick click on file, and "Open As Administrator" from within Explorer. But it's too late to make changes to the RTM)
    alan_r_cam
    • Editing the hosts file? Seriously?

      How often are you editing your hosts file?

      XP mode is a VM solution, there's no chance it'd bypass security on the host OS, that'd just be dumb.
      rtk
      • Dumb and dumberer

        Not allowing a HOSTS file to be edited may be considered dumb, until you meet someone that complains about it.

        Is this guy the next trying to write the next WinFixer variant or something?

        Leave the HOSTS file alone!
        Joe_Raby
        • Dumb and dumberer

          Yes you can edit the hosts file, and I understand why administrators would want to.

          You must use the "Run As" feature and run Notepad.exe as an administrator on the machine. Then open and edit away...
          VanCleave