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!