Microsoft removes hardware virtualization barrier to running XP Mode

Microsoft removes hardware virtualization barrier to running XP Mode

Summary: Microsoft is making a slew of virtualization-related announcements on March 18 -- including one that will be welcome by customers who've been stymied by the chip-level virtualization requirements for running Windows 7 in XP Mode.


Microsoft is making a slew of virtualization-related announcements on March 18 -- including one that will be welcome by customers who've been stymied by the chip-level virtualization requirements for running Windows 7 in XP Mode.

Effective immediately, Windows XP Mode no longer requires hardware virtualization technology, Microsoft officials said today. XP Mode is a feature of Windows 7 Professional or higher that allows companies to run XP applications that are incompatible with Windows 7 in a virtual environment.

Until today, XP Mode would only work on PCs that included CPUs that supported chip-level virtualization. Gavriella Schuster, Microsoft General Manager of Windows Commercial Product Management admitted during a phone interview this week that users were confused as to which PCs offered this technology. Some PCs that claimed to didn't support XP Mode. To enable more users to take advantage of XP Mode, Microsoft found a way to eliminate the need to have virtualization turned on at the BIOS level. The company is releasing an updated version of XP Mode today to users and OEMs for download, she said.

Update 1: If you are an existing XP Mode customer, there will be no need to get the new bits, Microsoft officials said. If you are not and will be downloading the new bits, there's no need to worry about whether your CPU has built-in virtualization support. From a spokesperson:

"Customers already using Windows XP Mode with hardware virtualization should continue using it. Customers not yet using Windows XP Mode can start using the product without having to worry about hardware virtualization. For Windows XP Mode, we expect the performance will be more than acceptable with or without hardware virtualization. For developers using Virtual PC with Windows Vista or Windows 7 virtual machines we recommend HAV as the non-HAV is only tuned for XP Mode."

Microsoft also is going to be introducing new virtualization technologies as part of Windows Server 2008 R2 Service Pack (SP) 1, Schuster said. She wouldn't say when SP 1 (for server or Windows 7 client) is coming, but did say that the new virtualization technologies will be the only new features introduced with SP1. (Everything else in SP1 will be fixes, instead of features.)

These new features include a new graphics acceleration platform, known as RemoteFX, that is based on desktop-remoting technology that Microsoft obtained in 2008 when it acquired Calista Technologies. There also will be a new addition to Hyper-V that will dynamically adjust memory of a guest virtual machine on demand; this feature also will be part of Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1, Schuster said.

Among the other virtualization announcements Microsoft is making today:

  • Licensing model changes for virtual Windows desktops: Beginning July 1, 2010, Windows Client Software Assurance customers will no longer have to buy a separate license to access Windows in a VDI environment. In addition, on the roaming-rights front, as of July 1, 2010, Software Assurance customers and new Virtual Desktop Access customers will have rights to access their virtual Windows desktops and Office applications hosted via VDI on secondary, "non-corporate" network devices, like home PCs and kiosks.
  • New agreements with Citrix Systems: The two companies are working together to enable the high-definition HDX technology in Citrix XenDesktop to support the new Microsoft RemoteFX platform.  Microsoft also is kicking off a “Rescue for VMware VDI” promotion with Citrix, which the Softies are describing as a "Cash for Clunkers trade-in of VMware View licenses to Microsoft VDI Standard Suite and Citrix XenDesktop VDI Edition licenses at no additional cost. "

To help users wade through the details of today's virtualization announcements, Microsoft is holding a Webcast at 12 noon ET on March 18. Microsoft also is kicking off a 100-city, worldwide series of events on the variety of desktop and datacenter virtualization offerings from Microsoft and its partners.

Update 2: Here's more on how and where to get the new bits allowing you to run XP Mode on any CPU (granted you are running Windows 7 Professional or higher). From Microsoft:

The update to Windows Virtual PC to support running on systems without hardware virtualization is now available for download.  You can grab it here:

•    For 32-bit host operating systems:

•    For 64-bit host operating systems:

More information from the Knowledge Base here:

"One thing to note: While Microsoft supports the use of Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 on Windows Virtual PC – when running on systems without hardware virtualization support we only support the use of Windows XP," according to the company.

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


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Probably the best option:

    "There also will be a new addition to Hyper-V that will dynamically adjust memory of a guest virtual machine on demand" it possible to do that with the parent partition? Like what does the parent partition do except provide an interface to the hypervisor and allow you to create VM's? If you aren't doing management tasks on virtual machines through that parent, why not scale back its memory requirements so that guests can use it? If the hypervisor exists below even the parent partition, why would it be a problem to do the same thing with it as you can with VM's? Does the hypervisor not have at least some access to control certain aspects of the parent partition?

    I like Hyper-V, I do - especially from a licensing cost standpoint. You buy Windows Server, and you automatically have a virtualization option available for free (whether you use Hyper-V Server, or the included Server 2008 Hyper-V role). The biggest complaint I have is that Microsoft still uses the standard Windows Server 2008 system requirements for running the parent partition. That is, 2GB of RAM. So whenever I want to build, say, a low-cost SMB server, I have to make sure there's an extra 2GB of RAM for the parent partition. I dunno if anyone has been watching, but RAM prices are going UP right now. If you wanted to build a cheap server with a single-socket CPU and, say, Small Business Server 2008 virtualized, AND running smoothly for any more than 20 users, you need to dedicate more than the minimum 4GB requirement. 8GB is preferable. So if you only have an 8GB Xeon 3x00 series system, you only effectively have 6GB for VM's after you allocate enough to the parent, if you follow Microsoft's specifications. If you want to run multiple VM's in a small business environment to maybe separate an LOB app from SBS, that limits your options. If you're talking about doing an SBS Premium Hyper-V setup on a single box, you'd have to use 4GB for the SBS Standard VM, 2GB for the parent Windows Server 2008, and if you follow Microsoft's specifications again, 2GB for your VM of Windows Server 2008.
    • Memory ...

      ... is just something you'll need. Period.

      The LAST thing you want is your host OS' running out of room and slowing down every VM running on the box.

      12GB of DDR3 server memory (3x4GB sticks) is about $400 these days. Not a massive amount for a server and a HECK of a lot cheaper than running multiple physical server boxes.
    • I'm not sure why you'd have a parent server

      to run a single virtual guest OS at all. That seems kind of strange.
  • Is 2 gig ram a serious issue?

    Where I am, 1 gig stick of Kingston PC 3200 ECC Dual Rank RAM is $95.

    A Kingston ValueRAM 4GB PC2-5300 kit (2x2gig) ECC is $159.

    I can't see how $200 for an extra two gig (or more) of RAM is a serious problem for an SMB server.
    • It's not just the cost, it's the feasibility

      On Intel 3200 series chipsets, the maximum is 8GB. If you're using 2GB sticks, fine. They aren't expensive. You can only go to 8GB in total though.

      On 3420 chipset boards, the maximum is 16GB for unbuffered ECC DIMM's, but you'd have to use 4GB sticks. If you're buying those, you can't build a server with even a half-decent storage system for under $2000. 4GB unbuffered DDR3 ECC sticks sell for over $400 APIECE!
      • Then replace your motherboards

        You can't have it both ways: The host OS is the most critical OS running on the box - if it runs out of room and swaps like crazy, ALL your VM's will choke.

        If you want the benefits of replacing several physical servers with one server hosting several VM's, then you have to buy a box powerful enough to run the host + n VM's.

        I don't know where you're getting your memory from, but NewEgg has 4 x 4GB DDR3 1600 sticks for ~$850 - that's ~$220 each. If you want fully unbuffered ECC RAM then you're going to have to pay a premium and for what? In my experience, RAM fails VERY infrequently and I've seen ECC servers fail just as often as a well-built non-ECC servers. Is ECC [b]really[/b] worth the premium?
        • He's not...

          It sounds as though he's running a single SBS server under a virtualized parent OS. Perhaps he should save the money on the host OS, run SBS native on the PC and get more memory for the native OS? I really don't understand why you'd virtualize a single OS like that. Mostly what we use it for is so our clients don't have to roll out legacy versions of Windows on new server installs for old software. 2008 R2 for the host and primary functions of the server, apps that needs a 32-bit 2003 environment go into a VM. Seems a simple solution. I'm really at a loss as to why you would run just one guest OS as the primary OS.... To save on backup software maybe?
  • About time!

    I think MS recognized that slow adoption among small businesses was caused in part by the lack of backward-compatibility.

    With this news, I've already sat down, as the IT Manager, with the GM to map out the upgrade schedule for Win 7.

    JJ Brannon
    • If you have to upgrade machines...

      Consider getting AMD processors. All current AMD processors have hardware VT support.
  • RE: Microsoft removes hardware virtualization barrier to running XP Mode

    I downloaded it, and it still doesn't work. Throws an error saying it needs the VT support. I guess they did the announcement, but didn't put up the new bits.
    • Why not you can sue Microsoft?

      Why not you can sue Microsoft? If XP Mode don't work on Windows 7 such as applications and PC game.

      That really sad! :(
      • Can someone sue you

        for the dumb comments you make and for wasting our time.
    • Curious

      I tried it yesterday on a machine whom CPU (from Intel of course) doesn't support virtualization at all and it work almost flawlessly. Though it seems a bit slow.
      Are you sure to have installed the XP Mode update ?
  • How can I play old PC games...

    How can I play old PC games on Windows XP on Windows 7???? I want see XP with DirectX support to allow play whole games on it! I heard old games such as Bomberman Atomic, Overload, etc refuse work on Windows 7! How get old games to work on Windows 7?

    If old games refuse work on Windows 7, can get me pissed off easy! I will end up to sue Microsoft without warning! I am biggest fans of Windows XP for gaming!

    Microsoft give us more, more, more problems! Stop that! Microsoft need stop bother Windows XP fans! Why Microsoft remove 16 bit support from Windows 7? Let 16 Bit alone and allow old games and programs to running on it.

    Please fix now. Plz!!!!
    • Sue Microsoft - How Sad

      Then don't upgrade. That is your answer. Or call the maker of that game and say release a patch so I can still play it. Microsoft does not make those [b]3RD PARTY[/b] software and games so it is [b]NOT[/b] Microsoft's responsibility to make sure everyone else's older software works forever. Microsoft does not instantly say you have to stop using XP and in fact they are going to provide updates and support for the OS for at least 4 more years and even then you do not have to stop using it if you do not want.

      Based on your commentary you do not sound like the most computer experienced person as there have been many many older programs pre-Vista/Win7 that work fine or can be made to run by using things like XP Mode or Compatibility Mode by going to the compatibility tab under the executable file's properties. But if these are 16bit applications then sorry you cannot live in the past forever. Set up another old computer to run the old OS and your old games and move on with your life.

      Good luck with that lawsuit. I hope the judge doesn't laugh too hard.
    • Let it go man.

      16 bit is dead. Let it go... Keep an extra rig around if you would like to or don't upgrade, heck you could even dual boot Windows 7 and Windows XP for those legacy apps, but either way Microsoft is moving on.
      The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • Grow up and stop playing games

      That's pretty much what I decided to do. I now own a Mac and gaming has become a past time.
      • Grow up and...

        ... stop worrying about what others do for their own entertainment.

        Oh, by the way, gaming's making inroads on the Mac, as well (see recent Valve announcement re: Steam, HL2 engine, among others.)
        • People forget..

          that the gaming industry is why we have such advanced hardware right now, and at a cheap price!

          I give the gamers their due! - Salute!!
    • Sounds like you need to come out of the stoneage...

      ...there ConsoleClassix.

      That's wonderful thinking, since you can't play your DOS games on Windows 7, sue Microsoft.

      Nobody told you that you HAD to install Windows 7 on your computer, you can still get valid copies of Windows XP online, how about running dualboot. That way you get what you want, and we get what we want. That being not having to put up with your "keep the stoneage around" foolishness.