Microsoft removes hardware virtualization barrier to running 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.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

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: http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=837f12aa-1d37-464e-ae59-20c9ecbebaf6

•    For 64-bit host operating systems: http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=e70dd043-e262-43c0-a002-446567f1e2b4

More information from the Knowledge Base here: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/977206

"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.

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