How to setup XP Mode on Windows 7

Posted by on Oct 27, 2009 in Virtualisation, Windows 7

Windows 7 was just recently released to the General Public and has been in the hands of TechNet and MSDN subscribers for a while before that, and one of the features that I have been utilising lately is “XP Mode” which is a glorified version of Virtual PC as we have known it in previous releases.  Windows Virtual PC for Windows 7 (not to be confused with Windows Virtual PC 2007) is actually one of two pre-requisites for XP mode with the other being “Hardware-assisted virtualization (HAV)”.  HAV are processors with the Intel VT, AMD-V or VIA VT feature which will need to be enabled in the conputer BIOS.

A couple of enhancements of XP mode and Windows Virtual PC for Windows 7 over legacy Virtual PC 2007 include the ability to run XP compatible applications in what other desktop virtualisation vendors refer to as “unity” mode,  i.e. the ability to launch applications directly from the Windows 7 start menu that are actually installed on the XP virtual machine itself. The second enhancement to Windows Virtual PC for Windows 7 is the ability to utilise HAV to increase performance of your virtual machine which I have been impressed with to date.

As much as we would like to run an application on Windows 7 natively we know that this may not be feasible as there will always be legacy applications that may not work natively with newer operating systems.  Windows “XP mode” is dubbed as the last resort in assisting organisations in migrating to the latest and greatest operating system to date.

So let’s begin the setup by first downloading an Intel utility which will check if the computer processor supports HAV and if this setting is enabled.  You can download this utility from the Intel site here;

The utility when launch will look like the below;


Click on the CPU Technologies tab.  Note that in this case the Intel Virtualisation Technology is already enabled.


If you have an AMD processor then you will need to download the AMD Virtualization Technology and Microsoft Hyper-V System Compatibility Check Utility here;

Microsoft have also released their own detection tool since XP Mode was released to manufacturing and can be downloaded from here;

This tool is a lot simpler and will look similar to the below when launched;


Please be aware that in some cases you may need to enable HAV from within the computer BIOS.  Now that we have HAV in check we can proceed with the setup of XP Mode on our Windows 7 machine.

The next step is to install Windows Virtual PC  which you will need to download first from the Microsoft site here;

Begin by launching the executable.


Click Yes.


Accept the license terms.


Click Restart Now to finalise the installation of Windows Virtual PC for Windows 7.

The second installation that is required is Windows XP Mode.  This can also be downloaded from the Microsoft site here; (Follow steps 1-3)


Click Next.


Select your location and click Next.


Click Finish to finalise the setup.

We are now ready to launch Windows XP mode for the first time in which it will begin a “one time” configuration process setting up our virtual machine.

We can do so by navigating to the Windows XP Mode shortcut. From the Start menu, click Windows Virtual PC, and then click Windows XP Mode.


Accept the license terms and click next.

Please note that if your machine is not HAV compatible or has not been enabled for HAV you will receive the following error message;

Unable to start Windows Virtual PC because hardware-assisted virtualization is disabled”


Continuing on with our installation of XP mode you will be prompted for the installation folder and the “XPMUser” password.  This “system created” user is used to log into the Virtual Machine automatically when booted up and run the installation applications within in.


Click Next


Select “Help protect my computer by turning on Automatic Updates now”

Click Next


Click Start Setup.


Setup will begin installing Windows XP with SP3 with the end product looking similar to the below screen capture;


The new virtual machine is now ready for you to customize it by installing the applications you want to use. After you install the applications, you can open them directly from the Start menu of your Windows 7 host operating system as per the below screen capture.  As this is considered as another machine that is connected to the network via NAT (default), I would ensure that the latest Windows Updates are installed and that an antivirus package is also installed to keep the machine secure and clean.


Hope you have found this article useful.  In summary, the setting up of Windows XP Mode consists of  three parts.  The first part installs Windows Virtual PC for Windows 7 with the second part installing Windows XP Mode on the computer. The third and final part to the jigsaw is always required. It sets up a virtual instance of Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 3 (SP3) as a virtual machine, allowing you to install your legacy applications that can then be accessed via your Windows 7 start menu.

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