Microsoft discusses Windows 7's XP mode in-depth

Earlier this month we reported that Microsoft was on the verge of announcing something major regarding Windows 7, and on April 24th our friend Paul Thurrott finally revealed what we were all waiting for. Microsoft revealed that one new feature in Windows 7 we are going to see before it RTM's is "Windows XP mode". All those rumors of a new UI or an early (official) RC release were finally put to rest (As if Microsoft would pull something like that).

Today Microsoft finally discussed "Windows XP Mode" in depth in a full QnA press release entitled "Helping Small Businesses With Windows 7 Professional and Windows XP Mode", featuring Scott Woodgate, director of Desktop Virtualization and Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP). Below is the entire QnA session which outlines the fundamentals of this new feature:

PressPass: What are you announcing today?

Woodgate: We are announcing the beta release of Windows XP Mode for Windows 7. Small businesses told us they wanted help upgrading to Windows 7. Windows XP Mode, an optional feature of Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise and Ultimate editions, helps small businesses upgrade to Windows 7 by providing a virtual Windows XP environment capable of running many Windows XP-compatible business and productivity applications. Customers can run many older Windows XP business and productivity applications within Windows XP Mode and launch them from the Windows 7 desktop with just a single click. A beta of Windows XP Mode will be made available on April 30.

PressPass: How does Windows XP Mode work?

Woodgate: Windows XP Mode is the combination of two features. The first part is a pre-packaged virtual Windows XP environment. The second is Windows Virtual PC, which is used to run the virtual Windows XP environment. Customers can install their applications into Windows XP Mode using typical installation processes such as downloading from the Web or using the product CD. Once installed, the applications are automatically available on the Windows 7 Start Menu and can be launched just like any Windows 7 program. Optionally, these Windows XP applications can be pinned to the Windows 7 Task Bar and launched using just a single click from the Windows 7 desktop.

PressPass: What types of applications are suited for Windows XP Mode and Windows Virtual PC stand-alone?

Woodgate: Windows XP Mode is best suited for older business and productivity applications such as accounting, inventory and similar applications. Windows XP Mode is not aimed at consumers because many consumer applications require extensive use of hardware interfaces such as 3-D graphics, audio, and TV tuners that do not work well under virtualization today. The sweet spot for applications that run in Windows Virtual PC is business and productivity applications that tend to conform to the basic Windows API (Application Programming Interface.) Small businesses operate under constrained resources and are highly sensitive to the time and expense required to upgrade their PC. Windows XP Mode provides small businesses with the ability to run many Windows XP applications, saving time and expense, but Windows XP Mode does not have 100 percent compatibility with all Windows XP applications. We encourage ISVs (Independent Software Vendors) and customers to install their applications in Windows XP Mode during the beta timeframe and provide us with feedback on their experiences.

PressPass: Does Windows XP Mode offer any benefits for larger businesses? How does this announcement relate to Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V)?

Woodgate: Windows XP Mode and Windows Virtual PC as stand-alone features are specifically designed for small businesses and provide an unmanaged IT experience. For larger businesses looking to reduce the cost of ownership of deploying Windows Virtual PCs across hundreds of users, Microsoft provides MED-V. MED-V is one of the six components in Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP), a dynamic desktop solution designed for better management and control of enterprise desktop environments. MED-V is the management tool for Windows Virtual PC; it builds on top of Windows Virtual PC to run two operating systems on one device. Basically, by adding virtual image delivery and policy-based provisioning, it facilitates centralized management. This is a great tool for IT pros who want to reduce the cost of managing and deploying Windows Virtual PC.
Key features that MED-V provides include centralized management, policy-based provisioning and virtual image delivery. MED-V v1 is available today for Windows Vista and provides management for Microsoft Virtual PC 2007. MED-V 2.0 will be available in beta within 90 days of the general availability of Windows 7 and will be extended to manage Windows Virtual PC on 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows 7.

PressPass: How do small businesses handle these management tasks?

Woodgate: An important consideration of working with virtualization technology is the fact that the user has both the physical and the virtual PC to maintain. Every PC requires a degree of maintenance including but not limited to keeping the operating system and applications up to date with patches, virus and malware protection, and backup. Windows XP Mode is pre-configured with the Windows XP firewall and to apply updates automatically from Windows Update. It is not pre-configured with anti-virus or anti-malware software, which is recommended. Because of the need to maintain the virtual machine, we recommend everyone make best efforts to upgrade applications to run natively in Windows 7 and use Windows XP Mode only when necessary.

PressPass: How does Windows XP Mode align with Microsoft's commitment to application compatibility?

Woodgate: With Windows 7, we've worked very hard to maintain compatibility with Windows Vista applications. We have an array of tools and resources to help with application compatibility. Virtually all Windows Vista-compatible applications, as well as the majority of Windows XP applications, run unmodified on Windows 7. For those that do not, the Programs Troubleshooter in the Control Panel provides a wizard interface to employ compatibility features that allow applications to run natively on Windows 7. For IT pros the Application Compatibility Toolkit provides finer-grained control over the compatibility features, also referred to as "shims." When an application cannot run or be natively shimmed, that's when it's most appropriate to use Windows XP Mode technology.

PressPass: How can customers get Windows XP Mode?

Woodgate: Beta testers can download Windows Virtual PC and the virtual Windows XP environment later this week. When Windows XP Mode is released to production, there will be two ways for customers to get Windows XP Mode. The easiest way will be to get it pre-installed on a PC from an original equipment manufacturer or local value-added reseller. This requires minimum configuration and delivers the most compelling experience for small to medium-sized businesses. As an alternative, Windows Virtual PC and Virtual Windows XP will be available as downloads from for Windows 7 Professional, Ultimate and Enterprise customers. Windows Virtual PC requires PCs with Intel VT or AMD-V hardware virtualization technology enabled in the PC BIOS. Windows XP Mode can be installed by anyone with reasonable PC maintenance experience; however, it is definitely easier to acquire via a new PC.

PressPass: Does Windows 7 have higher system requirements with Windows XP Mode installed?

Woodgate: Yes. We recommend that customers use Windows XP Mode on a PC with 2GB of memory. We also recommend an additional 15 GB of additional disk space for Windows XP Mode. In addition, Windows Virtual PC requires a PC with Intel-VT or AMD-V enabled in the CPU, as it takes advantage of the latest advancements in hardware virtualization.

PressPass: What have you heard from your customers about Windows XP Mode?

Woodgate: The early feedback we've received from customers on the concept is very positive, saying that they value our commitment to helping them manage their business. This new release reinforces our efforts to fuel business success by providing the right tools for our customers to flourish and succeed. By empowering our customers with Windows XP Mode, we are giving them the best of both worlds. They can now conveniently migrate to Windows 7 and move existing applications that may not have been compatible directly with Windows 7.

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This is an awesome feature - probably one of the best ideas in a long time. It takes virtualization to the next level.

Imagine - not having to worry about backwards compatibility in an OS and making it so that it is "virtualized" instead. You focus on the interface to the OS instead of actually focusing on all the minutia associated with an OS and its backwards compatibility. If an application works great on a previous version, encapsulate it in an environment that is similar, and let it be!

I think this is the right way to go - many of our business customers would love to have this feature.

This whole XP thing is pointless, if the hardware could run W7 theres no point in having XP in any shape of form.
Since you would have to run W7 under XP which would limit the resources even further than a native XP installation.
If they never needed Vista they won't need W7, plain and simple, zero cost versus any extra cost. No contest.

Times are changing and M$ empire is crumbling.

While i think this is a good idea i also feel that its a bad idea too. I think sure it will mean more businesses will adopt windows 7 but what happens when windows 8 drops the support for this? This is kind of encouraging corporations to stick to their old legacy software rather than upgrading.

The trouble is that they are low-end CPU(s) and Intel is pretty much known for "screwing" the lesser buyers. I am not really sure about AMD. They used to support virtualization on the lowend, but in truth, I really haven't checked recently.

You could just use a free solution like VPC 2k7 or move to a better one like Virtual Box. I would suggest VMware, but that is pretty costly.

My dual core system is a "Pentium Dual-Core". My friend just got a bunch of new laptops. All with "Pentium Dual-Core". Many of the popular systems I see sold are loaded with the Pentium Dual-Core CPUs. These are VERY nice CPUs.
They overclock very well. I'm running mine right now at 3.2 GHz, 1600 MHz FSB (E2220). There was no reason for any other CPU at the time of purchase, as they perform so well.
A client of mine has invested a lot of money into their systems. 3.0 GHz, 2.25 Gigs RAM, etc. They would run Windows 7 fine.
Well, none of our systems support this new Virtualization Technology.

So, besides having to dump a bunch into getting Windows 7 Professional (when it feels like I just paid for Vista Ultimate), I have to get a new CPU in order to use one of the best features. I don't want to go from my faster dual core to a more-expensive dual core just to get the virtualization, so I will probably get a Quad Core.

I use Virtual PC 2007 right now - NONE of the existing Virtualization applications (VMware, VirtualBox, Virtual PC, etc) require hardware virtualization. I don't understand why the latest Virtual PC would require it. CPUs are faster than ever, and software emulation is better than it was with the older Virtual PC.
I would like to use Windows XP applications seamlessly with Windows 7. It would be nice for my old 16-bit games like SimCity to work as well.

Also, with the Pentium Dual-Core, these chips are just Core 2 Duos that either didn't run at the default clock at the default VCore (and were clocked down), or not all of their original cache worked (so only 1 or 2 megs are left enabled).

The lack of hardware virtualization is because Intel DISABLED it on the chip. They would be able to do it, but Intel disabled it on these cheaper chips to make their more expensive ones look better.

You sound like something was given to you and then taken away. Windows 7 hasn't even been finished yet so you never had it.

Make your choice: Run Windows XP, Windows Vista or Windows 7.

If you want to virtualize on one of those platforms, again, make your choice: VMware, VirtualBox or Virtual PC.

All of these options are still available to you, you can still do software visualization. How is it Microsoft's fault that they made a new option for Windows 7, but your old hardware can't do it because you were too much of a tight-ass at the time you bought your computer (before this feature even existed) to be able to use it.

How is "Windows XP Mode" better than virtual pc?! Only that you can have shortcuts?! Would it integrate well with windows?! Is it better than VMWare's Unity mode?! (albeit, I don't consider the VMWare Unity mode as being well integrated)

So many questions not yet answered.

If Microsoft was going to argue that Windows XP Mode is useful, it should be significantly better than "Virtual PC". If using Virtual PC was a good solution it would have been used with Vista as well. Then again, why don't they just release a newer and better version of Virtual PC?! Virtual PC is lagging behind competition when it comes to OS integration between host and guest computers.

zaidgs said,
How is "Windows XP Mode" better than virtual pc?! Only that you can have shortcuts?! Would it integrate well with windows?! Is it better than VMWare's Unity mode?! (albeit, I don't consider the VMWare Unity mode as being well integrated)

Fundamentally it's the same thing but marketing plays a huge part in the adoption of a technology, which is probably why the blurb in the article carries on talking about small businesses.

Small businesses, without a 'proper' IT department, usually have a tech guy, who probably also holds another role within the business. Tell him he can get that old accounting application to run using hardware assisted desktop virtualisation and he'll probably go cross eyed. Tell him he can run it in 'Windows XP mode' and he'll probably stay with you.

That's all there is to it, really.

You get a free copy of Windows XP, which I am pretty sure that you and everyone else has already. From Microsoft's perspective, they get a toy that they can site when corporations complain about compatibility.

So in reality, this Windows XP Mode is pretty useless, and inferior to what the competition is already providing (Unity by VMWare, and Seamless Mode in VirtualBox ). The revolution in compatibility by using virtualization is around the corner, but Microsoft isn't pushing the right buttons.

Sounds similar to what Apple has done on two instances.

1. When Mac OS X was first launched in 2001, Apple provided Classic Mode, as well as Carbon API's in order to allow users to run non-OSX apps until developers made the transfer to the more modern Cocoa API's. Classic is a Mac OS 9 emulator, while Carbon allows pre-OSX apps to be run natively. Classic mode has been discontinued since the release of OS X Tiger for Intel in 2006 (Tiger PPC supports it, though), while developers must use Cocoa API's in order to make their applications available in 64-bit.

2. When Apple made the transition to Intel processors, it allowed PPC-based apps to be emulated under Rosetta until developers could move over to Universal Binaries, which allow native support for Intel processors.

Yes, but Apple at least made it look semi nice. This is kind of like the Bluebox in Rhapsody from a visual perspective. There really is nothing like having a full version of XP right in the middle of Windows 7. I think a better idea would be to make the application run transparent.

> i wish there was more options for OS on the market.

I'd argue that you've got more choice today than you probably ever have. Linux is definately usable as a daily OS, and MacOS X obviously works great.. owned a Mac now for just under a year and despite being underwhelmed at the weedy hardware on offer, the OS works fantastically :)

But I'd also suggest you cast aside your prejudices and give Windows 7 a try. It is definately definately a lot better than Vista!

The most disturbing part is that none of the popular laptop CPU's support this technology.

"Neither Intel Celeron, Pentium Dual-Core nor Pentium M processors have VT technology."

With so much of today's workforce being mobile, this could hurt the adoption of the technology or lead companies to look for another solution.

in my interactions... i find businesses usually tend to use higher end components... such as the P-series and T7xxx of Core 2 Duos, all which support Intel-VT

Because this is using a virtualized instance of Windows XP, applications running underneath it will be behaving as if they were running on Windows XP - basically because they are.

With compatability mode, it's attempting to emulate OS features of Windows XP (or other old versions of Windows) and like most people you've probably found it doesn't always work that well. Running a virtualization layer with an actual version of Windows XP on it will basically guarantee that any old XP compatible applications (aside from, as per the article, 3D or other such multimedia apps) should work perfectly.

Apple did something vaguely similar with Classic mode when they launched OSX way back.. but they've gradually faded it away over the years now that OSX is matured. It was a good way to get those who couldn't move over because of incompatible applications to come over so they could work on the old version in the interim until a native version was built.

This is a good way to lure people off Windows XP but of course the onus is back on developers to accept that Windows XP will have to die and to support Vista and Win7 properly!

Based off several comments I've seen I think there are some people that are missing the point of XP Mode.

XP Mode is not meant to convince companies with older hardware to upgrade to Windows 7. XP Mode's purpose is to get companies that are purchasing new hardware to put Windows 7 on it, instead of using downgrade rights for XP - like many did with Vista.

considering i'll be grabbing ultimate, this is a bonus, the rare app i come across that for whatever reason needs XP to function, presto, run it in XP mode

i've been reading all over the place today that we 'may' require XP licences, or does it come with some kind of special license within Windows 7? either way i have an old XP Pro license, so that doesn't really bother me, all XP users should have a license key on hand

I think quite a few computers do have hardware virtualization. But...there are many more that do not, at least at my enterprise.

Windows XP mode is a way to make the transition to 7 smoother, when buying a new computer.

The article states virtual pc needs intel-vt . I thin kxp mode just needs a decent pc. Say nothing about xp mode needing intel-vt or amd-v

"Windows Virtual PC requires PCs with Intel VT or AMD-V hardware virtualization technology enabled in the PC BIOS. Windows XP Mode can be installed by anyone with reasonable PC maintenance experience; however, it is definitely easier to acquire via a new PC."

See says virtual pc nothing about xp mode needing it. Remember Virtual pc is a different product.

yeah, the statement about that requirement is somewhat confusing

Windows Virtual PC and Virtual Windows XP will be available as downloads from for Windows 7 Professional, Ultimate and Enterprise customers. Windows Virtual PC requires PCs with Intel VT or AMD-V hardware virtualization technology enabled in the PC BIOS. Windows XP Mode can be installed by anyone with reasonable PC maintenance experience;

My understanding is that Windows XP mode uses Windows Virtual PC, thus the requirement of Intel VT or AMD-V hardware virtualization technology to use Windows XP mode

Deathray said,
My understanding is that Windows XP mode uses Windows Virtual PC, thus the requirement of Intel VT or AMD-V hardware virtualization technology to use Windows XP mode

Yes it uses it but virtual pc and xp mode act differently though.

While this will definitely help corporations... doesn't the fact that they'll need PC's with Intel-VT or AMD-V enabled CPU's going against the point?

I am not sure how many companies have computers that have those features... a lot of the times I have seen some very old computers chugging along with windows xp

Windows 7 + Windows XP mode would require new software licenses (Windows 7) and a lot of new (or upgraded) computers

Unless I am totally underestimating the number of computers in the corporate world that have CPU's with the capacity to use Windows XP mode. It looks like a lot of the processors (especially Core upwards) have the capacity, but I still don't know what computers are the most common in the workplace

The more i think about it and as others have mentioned it seems that this could be most helpful to push businesses that are purchasing PCs to choose Windows 7. Currently when purchasing new hardware Vista is available, but so is XP downgrade which many of them may choose because of software that they have yet to upgrade/test/whatever with newer versions of windows.

Yes, the whole point of this is to give small business an avenue where they can buy a nice cheap Windows 7 replacement PC without sacrificing legacy application compatibility. With these machines in the sub $500 range, this eliminates the "we need to keep these p3s to run the XXX program" argument from management/IT.

What this does do is counter the fear of replacing all of the old Pentium 4 machines and moving to a new operating system. Windows 7 has refined performance but the real world specifications still won't be much different than Vista's.

Deathray said,
While this will definitely help corporations... doesn't the fact that they'll need PC's with Intel-VT or AMD-V enabled CPU's going against the point?

that kinda would be a waste of cpu. It'd be easier just to have it as a removable hard drive. Windows XP ran just fine on vmware without additional cpu. So this article makes it even more confusing.