Windows XP is Free with Windows 7

Upgrades to a new operating system almost always causes compatibility problems with older applications that you were using. One way to get around this is to install the previous operating system in a virtual machine so that you can continue using the old apps on any system that can run the VM.

One of the best kept secrets is that Windows 7 comes with a free Window XP virtual machine. It’s not available on the installation DVD. You need to download three components from Microsoft to install it:

  1. Windows XP Mode
  2. Windows Virtual PC
  3. Windows XP Mode Update

You can find these files on the Download Windows XP Mode page and the total download size for all of this is around 483 MB.

Once installed, you have a licensed version of Windows XP that can run all of your old applications. Keep in mind that you should also install a virus scanner (i.e. Microsoft Security Essentials) even if your Windows 7 system is already running one, but a firewall isn’t necessary if Windows 7 has one installed.

After installing XP mode, run Windows Update to install the latest patches for optimal security (this will take about 2-3 hours). Something to consider is backing up your virtual machine after you set it up. This is in case something goes wrong in the future with Windows XP and you have to reinstall it. If its backed up, you can just copy the VM files and your back to where you saved it.