Windows 7 RC Adds Virtual Windows XP Mode

A recent announcement from Microsoft should make it easier to convince Windows XP users to upgrade to the latest version of its operating system. For a while now, the company has been working on a Windows XP Mode for Windows 7 that will enable Windows 7 to run applications that were designed for Windows XP using virtualization. Sources familiar with the product recently revealed this application compatibility mode is built upon the Virtual PC technology Microsoft acquired in 2003 from the assets of Connectix.

Windows XP Mode has also been known as XPM, Virtual Windows XP, Virtual XP, and VXP. Windows XP Mode is built on the next generation of Microsoft Virtual PC 7 product line which requires Intel or AMD processor-based virtualization support to be present and enabled on the PC. Windows XP Mode is a host-based virtualization solution like Virtual PC.

By adding a compatibility mode into Windows 7, Microsoft is addressing one of the key shortcomings of Vista—compatibility issues with older software. The new feature has not been included in the beta version of Windows 7 but is expected to be available with the upcoming release candidate version. On Friday, Microsoft said it will provide the release candidate to developers next week and publicly on May 5.

As of right now, it appears the XP compatibility mode won’t come in the box with Windows 7. Instead, it will be made available as a free download for users with the professional, enterprise, or ultimate versions of Windows 7. Windows XP Mode will not require you to run the virtual environment as a separate Windows desktop. As a result, users will be able to run Windows XP-based applications alongside Windows 7 applications under a single desktop.

Windows XP Mode will make a big difference for Windows moving forward. By removing the burden of legacy application compatibility from the OS, Microsoft will be able to strip away dead technology from future versions of Windows at a faster rate because customers will be able to run older applications in Windows XP Mode.

Prior to the Windows XP Mode announcement, Microsoft could only claim that Windows 7 would be at least as compatible as Windows Vista was. Now, Microsoft can claim almost complete compatibility with Windows XP.