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Windows XP Mode RC Released

The release candidate (RC) version of Windows XP Mode is now available, Microsoft announced on Tuesday.

Windows XP Mode provides a virtual Windows XP (Service Pack 3) desktop experience that runs on top of Windows 7. It's powered by the Windows Virtual PC engine for Windows 7.

The RC version of Windows XP Mode contains some new features over the beta, according to the Windows team blog. For instance, users can now run attached USB devices and Windows XP Mode applications via jump lists directly from the Windows 7 taskbar. They also can disable drive sharing between Windows 7 and Windows XP Mode. The storage location of "Windows XP Mode differencing disk files" can be customized. Finally, Microsoft added a tutorial on how to use Windows XP Mode.

Microsoft recommends Windows XP Mode for small organizations transitioning to Windows 7 that still have to run XP-based legacy applications. Some XP applications will run natively in Windows 7, along with Vista applications. Users can first try the Windows 7 Programs Troubleshooter, located in the Control Panel, to see if an XP-based application will run on Windows 7, according to Scott Woodgate, Microsoft's director of desktop virtualization and Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP).

For larger organizations that need greater desktop management control, Microsoft doesn't recommend using Windows XP Mode. Instead, the company provides its Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V) solution, which is part of the MDOP suite of applications available to Software Assurance licensees.

MED-V typically might be used by organizations that deploy virtual Windows images where permissions are set. MED-V is also the preferred tool in organizations where the network is centrally monitored and maintained, according to a Microsoft blog.

Those who want to use Windows XP Mode need to read the fine print. Windows XP Mode only works with Windows 7 release-to-manufacturing and release-candidate versions. In addition, only Ultimate, Professional and Enterprise editions of Windows 7 support it. Both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows 7 can run Windows XP Mode.

In addition, to run Windows XP Mode, specific PC hardware requirements need to be met, such as having 2 GB of memory and extra hard disk storage space of 15 GB. The PC's BIOS needs to be configured to support hardware virtualization. The PC's CPU should support Intel VT ("vPro") or AMD-V virtualization technologies.

Most, but not all, Intel Core 2 processors have built-in Intel virtualization technology, but users can check to be sure here. The Windows team blog states that "all AMD CPUs shipping to customers, except Sempron, will include hardware virtualization" by the time Windows 7 is launched on Oct. 22. AMD describes its hardware virtualization technology here.

Ironically, the need to have hardware virtualization technology may mean that organizations will have to have new PCs to run their legacy apps using Windows XP Mode.

Downloads of the Window XP Mode RC and Windows Virtual PC can be accessed here.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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