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. Users 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.
Windows XP Mode is best suited for older business and productivity applications such as accounting, inventory and similar applications, according to Microsoft. 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.
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.
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.
Windows XP Mode is also 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. Because of the need to maintain the virtual machine, Microsoft recommends everyone make best efforts to upgrade applications to run natively in Windows 7 and use Windows XP Mode only when necessary.
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.
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 users 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. As an alternative, Windows Virtual PC and Virtual Windows XP will be available as downloads from Microsoft.com 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.
Microsoft also recommends that users use Windows XP Mode on a PC with 2GB of memory. An additional 15 GB of additional disk space for Windows XP Mode is also recomended. 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.