Windows

Windows 7 learning curve made easy with seamless windows

If you are considering the move to Windows 7, the learning curve can be tough. In this blog post, IT Jedi Rick Vanover showcases a way you may not have thought of to make the transition.

I will be the first to admit that I have been a Windows XP hold-out. I have decided to skip Vista for my professional computing environments. While I do use it at home, I hadn’t made the switch for work-related computing, initially for compatibility reasons and ultimately for being the old dog declining to learn the new trick. The compatibility statement frequently is not given enough priority -– there are plenty of systems that may not work on the new version of Windows or Internet Explorer for administrators. I have a solution that you may like as well –- seamless XP windows.

I have long been a fan of Sun xVM VirtualBox, a free virtualization package, for various levels of virtualization, and the seamless window function has been a lifesaver for me transitioning to Windows 7. With a seamless window, the virtual machine can be Windows XP running on the Windows 7 host. In this configuration, I have both operating systems available on the computer. While Windows XP mode launches a Virtual PC-based XP virtual machine -– I find myself using xVM VirtualBox anyway and would rather consolidate platforms. Figure A shows a seamless Windows XP virtual machine running on Windows 7:

Figure A

Figure A

Here we can have a separate inventory of software, including Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 or 7 (instead of version 8 that comes with Windows 7) for compatibility. You also will have a separate inventory of drive letters configured with the virtual machine and can install a VPN client if needed. I think this is the way to go as a transition tool to Windows 7, as the XP virtual machine can be launched and shut down on demand.

How are you transitioning to Windows 7 for use with administrator tools, ensuring application compatibility and your own learning curve? Share your comments below.

About

Rick Vanover is a software strategy specialist for Veeam Software, based in Columbus, Ohio. Rick has years of IT experience and focuses on virtualization, Windows-based server administration, and system hardware.

33 comments
dlragsdale
dlragsdale

I simply just dive into any new OS... I learn much more quickly that way, because I am forced to. I realze that everyone is no like that, so a tool like this might be good for those who are scared of change

b4real
b4real

Than XP mode of W7.

sonicsteve
sonicsteve

Most of the users I support have trouble understanding one OS. Offering a computer that runs Windows 7 and XP in a VM environment would likely be just as much headache as the learning curve that 7 will introduce. Another issue would be licensing. I have a Volume License for 150 workstations. We have 143 in use with plans to add 15-20 more workstations in the next few years. To run a VM I would need a lot more licenses. To be honest if I wanted to run VM's of XP I would likely consider Linux before Windows 7. This way they get used to a new environment that could one day eliminate the need for Licenses all together!

illusionbuster
illusionbuster

I have windows7 64 Ultimate loaded with dual boot to XP. Machine is ASUS Mobo M3N78 pro with AMD Athlon X264+ 2.9 Ghz w/4 Gig Mem. I also installed the virtual XP mode, but I must admit that running in XP mode under W7 is slow, even slower than if I dual booted into XP, there are times when it seems like it hangs but then it finishes, so I avoid the XP mode. If i need XP I just boot it. Not familiar with the other VPN's but if someone else has success with the same setup I am open to a suggestion. But I am happy for the most part with what I see so far in W7.

wlportwashington
wlportwashington

I've tested Sun's xVM Virtual Box here on an XP machine and it locks up all the time. I have found it very unstable and not very reliable. Sun (now Oracle) should go back to the drawing board with this one. to test Windows 7, I replaced the HD in a test machine with an old one here and loaded Windows 7 onto that. Hard drives are cheap enough today to do this with. As far as Windows 7 performance, so far so good, even with the older apps that we run. I am impressed.

trex0314
trex0314

Can you have multiple virtual OSs? I would be interested in going the other way on this and run the VM software on my Vista laptop and install Windows 7 to test and XP on a sep install so I can run the apps I have problems running on Vista.

ctaylor
ctaylor

Windows XP Mode includes a licensed copy of Windows XP. Sun's xVM VirtualBox does not.

Rockaby
Rockaby

Having to maintain the apps in two operating systems could be an issue. If we are talking about the training of the UI, I think a staff member of IT could put together a presentation and have people introduced to it before getting a pc loaded with it. Everyone knows how to use a mouse and keyboard. It is a matter of where everything is now located and how to get around in the interface. A few hours or day of time spent putting together a good presentation once could help introduce the os.

cwood
cwood

I have a test workstation that has two xeon 5420's and 16GB ram running win7 64 bit and it is not stable at all. Causing me to remove it and not test it's functionality with xp. I would add that the solution that MS has is not useable as well and I can only hope that it gets better. I like 7 so far but have switched my home machine to it from just a month or so in. I don't run old software at all so this may be what is hindering all the xp people.

b4real
b4real

But, if you have a license for XP that can run as a virtual machine - you can use Windows 7 for free for 13 months - and be OK.

chamblin
chamblin

Running XP in a VM is not transitioning at all. My suggestion would be to run a terminal server or Citrix server with the older apps for those few compatibility issues and force your internal programmers to update there code to work. Don't stay in the dark ages.

b4real
b4real

That is true. I wouldn't recommend it for every user, as in the post. As an administrator, there is plenty of stuff that doesn't work with IE8, and my VMware VI Client is not supported on Windows 7 (though we think it works correctly). For these reasons, I must have supported platforms available - and this is cleaner than XP mode.

eldergabriel
eldergabriel

I don't think of it as a matter of "understanding an OS", rather it's a matter of being familiar with a particular gui and desktop environment. If set up properly, most normal users have no trouble running xp inside another desktop environment. I've set up more than a few dual-core systems running 64-bit linux, with a virtualized xpsp3 installation that is accessible via a single-click on an icon that I've placed on their gnome panel. From what they've told me, they've been happy so far; particularly about the lack of malware in their primary desktop environment (gnome). And, believe me, none of these people are anywhere near what could be called power users. So, while I agree that many typical computer users do have their, shall we say, "challenges" ;), I would assert that such a scenario is comfortably do-able for most. I also agree with your last 2 sentences!

b4real
b4real

Running XP as a different VM on xVM VirtualBox is definitely faster. Thanks.

Aakash Shah
Aakash Shah

I have to disagree with your VBox comment. I use VBox on a few systems and it runs very well. I actually prefer VBox over the other VM systems since VBox is small, easy to install and fast in my experience. It appears you may be having some compatibility problems. I'm curious, have other virtual programs given you problems? For instance, how does Microsoft Virtual PC 2007 work: http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=04D26402-3199-48A3-AFA2-2DC0B40A73B6&displaylang=en (get SP1 too: http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=28c97d22-6eb8-4a09-a7f7-f6c7a1f000b5&displaylang=en).

Aakash Shah
Aakash Shah

Yes, you can pretty much virtualize anything. So, yes you can virtualize both XP and Win7 on your Vista host. However, a lot of the new features of Win7 require it's new GUI. Unfortunately virtualized systems don't usually have enough graphics power to run Aero and hence you won't get to experience the new GUI. But, if your goal is to only test your apps for compatibility purposes then, it will work perfectly.

b4real
b4real

I make no licensing recommendations!

b4real
b4real

You can have the xVM XP VM off when not needed.

rkuhn040172
rkuhn040172

And I'm not a Mac fan. As a matter of fact, I hate Macs but I have had to support one lately. Parallels does the same thing on a Mac and it is slick. Running XP on OSX.

b4real
b4real

I have had very good luck with xVM VirtualBox. Make sure your versions are up to date.

me19562
me19562

Perhaps your problems could be cause by lack of support to your hardware. I'm currently running Win7 64bit also with an AMD Phenom 8650 X3, 6GB RAM, 2 HDD and ATI Radeon 3870 and my only issue so far is that there is not driver for my all-in-one printer.

sonicsteve
sonicsteve

If my servers had the ram, I think I might even consider switching using Linux and Terminal server. It gives them the familiar environment, introduces a new one, and transitions nicely. Trouble is that I think my servers would run out of ram pretty darn quick. At any given moment we can have 100 or more users logged in. I don't know what the memory requirements are to do this but I doubt my pitiful 2GB on my servers will cut it.

b4real
b4real

By having a VM of XP, it is a transitory aid - to provide time for everything to migrate upward in version support.

george.hickey
george.hickey

I've been running xVM virtual machines on a 64 bit linux host without any problems. I put it on my XP (SP3) machine at home and was able to get a 32 bit Linux install done without any problems and I haven't noticed any stability problems. To be fair, I haven't used it a whole lot so maybe I just haven't used it enough to see problems...

trex0314
trex0314

I installed XP so far within virtual box but cannot networking going. Tried the administrative repair and uninstalling the virtual host adapter with no luck.

MikeGall
MikeGall

To run XP in Win 7 you need a chip that supports hardware virtualization (AMD-V or Intel-VT). So unless you have newish hardware and picked a high end CPU you won't have this option. Chances are most business desktops won't have the high end CPU's in them at the moment. So users are still looking at a hardware upgrade even with Windows 7's reduced requirements.

b4real
b4real

Make sure the guest is using a host interface - not the NAT (default).

Aakash Shah
Aakash Shah

The reason for my post was that it appeared that you were trying to start a mac vs pc debate by your statement "Parallels does the same thing on a Mac and it is slick". However, you've clarified from your response that you weren't "making any comments for or against anything", so ignore my comment. Also, it appeared from your original statement that Parallels was only available for the Mac platform, when it is actually available for both and so I wanted to clarify that in my original post too. Otherwise yes, I agree that OSS should be compared with commercial softwares to help make them be more competitive. I personally have been using VBox for a few years now and have been very pleased with it and recommend it.

rkuhn040172
rkuhn040172

1) The discussion isn't about Win7 XP mode it is about Sun xVM VirtualBox. 2) Why can't I compare a free vs a commercial program? Isn't that the whole idea behind open source? 3) I wasn't making any comments for or against anything, I was merely saying it strongly resembled Parallels.

george.hickey
george.hickey

... I know it's obvious but you have to switch on virtualisation in the BIOS of your machine. I've been running XP, Linux and Solaris VM's on xVM on a 64bit Linux host (CentOS 5) at work without any problems. I recently put 64bit Win 7 on my machine at home - I'm must try it out and see how I get on.

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