Microsoft

Get the most out of Windows XP Mode with these tips

While using Windows XP Mode and Virtual PC is straightforward, there are some tips that you can employ to get the most out of this winning combination.

While Windows 7 has several built-in compatibility features that are designed to allow you to run most Windows XP applications right from within Windows 7, there are other older Windows XP applications that will not run in Windows 7 even with those built-in compatibility features. For these types of applications, Microsoft designed Windows XP Mode for Windows 7.

Installing and using Windows XP Mode is a very straightforward operation. If you have Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise, or Ultimate and the CPU and if your PC has the necessary built-in hardware-based virtualization technology, then all you have to do is download and install Windows XP Mode and Windows Virtual PC.

Once you have Windows XP Mode up and running, you can install your XP applications in the Windows XP VM (Virtual Machine) just like you normally would. You'll then be able to launch your XP applications right from the Windows 7 Start menu.

While using Windows XP Mode and Windows Virtual PC is pretty straightforward, there are some tips that you can employ to get the most out of this winning combination. In this edition of the Windows Vista and Windows 7 Report, I'll introduce you to some of these tips.

This blog post is also available in PDF format in a free TechRepublic download.

Working with Virtual Applications

By default, applications installed in the Windows XP VM are auto-published to the Windows 7 host. This means that your Windows XP applications appear on Windows 7's Start menu. You can then launch your XP applications without having to first load the Windows XP VM and then launch them from the virtual Windows XP's Start menu.

In order for a Windows XP application to be auto-published to the Windows 7 host, the application must be installed in the All Users profile in the Windows XP VM. However, not all applications are installed in the All Users profile by default.

So, what if the application that you want to be able to run from within Windows 7 isn't auto-published? Or what if an application is auto-published and you really don't want it to be available from within Windows 7? Fortunately, you can take control of the auto-published using a couple of tips.

If the XP application that you want to be able to run from within Windows 7 isn't auto-published, you can force it to be so simply by creating a shortcut to the application in the All Users profile in the Windows XP VM. When you do so, the application will be auto-published to the Windows 7 host.

Access the Windows XP VM, right-click the Start button, and select the Open All Users command. When Windows Explorer launches, open the Programs folder. Once there, you can either drag-and-drop the shortcut from Windows XP's Start menu to the Programs folder or you can launch the Create Shortcut wizard, as shown in Figure A.

Figure A

By creating a shortcut to your application in the C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Start Menu\Programs folder, the application will auto-publish to the Windows 7 Start menu.

If an application is auto-published and you really don't want it to be available from within Windows 7, you can exclude it simply by moving the shortcut from the All Users profile to the XPMUser profile. That way it will still be available in the Windows XP VM but not in Windows 7.

For example, I installed my vintage copy of Jasc Paint Shop Pro 8 in the Windows XP VM and it also showed up on the Windows 7 Start menu, as shown in Figure B. As you can see, not only did Paint Shop Pro 8 show up in Windows 7 Start menu, but so did Animation Shop 3 and the Uninstall Paint Shop Pro 8 utility. Since I really only want to be able to run Paint Shop Pro 8 from within Windows 7, I simply moved the shortcuts from the C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Start Menu\Programs\Jasc Sofware folder to the C:\Documents and Settings\XPMUser\Start Menu\Programs folder where I created a new Jasc Sofware folder, as shown in Figure C.

Figure B

XP applications installed in the Windows XP VM show up on the Windows 7 Start menu.

Figure C

By moving shortcuts from the All Users profile to the XPMUser profile, you can remove auto-published applications from the Windows 7 Start menu.

Accessing folders on the host

When you are working in the Windows XP VM, chances are that you'll want to save your data in the Documents folder on the Windows 7 host system. While the built-in Windows XP Mode Integration Features automatically provide you with access to drive C on the host system, you still have to navigate through several layers to get to the Documents folder.

Fortunately, with the help of the old DOS Subst command you can assign the Documents folder, or any folder, on the Windows 7 host system to a drive letter. When you do, that drive letter will appear in the Integration Features' Drive list, where you can see it. Then any time you need to access the Documents folder, you can just access that drive letter.

For example, suppose that you want to assign the My Documents folder to drive letter H? To do so, access a Command Prompt in Windows 7 and type the command:

Subst H: "C:\Users\{your name}\Documents"

where {your name} is your user account name. Be sure to enclose the path in double quotes if {your name} is two separate words with a space in between.

Once you add the drive letter to your Windows 7 host, it will automatically be picked up by the Windows XP Mode Integration Features and you'll find the new drive in My Computer in the Windows XP VM, as shown in Figure D.

Figure D

Using the Subst command, you assign the Documents folder to a drive letter.

Back up your Windows XP Mode VM

Even though you probably aren't storing any data in your Windows XP Mode VM, chances are that you've put some time and effort into setting it up and configuring it to work the way that you want. As such, you'll definitely want to back up your VM so that you can easily reestablish it in the event of a disaster.

You will need to back up the following files:

  • Virtual Hard Disk/Differencing Disk file C:\Users\{your name}\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows Virtual PC\Virtual Machines\Windows XP Mode.vhd
  • Parent Disk file C:\Program Files\Windows XP Mode\Windows XP Mode base.vhd
  • Virtual Machine Configuration file C:\Users\{your name}\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows Virtual PC\Virtual Machines\Windows XP Mode.vmc
  • If the Undo Disks are enabled, you will need to back up the Undo Disks file C:\Users\{your name}\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows Virtual PC\Virtual Machines\VirtualPCUndo_Windows XP Mode_{#_#_##############}.vud

Before you begin backing up your Windows XP Mode VM files, you will need to shut down Windows XP Mode VM.

You can then copy the files over to your backup media for safe keeping. Should you need to restore the files in the event of a disaster, be sure that you restore the files in the same folders.

Shut down a VM

By default, when you close the Windows XP Mode VM window, the VM goes into hibernation rather than shutting down.

To really shut down the Windows XP Mode VM requires some extra steps.

On the VM Windows's toolbar, click Ctrl+Alt+Del menu item. When you see the Windows Security dialog box, click the Shut Down button. When you see the Shut Down Windows dialog box, select Shut Down and click OK.

What's your take?

Are you running Windows XP Mode? Do you have Windows XP Mode tips or experiences that you would like to share? As always, if you have comments or information to share about this topic, please take a moment to drop by the TechRepublic Community Forums and let us hear from you.

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About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

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