Rescue a Windows XP installation in Windows 8 with Zinstall XP7

Learn how to get and use Zinstall XP7 to move your Windows XP installation from a hard disk to your Windows 8 system.

A friend of mine got a new Windows 8 system and was running it along side of his old Windows XP box so that he could get used to Windows 8 yet still be able to run his older applications in Windows XP. Everything was going fine with this set up until recently when he called and told me that his Windows XP computer died and wanted to know if I could help him rescue his XP system. After talking with him for a while I discovered that the power supply on the old system had bitten the dust. While the old system would not power on, he said that the last time he used it, the system worked fine and he had shut it down like he normally did.

Suspecting that the hard disk was still intact, I told him that we could probably retrieve his data and put it on the new computer. He said that while that would be great, what he really wanted was a way to revive the Windows XP computer. We initially discussed replacing the power supply, but when I told him about Zinstall XP7 and how you could use it to move a Windows XP installation from a hard disk into a virtual environment that could be run in Windows 8, he liked that idea.

Later, we took IDE hard disk out of the old computer, connected it to his new computer via an IDE to USB adapter, and verified that it was still accessible and in good condition. We then used Zinstall XP7 to move the entire Windows XP installation into his Windows 8 system. The entire procedure was very easy and the end result provided such a slick way to switch between operating systems that I thought I should revisit this product and show you how it works in Windows 8. (Back in 2010, I wrote an article about using Zinstall XP7 to perform an in-place migration of Windows XP to Windows 7.)

In this article, I'll show you how get and use Zinstall XP7 to move your Windows XP installation from a hard disk to your Windows 8 system. As I do, I'll explain each step in the procedure.

Note: Even though the product name "XP7" implies a Windows XP to Windows 7 path, it works perfectly in Windows 8.


Keep in mind that while you can use Zinstall XP7 on two computers and move Windows XP into Windows 8 using a network connection, I am going to cover moving Windows XP into Windows 8 using just the hard disk. Furthermore, while I used an IDE to USB adapter to move my friend's Windows XP installation, on my example system for this article, I simply removed the SATA hard disk from my Windows XP computer and connected it to the second SATA connector in my Windows 8 system.

Getting and installing Zinstall XP7

Zinstall XP7 is a commercial product which sells for $89. You can purchase and download the product from the Zinstall site.

Since I'm going to be moving Windows XP into Windows 8 using just the hard disk, I'll download and install Zinstall XP7 on a Windows 8 system. Once the download is complete, just run the executable file. In a few moments you'll be prompted to enter the serial number you received along with the email address you used to purchase the product, as shown in Figure A.

Figure A

Fig A 8-16.png

You'll be prompted to enter the serial number you received in order to activate Zinstall XP7.

Performing the transfer

As soon as the installation is complete, Zinstall XP7 will launch and prompt you to identify your migration scenario. Since I am running the program on my Windows 8 system with the Windows XP hard disk connected, I will identify the migration scenario by selecting I only have this PC and the selecting Yes, I am migrating from another hard drive, as illustrated in Figure B.

Figure B

Fig B 8-16.png

In this scenario, you select the migrating from another hard drive option.

You'll then see a Zinstall window that will begin searching for the Source and Target computers. When it finds them, the Go button turns green, as shown in Figure C, and you can click it to begin the migration procedure. Here you can see that Zinstall found the 160GB hard disk that contains the Windows XP installation and will migrate it to a folder on my Windows 8 system.

Figure C

Fig C 8-16.png

When the Go button turns green, you can click it to begin the migration procedure.

The actual migration is a lengthy process involving multiple operations, as shown in Figure D, and can take several hours depending on the size of your Windows XP installation. For instance, my 160GB hard disk took a little over an hour to finish.

Figure D

Fig D 8-16.png

The actual migration is a lengthy process that involves multiple operations.

Working with the two systems

Once you complete the migration step, you'll see a Zinstall icon in the system tray of you Windows 8 system. To access your Windows XP installation, you can just double-click on the Zinstall icon. You can also access your Windows XP installation by right-clicking on the Zinstall icon and selecting the Switch to Guest Desktop command.

When you are in Windows XP, you'll also find a Zinstall icon in the system tray. To go back to your Windows 8 installation, you can just double-click on the Zinstall icon or right-click on the Zinstall icon and select the Switch to Host Desktop command. This process, which Zinstall refers to as switching channels, is illustrated in Figure E.

Figure E

Fig E 8-16.png

You can use the Zinstall icon in the system tray to switch between Windows 8 and Windows XP.

You'll also find several shortcuts on your Windows 8 desktop that allow you to initiate the desktop switch and access Windows XP's My Documents folder inside of Windows 8; however, I found both of those shortcuts much more time consuming than simply double-clicking the Zinstall icon and changing to the Windows XP channel.

You'll also discover that Zinstall XP7 places shortcuts to all of your Windows XP applications on Windows 8's Start Screen and each one is prefixed with a Z^ to make it easy to identify. If you find that this makes the Start Screen overcrowded, you can remove all the shortcuts using the Advanced tool.

Right-click on the Zinstall icon and select the Advanced command. When you see the Advanced application, select the Remove shortcuts on Exit check box, as shown in Figure F, and click OK. Then, shut down Windows XP and restart Windows 8. When you get back to Windows 8, you'll see that all of the shortcuts have been removed.

Figure F

Fig F 8-16.png

You can Remove the Windows XP shortcuts from the Start screen.

To make working with the two systems as easy as working on one system, the Windows 8 and Windows XP environments are fully integrated. This means that you can copy files and text between the two systems just like you copy files between two folders and text between different applications. For example, to copy a file from the Windows 8 environment to the Windows XP environment, just right-click on the file, select Copy, switch to Windows XP, and paste the file.

For larger-scale file copy operations, access your Windows XP environment and go to My Computer where you will find a drive letter Z: under the Network Drives section. When you open it, you will find links to all of the drives on your Windows 8 system as well as a link to the Documents folder on your Windows 8 system.

Network and Internet access is automatically enabled. If Windows 8 has access, so does Windows XP. This works with any kind of connection, wireless included.

What's your take?

Will you use this Zinstall XP7 to migrate your Windows XP system to Windows 8? 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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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.


Be advised, this software most likely won't work for you. It's expensive: $160. When you alert their tech support, they'll tell you that it probably won't work, but they'll look at it remotely for another $100+. When you complain, they will sent you a refund form that they will not honor. And they sell through Paypal, and Paypal's "guarantee" doesn't cover software, so sellers of bad software can operate through them with impunity. It's quite a racket they have over there. 

Hi I am Salvatore
Hi I am Salvatore

I have a question? both pcs are running, fair to assume that all I need us a usb 3.0 connection as the bridge?


Or you could go to, which redirects to TechNet, download disk2vhd, and use it to make a .vhd file from the USB-connected disk from the PC with the fried power supply.

With that and a suitable 64 bit Windows 8 computer - (generally) Core i3/5/7 or comparable AMD, not Core 2 or earlier - you can create a client Hyper-V guest and boot the .vhd.

There are small enough differences between the Vista, 7, and 8 driver models that many Vista and 7 drivers can be installed and run on 8, even if their vendors have not chosen to finance the testing required to claim they're supported.


What about direct access to USB on the XP side? Or peripherals like PCI cards? I have some systems that are on XP, but have older proprietary hardware connected to the USB ports, serial and or PCI. Would this still work?


USB memory sticks and external disks can be mounted on the host and their files shared.

If you can get an old printer working on Windows 8, perhaps with a Vista or 7 driver, you can share it.  If your new PC does not have an LPT or COM port for your old printer you can plug in a PCEe or PCI adapter if there's a slot for it, but that's no guarantee the driver will work.

Some older cameras and scanners can use the generic Twain driver on Windows 8, even if their old software only runs on old systems.


Another and (arguably) simpler alternative would be to install a new power supply in the XP box.  This should be very doable, since it's likely that the existing power supply didn't take the motherboard with it when it died.  No mention of smoke, flames, burnt-circuit-board odors, popping noises, etc.

Replacement power supplies for older PC's, even for proprietary systems like Dell, are readily available from suppliers like Amazon, Newegg, TigerDirect, Fry's, and eBay, to name a few.  Prices are usually reasonable.


New and used replacement power supplies are cheap and get you back in business in short order with low $ and effort costs, but you're not off the hook.  Take the failed power supply as an early warning that it's time to come up with a replacement plan that works on your schedule before your old PC forces the issue.

Even if you migrate an old XP system to new hardware, Hot Fixes will stop next April, so unless you understand the risks involved and how to minimize them, don't push it.

roger houston
roger houston

Well yes, but no. A Win8 Pro license gives you a Win7 and XP license...for VM's and things like this. You can even "downgrade" from Win8 Pro to 7 or XP using your Win8 Pro license key.

So while removing the XP drive from the old machine might "terminate" the old license [although I don't agree with this, where does that valid license I own go? the old machine is unusable at this point so it's not there] the new Win8 Pro license covers your XP use anyway.


First, a warning. Most people buy commercial desktops and laptops [i.e. Dell, HP, ...]. As per Microsoft's OEM licensing, the OS is tied to the physical machine. Therefore what is described here could terminate the license for windows XP.

Second, seems Zinstall XP7 has limited usage. Why bother. There are plenty of apps to go from P2V as well as others to run them.

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

@GisabunYes, it's true that when moving an operating system from one computer to another, you need to be concerned with licensing issues. 

You have to determine whether you have proper licensing to simultaneously run more than one copy of Windows XP using a Volume License Key or whether you have the proper licensing to transfer Windows XP from one system to another. Keep in mind that you can only transfer a Retail license that you acquired by purchasing a Windows XP disc, not an OEM license that you acquired by purchasing a computer with Windows XP preinstalled. (An OEM license is specifically tied to that computer.)

You can investigate a PDF version of the Windows XP Professional license agreement (EULA)  found on Microsoft's Download page, which includes the following sections pertaining use and transfer:

Section 1 - Grant of License, You may install, use, access, display and run one copy of the Product on a single computer, such as a workstation, terminal or other device ("Workstation Computer").

Section 4 - Transfer, You may move the Product to a different Workstation Computer. After the transfer, you must completely remove the Product from the former Workstation Computer.


Hello, i want to know, how  graphics performance of  this XP? for excample to run 3d game,thanks.

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

@tbyoml Graphics performance is slightly less than if you were running directly on the hardware. Zinstall creates a virtual graphics adapter that will run most common graphics oriented PC programs, but doubt that a 3D game would run very well.


@Greg Shultz @tbyoml Most likely, your Windows 8 hardware is faster than your old XP hardware, so it should be at least as fast or faster, even if it uses a 'software' graphics adaptor.  I would also hope that my old 32 bit XP applications will work on a newer 64 bit computer.


Wow, this is absolutely amazing! Never thought it's even possible.Thanks Greg.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin moderator

Greg has shown us several different ways to have a virtual installation of Windows XP running in a Windows 7 or 8 environment. Will you take advantage of one of these methods?


I have  a new 8.1 system with 2 displays and tried Greg's method of setting up a virtual machine but it was only a small window that I could not expand to full screen. I want to run my old XP on the 2nd display completely independent from my 8.1 system and Zinstall XP7 sounds like the perfect solution. How to get around that window size problem is holding me back.

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