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What options are there for running software that could only run on XP, but on a windows 8 box?

According to this article, the options are:

  • VMware Player
  • VirtualBox
  • Hyper-V virtualization

The article adds:

Windows 8 doesn’t include a licensed copy of Windows XP, so you’ll need a copy of Windows XP to set this up.

Does this apply to all the options? Is there a way to run XP-only software on Windows 8 without having a copy of XP? I have software that needs to interface with a USB device (serial-USB bridge).

Are there any other options?


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The majority of software written for Windows XP will work out of the box on Windows 8. If the software in question does not work on Windows 8 then you have to use either a paid or free Virtual Machine software on the market. VirtualPC which Hyper-V is based on is what powered Window 7s XP Mode. Depending on the exact usage, you might find the free Virtual Machine offered by Microsoft, to be a valid solution. How long they will offer a Windows XP virtual machine is not known. – Ramhound Dec 31 '13 at 16:07
up vote 5 down vote accepted

Depends on the software -- you MIGHT be able to get it working natively, but we can't tell you if or how that would work.

If it's old 16-bit stuff and you want to run it on a modern 64-bit OS, your only option is to use a VM, and if you want to run a copy of XP on said VM (regardless of the VM solution used), you need a license for the copy of XP you're using.

Also, the VM solution you choose will decide greatly in how far you make it passing in a Serial->USB peripheral device to the VM. So expect to try multiple, and that none of them may actually be able to pass the hardware from the host to the VM (depending on the peripheral) successfully (this is a bane of VM use).

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To run a copy of Windows running those ways, you need a license and installation media. There are no magic, legal ways to get around that. You can buy a license or get one through a work or educational discount program.

At this point buying an XP license is only possible through 3rd part retailers, as Microsoft no longer sells them.

Your only other option besides some sort of VM is Compatibility Mode, which works well, but is not guaranteed to work for every single program. In a VM, you may also have trouble with serial to USB devices, as not all of them are the same.

Your "foolproof" option is cleanly installing XP on the box.

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@Ramhound True, I didn't consider that. I suppose the better option would be doing a native install of XP. Edited my answer. – Moses Dec 31 '13 at 16:13
Its not to say the virtual machine isn't one of the very limited solutions going forward. Windows XP will very quickly reach a point where actually running it on bare metal might not be possible. You only have to look at how quickly that happen to Windows 95 and Windows 98. In less then a decade it was not even possible to install those operating system on new hardware purchased, 2 decades later, who knows if those systems are even running. I look forward to the day where operating systems, hardware, and programs are distrubuted to only support the 64-bit architecture. – Ramhound Dec 31 '13 at 16:19

I actually found an article here that explains how to do it legally(well at least they think its legal):

Unfortunately, Windows XP started asking me for activation key once it was up and running. See if you can get it to work.

Moreover, as far as license is concerned, I don't think MS even sells Win XP these days even if you decide to be a law abiding citizen and buy a legit copy. I am not promoting piracy but I hope you get what I mean.

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