I am a little confused about what XP mode in Windows 7 (Professional) even is. XP mode seems to be a mode in which you can run XP-compatible applications that are otherwise incompatible with Windows 7. The web seems to say that XP mode is a downloadable add-on that, in theory, works with any version of Windows 7 -- provided that you have a processor that supports hardware visualization.

What I don't understand as I price various Windows 7 Professional laptops (my first) is why some models appear to come with XP mode, whereas others do not. For example, the XPS line of Dell laptops does not appear to come with (nor be compatible with?) XP mode -- see, for example, this page on Dell's site. If you configure one of these machines, there is no mention anywhere that I can see of XP mode. On the other hand, the Latitude line of Dell laptops does mention XP mode -- see, for example, this page. You can choose to include XP mode, and you even have your choice of 32- or 64-bit OS.

Is there any reason for this difference? The processors and video cards available for these systems seem very comparable. Do you think it would be wise to select a system with XP mode preinstalled, or do you think that installing XP mode on my own, from the web, could be difficult because of potential incompatibilities with the processor and/or video card?

Thanks for your time!


3 basic requirements:

Personally I would not pay to have it come pre-installed on a new PC.

  • Especially since you can download VMWare Player and a number of other virtualization applications for free, and VMWare has its – LawrenceC May 9 '12 at 23:46
  • The requirement for hardware virtualisation was lifted in a later update. microsoft.com/windows/virtual-pc/support/faq.aspx – Indrek May 9 '12 at 23:58
  • I will say that from my tests with older systems that don't support hardware virtualization, while you might get it working that has to be relatively beefy system to get decent performance out of it. Since most platforms these days do support hardware virtualization anyway, this is still sort of an unofficial requirement. (There are certainly configurations where it'll work acceptably, though) – Shinrai May 10 '12 at 0:45
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    @ultrasawblade An important difference between XP Mode and VMWare Player etc. would be the WinXP license. I believe XP Mode comes with a licence for Windows XP, whereas for VMWare you'd have to provide one. – frozenkoi May 10 '12 at 0:49
  • frozenkoi has pointed out the salient advantage of XP Mode over generic virtual machine software. I could not use/activate the OEM license of the PC's original WinXP in a virtual machine after upgrading to Win7HP. If your WinXP is not a retail license (or not yet activated) and you want to use WinXP in a virtual machine, then the Pro edition might be the more economical choice. – sawdust May 10 '12 at 1:41

Well, Windows XP mode is meant for business users to run legacy applications under Windows 7. It is less uesful for home and game users as the thing uses remote desktop protocol to connect to the VM and can't usefully render any 3D graphics or play video.

Thus it's just natural for the business oriented Latitude lines to promote it and even have it pre-installed on their system images. Most XPS users will probably never use it, so why waste the disk and advertising space?

As long as you have a Windows 7 Pro / Enterprise / Ultimate license. XP mode is just a 400MB download anyway.

  • "Remote Desktop Protocol"? No, it runs in a VM, that isn't even remotely right. – Shinrai May 9 '12 at 23:25
  • @Shinrai I just wish people who have no exprience with the technology in question could verify their facts before they post: blogs.technet.com/b/windows_vpc/archive/2009/08/27/… Scroll down to "Engineering Overview". Long story short: the old MS Virtual PC has no seamless mode, so to integrated it better with Windows 7, they just run applications as remote apps. – billc.cn May 9 '12 at 23:34
  • I'll admit that I forgot the actual container interface in Windows 7 had some of the same support, so scratch where I said 'isn't even remotely right'. I do think terming it like that is a bit disingenuous, though, since they still run in a VM, which is a much bigger hurdle for performance on a lot of systems (especially if they don't support hardware virtualization already). Also, please keep the personal attacks out of here; it's very uncalled for and childish (and anyway my credentials are made explicitly visible; I might suggest you do the same). – Shinrai May 10 '12 at 0:41
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    You're RDPing into a VM... why is wrong to say as much? – Multiverse IT May 10 '12 at 4:48
  • Points taken. Answer edited. – billc.cn May 10 '12 at 9:09

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