I want to run a Windows XP virtual machine, and not pay for any licenses (I already have a valid XP license for installing on the VM). What software would you recommend? Tips on performance and installing are also welcome.


VirtualBox is just fine, and free.

The latest release offers:

  • 3D acceleration;
  • SMP support;
  • USB pass-through;
  • Shared folders;
  • Remote Desktop Protocol;
  • USB over RDP;
  • Seamless mode.

You can find installations instructions in the user manual.

XP installed under FreeBSD in VirtualBox

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  • 1
    I can highly recommend VirtualBox. – JesperE Jul 17 '09 at 9:14
  • I've run XP in virtual box on linux for years. Virtaulbox is, by far, the best desktop virtualisation app for performance, stability and features. – Geoff Jul 17 '09 at 9:28

For the best performance I would recommend keeping the VM on a separate hard disk or at least a another partition. Also when creating the VM select the option to use fixed-size storage as using dynamically expanding storage can cause slow down as the VM file can fragment.

If possible use a computer with the Intel or AMD hardware virtualization extensions. SecurAble from http://www.grc.com/ (Windows only) can tell you if your computer has the virtualization extensions.

AS for memory XP works well with 256mb of memory but I would recommend using 512mb or more.

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VMWare Player is a good choice; free, but good features. You can create new (empty) machines at EasyVMX!.

In particular, I like the ability to run in "Unity" mode, even on the free player, allowing you to pull the guest windows into the host desktop:

Unity mode

(note that you need the VMWare Tools for Unity, though)

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Windows 7 has Microsoft Virtual PC.

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Windows Virtual PC requires a CPU with the Intel™ Virtualization Technology or AMD-V® feature turned on. This feature must be enabled in the system BIOS. For details on how to enable, visit the Configure BIOS page or check with your computer manufacturer.

The great thing is that if you download the Windows XP Mode you only have to fill in a password and the system is good to go (fully licensed as well, though you need a valid Windows 7 or RC installation). I'm not really into VMs, but I know this one has USB support out of the box.


  • Publish and launch applications installed on virtual Windows XP directly from the Windows 7 desktop, as if they were installed on the Windows 7 host itself.
  • Cut and paste between your Windows 7 host and any virtual machine.
  • Access your Windows 7 Known Folders: My Documents, Pictures, Desktop, Music, and Video, from inside the virtual Windows environment, such as Windows XP Mode.

Worked very well for me!

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  • Dude, your answer is for for another question. ;-) – GeneQ Jul 17 '09 at 9:07
  • looking for this? superuser.com/questions/6863/… – John T Jul 17 '09 at 9:07
  • I think this is the wrong answer to the wrong question? – BinaryMisfit Jul 17 '09 at 9:09
  • Haha, so I noticed, but I had an answer for this too :P – Ivo Flipse Jul 17 '09 at 9:17
  • It's worth mentioning that only the Windows 7 version of Virtual PC requires a CPU with the Intel™ Virtualization Technology or AMD-V® feature turned on. Virtual PC 2007 will work on any CPU. – Tom Robinson Jul 17 '09 at 10:30

Windows 7 Professional users can download Virtual PC and Virtual Windows XP for no extra cost.

MS Virtual PC is free, not sure about any of the others.

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  • There are a lot of requirements here, though: Windows 7 Professional, for starters... but the Intel-VT/AMD-V requirement means that this won't work on quite a large number of machines, especially laptops. – Marc Gravell Jul 17 '09 at 9:54

Microsoft Virtual Server and VMware server are also free options nowadays.

Even the esx version of VMware (which runs on the bare metal) is free.

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Tips on performance and installing are also welcome.

Keep your virtual machines on separate drives from the Host OS and the VM host software you choose. External HDs are great for this purpose. Additional spindles make all the difference in the world for VM performance.

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I would suggest Virtual PC (for pre-Windows 7) or Windows Virtual PC (for Windows 7).

The biggest advantage is the VMAdditions, which make the experience quite seamless. What ticks me off the most about running a virtualized copy of an OS is the fact that one has to constantly capture and release the mouse-pointer. With VMAdditions on Virtual PC, one doesn't have to do that, which is really, really nice. I cannot stress that enough.

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  • MS VPC has already been suggested and seamless mode or "free" mouse are nothing unique to VPC, these were introduced in VBox ages ago. – Molly7244 Oct 10 '09 at 15:17

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