10 reasons why Windows 7's XP Mode is a big deal

* Date: August 3rd, 2009
* Author: Brien Posey
* Category: 10 things

Windows 7 features a new twist: XP Mode, which lets you run your
Windows XP apps without compatibility issues. Brien Posey explains why
XP Mode is significant and outlines its benefits.

One of the most exciting Windows 7 features is Windows XP Mode. It
uses a brand new version of Virtual PC to provide seamless access to
Windows XP applications, either through a virtual Windows XP desktop
or directly through the Windows 7 desktop. Here's a look at some of
the benefits XP Mode offers.

Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.
1: It solves compatibility problems

The biggest beef that most IT folks seem to have with Windows Vista is
its notorious hardware and software compatibility problems. Windows
7's Windows XP mode allows you to run Windows XP applications without
worrying about application compatibility.
2: It provides a much needed upgrade to Virtual PC

Virtual PC has been around for a long time, and although it has
improved from one version to the next, it still leaves a lot to be
desired. Among the improvements in the new version is the ability to
access the computer's physical hard drives (including the host
operating system's volumes) through a virtual machine.
3: It offers USB Support

Another much needed improvement to Virtual PC (which Windows XP Mode
depends on) is that it now offers USB support. It has previously been
impossible to access USB devices from within a virtual machine.
4: It's a way to modernize Windows XP

I know that there are those who would disagree with me, but Windows XP
hasn't aged well. First introduced in 2001, Windows XP is quickly
becoming outdated. Windows XP Mode provides enables you to run Windows
XP inside a modern operating system, which helps it take advantage of
some of the improvements that have been made to things like hardware
support and security. Windows XP itself hasn't changed, but because
Windows XP Mode is dependent on the host operating system, it can reap
some of these benefits.
5: It ensures long-term technical support

Microsoft's continued support for Windows XP has been questionable for
quite some time now. Every time Microsoft gets ready to pull the plug
on main stream technical support, they give in to pressure from
customers and extend the support period. It's great that Microsoft has
been so accommodating, but nobody knows how long that will last.
Having Windows XP Mode built into Windows 7 helps ensure that Windows
XP support will be available for many years to come.
6: Microsoft has made a commitment to XP

For the last several years, Microsoft has urged customers to adopt
Windows Vista, but most of Microsoft's corporate customers have chosen
to continue using Windows XP. By including Windows XP mode in Windows
7, Microsoft has finally acknowledged the importance of Windows XP to
its customers and given diehard XP fans a real solution that will
allow them to move forward without giving up the OS they've depended
on for almost a decade.
7: It offers seamless integration

One of my favorite things about Windows XP Mode is that it's
completely seamless. Sure, you can work within a full-blown Windows XP
virtual machine, but you don't have to. In fact, if you close the
Windows XP virtual machine, you can access your Windows XP
applications directly through the Windows 7 start menu and run those
applications seamlessly alongside applications that are installed
directly on Windows 7.
8: It's a first

This is the first time Microsoft has ever given us this type of
support for an older product. Exchange 2000 included a copy of
Exchange 5.5, but that was only included as part of the migration path
for Exchange 5.0 users. Microsoft wasn't expecting customers to
actually use both products. Making Windows XP part of the Windows 7
operating system is unprecedented.
9: It opens the door to lightweight operating systems

Windows has always had a bad reputation for being excessively bloated.
One of the reasons for the bloat is that most versions of Windows have
included a significant amount of code to provide backward
compatibility with the previous version. By relying on virtualization
to provide this compatibility, Microsoft may be able to greatly reduce
the size of the core operating system in Windows 8.
10: Future plug-ins are possible

The way Microsoft has connected Windows XP to Windows 7 through
virtualization opens the door to future operating system plug-ins.
Don't be surprised if Windows 8 gives you the ability to pick and
choose the legacy operating systems you want to support. Microsoft
could end up offering virtualization plug-ins that will allow it to
support Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7. Using this method would
allow customers to pick the type of backward compatibility they need
without having to install any unnecessary legacy code.