Microsoft To Release XP Mode and MED-V 2.0 Betas

Windows XP Mode, a feature designed to help small businesses migrate to Windows 7, will be available as a beta for download on April 30.

Windows XP Mode, a feature designed to help small businesses migrate to Windows 7, will be available as a beta for download on April 30.

Microsoft had briefly described this feature on Monday, but the company published a full Q&A on the topic on Tuesday. It turns out that XP Mode is a last-ditch solution for small businesses that need to run older Windows XP-based applications, even as they switch to using Windows 7.

Windows 7 will be available in release candidate form as early as April 30, with general release on May 5. Microsoft has not yet given a firm date for the final commercial product release of its newest operating system. However, when Windows 7 is released, XP Mode will be specifically designed for use with just three versions: Enterprise, Professional and Ultimate.

The new XP Mode is not designed for consumers or for large businesses managing Virtual PCs for "hundreds of users." Large organizations instead should use the Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V) solution, according to Scott Woodgate, Microsoft's director of desktop virtualization and Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP).

MEV-V 2.0 is expected to be available as a beta "within 90 days of general availability of Windows 7," according to the Q&A. MED-V is a management application that works with Windows Virtual PC, as well as the new XP Mode. It's part of the MDOP suite of applications that come with Software Assurance licensing, a more expensive Microsoft licensing option.

In addition, MED-V 2.0 will have extended hardware support. The 2.0 software will work with Virtual PC on 64-bit versions of Windows 7, as well as 32-bit versions. The current MED-V 1.0 only works with 32-bit Windows OSes.

XP Mode has some specific hardware requirements, including "a PC with 2 GB of memory" and "15 GB of additional disk space," according to Woodgate. The PC BIOS needs to have specific hardware virtualization technology enabled, such as Intel-VT or AMD-V, he added.

The kind of applications that XP Mode will enable will be older XP-based applications, such as inventory and accounting apps. However, XP Mode really represents the last option for a small business trying to run these apps.

According to Woodgate, Windows 7 will run "virtually all Windows Vista-compatible applications, as well as the majority of Windows XP applications." Instead of using XP Mode, he recommended first trying the Windows 7 Programs Troubleshooter, located in the Control Panel, to see if an XP-based application will "run natively on Windows 7."

IT pros also have the option of running the Microsoft Application Compatibility Toolkit for greater control over compatibility details.

"When an application cannot run or be natively shimmed, that's when it's most appropriate to use Windows XP Mode technology," Woodgate said.

XP Mode isn't optimal for consumers, who tend to run hardware interface-intensive applications. Examples include "3-D graphics, audio, and TV tuners" that Woodgate said "do not work well under virtualization today."

XP Mode can be installed by IT pros, but users will also be able to get it preinstalled from OEMs and PC resellers.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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