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What are Virtual PC and XP Mode, and What Will They Do For Me?
Author: KB Admin Reference Number: AA-02799 Views: 5737 Created: 2012-08-05 19:00 Last Updated: 2016-06-03 11:25 0 Rating/ Voters

Virtual PC

Virtual PC is a program one can install to act as a container for other operating systems to install and run under a host operating system. Such software is referred to as 'virtualization software'. The need for this kind of software is realized when the primary operating system on one's computer will not support a software program one wants to run. One example of this is encountered by those with Mac computers that want to run BibleWorks, which requires the Windows environment to run. The virtualization program is installed, and a container session created in which Windows can then be installed. With Windows present, the Mac user can then install BibleWorks.

Over the years Windows has developed in a number of ways, one of which is the way it accesses the computer's memory. This is referred to as 'bit technology', which over time has increased as computers have increased in capability and power. Older versions of Windows accessed memory in 16-bit segments. That later increased to 32-bit segments, and with the release of Windows Vista and Windows 7, it increased to 64-bit segments.  This continues to be the case for Windows 8 and 8.1. 

As the Windows versions changed, so also did the programs written to run in them. For a program to run in any given version of Windows, support for its bit technology must be present. When Windows was changed to be 32-bit, additional technology was required to run 16-bit programs. This was accomplished transparently within the environment with what was termed a virtual machine. The same is done for 32-bit programs that run in the 64-bit environment of Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8. 

For a number of reasons, 64-bit versions of Windows (Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8 or 8.1) do not support 16-bit programs. BibleWorks 3.x, therefore, will not install to computers running those versions of Windows. Though they are not 16-bit versions of the program, BibleWorks 4 and BibleWorks 5 may not always run well under Windows 7 and Windows 8.  Thus Virtual PC in some form may be a solution here as well.

XP Mode

Until April 2014, the answer for those with older programs was to install Virtual PC and XP Mode.  XP Mode, which runs a copy of Windows XP, is still available, though the user is cautioned that this Windows version is no longer supported, and thus could be vulnerable to malware or other problems.

For those that have Windows 7 Professional, Ultimate or Enterprise, it is possible to download and install software that will provide an XP environment in which to install and run older programs. If those programs could run under Windows XP, then they can run in this environment. This is called XP Mode. 

For those that have Windows 7 Home Premium, or any edition of Windows Vista, Virtual PC is still available as a free download from Microsoft. It will be necessary, however, to acquire a copy of Windows separately.   In Windows 8 the utility "Hyper-V" replaces Virtual PC.  (Hyper-V has very specific system requirements.)  XP Mode is not available for Windows 8.  One may want to consider other virtualization solutions such as Virtual Box, VM Ware or Parallels, to name a few.

For more information about Windows Virtual PC and Windows XP Mode, visit the following website -
http://www.microsoft.com/windows/virtual-pc/. Be careful to read the system requirements thoroughly so as to obtain the version of Virtual PC that will work on your computer.

Important Note Regarding Windows 10

XP Mode is Not supported under Windows 10, so it may be best to continue using an earlier version of Windows, such as Windows 7 or Windows 8.x if there is a continued need for Windows XP.  An alternate solution would be to install virtualization software (such as Oracle VirtualBox) in which Windows XP can then be installed.  (Microsoft apparently still offers the files for Windows XP, but users will make use of it "at their own risk.")

Last Update: ELM/June 3 2016