Microsoft Windows XP Mode Released to Manufacturing

Microsoft has released to manufacturing its Windows XP Mode, which allows users of Windows 7 Professional, Ultimate and Enterprise editions to run older applications in a virtualized Windows XP environment. The program is intended to assist small and midsize businesses that are migrating their IT infrastructure to Windows 7 and may have trouble using their older enterprise applications on the new operating system.

Microsoft announced Oct. 1 that Windows XP Mode, which uses virtualization technology to allow users of certain versions of Windows 7 to run applications in a virtual Windows XP environment, has been released to manufacturing.

"Thanks to everyone's feedback, we're happy to announce that Windows XP mode has RTM'd today," Brandon LeBlanc, a Windows communications manager, wrote on The Windows Blog. "We expect to make the final release of Windows XP Mode available via the Microsoft Download Center on Oct. 22." That date also marks the general release of Windows 7, Microsoft's newest operating system.

Microsoft originally issued the Windows XP Mode Release Candidate on Aug. 4. The program seemed very deliberately designed to circumvent the backward-compatibility complaints that many users had about Windows Vista. Those compatibility issues were cited by certain businesses as a key reason for keeping XP as the primary operating system for their users, even as it forced them to maintain aging systems.

Windows XP Mode runs applications within a virtualized environment running Windows XP Service Pack 3, and works with Windows 7 Professional, Ultimate and Enterprise editions. It is designed for small and midsize businesses undergoing the migration to Windows 7 that need backward compatibility for certain older productivity applications.

Users will be able to access applications running in Windows XP Mode through the Windows 7 task bar by right-clicking, and can choose where they store their Windows XP Mode differencing disk files. There is also an option to disable drive sharing between Windows XP Mode and Windows 7.

"We expect many Windows XP applications to be compatible [with] Windows 7," LeBlanc explained in his blog post. "However, Windows XP Mode is meant to serve as an added safety net so [SMBs] can migrate and run Windows 7 without any roadblocks."

Microsoft has previously recommended that users install anti-malware and antivirus software in Windows XP Mode in order to prevent any possible system exploits.