back to article Cheat Win XP death: Your handy guide to keeping snubbed operating system ticking over

Windows XP's date with destiny has passed. As of Tuesday, Microsoft will NOT be releasing any new security updates. With one in five PCs still running Windows XP, there's a chance you are among those whose computer is now running an unsupported operating system. What now? Doing an in-place upgrade to Windows 7 isn't a good …

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  1. Gordon 10 Silver badge
    WTF?

    One Question

    Why enable automatic updates if the VM can/will never access the internet?

    1. stucs201

      Re: One Question

      Or if there aren't going to be any more updates (the whole reason for this exercise).

      The only reason I can see is that if you don't have it on you'll have to put up with notifications about it being off. It would have been nice if the final update would have adjusted this behaviour.

      1. Sandtitz Silver badge

        Re: One Question

        If you're running Office 2007 or 2010 you'll get automatic updates through Windows Update.

        Same goes with SQL Server, Visual Studio and so on.

    2. Anonymous Bullard

      Re: One Question

      It might. Depends on your requirements (eg, accessing an IE-only intranet).

      You could say there'll be no updates again - but there might be.. like IE>6?

    3. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
      Coffee/keyboard

      Re: One Question

      Correct me if I am wrong but I am pretty sure if you use the MS AV option it still downloads these via Windows Update (At least thats what it appears to do on Windows Vista).

      Obviously if you are not going to use it disable Windows Update and associated Services.

      1. James O'Brien
        Facepalm

        Re: One Question

        You are wrong in a sense. MS announced that even that part will be disabled eventually:

        "(If you already have Microsoft Security Essentials installed, you will continue to receive antimalware signature updates for a limited time,"

        If someone want to clue me in on the reasoning behind this decision I would love to hear an explanation that doesn't make my head explode at the stupidity of it.

        1. Annihilator Silver badge

          Re: One Question

          "If someone want to clue me in on the reasoning behind this decision I would love to hear an explanation that doesn't make my head explode at the stupidity of it."

          I would guess because any new malware aimed at XP is going to require XP patches which won't be forthcoming.

          I'd be surprised if any AV company is going to have a crack at providing an XP AV solution going forward.

    4. Manolo

      Re: One Question

      "Why enable automatic updates if the VM can/will never access the internet?"

      Because those updates don' t only fix exploits that can be remotely exploited, but also all other kinds of bugs?

    5. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge
      Boffin

      Well, duh...

      Some obvious points:

      1. Running old versions of Windows or DOS within Virtual Box is pretty standard. My place of business has been doing it with Win 98 & Win 95 for years, due to legacy issues with needing to access old documents in discontinued file formats where the old applications will only run on Win 98 or earlier.

      2. There's no need to run Virtual Box on a Linux machine, unless you like Linux. Running Virtual Box (and running your discontinued Windows versions on it) works just fine in Win 7 & 8, or even on a Mac.

      3. If you are really paranoid, there are ways to allow the Virtual Box VM to access some things on the corporate network but not access the Internet.

      4. Always keep an up-to-date backup of the VM's, in case they get hosed.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Or Another Way

    Back up drive, convert to VDI or VMDK and then add appropriate BIOS to VBox or VMware.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Or Another Way

      I've looked at this approach, but I haven't tried it myself. This article looks promising:

      Convert your existing Windows XP system into a virtual machine

      "Using the vCenter Converter, I converted a live Windows XP system into a set of virtual machine files. I then copied those files over to a Windows 8 system and used VMware Player to run a fully functional Windows XP virtual machine."

      http://www.techrepublic.com/pictures/convert-your-existing-windows-xp-system-into-a-virtual-machine/

      I'd appreciate feedback from anyone here who has tried this technique.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Or Another Way

        Yeah I did this a while back for a dell d530. I had an acronis tib back up of the machine lying around and wanted to run it so used VMware converter (only supports earlier tib format, acronis 11 and earlier if memory serves me) to change to VMDK. Used VMware but needed to use a dell bios rom or XP whined about activation.

        1. Bradley Hardleigh-Hadderchance

          Re: Or Another Way

          Taken from the VMware vCenter Converter pdf

          ------------------------------------------------------------------------------

          Third-party virtual machines or system images

          Acronis True Image Echo 9.1 and 9.5, and Acronis True Image Home 10 and 11

          (.tib).

          Symantec Backup Exec System Recovery (formerly LiveState Recovery) 6.5, 7.0, 8.0,

          and 8.5, and LiveState Recovery 3.0 and 6.0 (.sv2i format only).

          Norton Ghost version 10.0, 12.0, and 14.0 (.sv2i format only).

          Parallels Desktop 2.5, 3.0, and 4.0 (.pvs and .hdd). Compressed disks are not

          supported.

          Parallels Workstation 2.x (.pvs). Compressed disks are not supported. Parallels

          Virtuozzo Containers are not supported.

          StorageCraft ShadowProtect Desktop, ShadowProtect Server, ShadowProtect Small

          Business Server (SBS), ShadowProtect IT Edition, versions 2.0, 2.5, 3.0, 3.1, and 3.2

          (.spf).

          The Microsoft VHD format for the following sources:

          Microsoft Virtual PC 2004 and Microsoft Virtual PC 2007 (.vmc) Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 and 2005 R2 (.vmc)

          -----------------------------------------------------

          So yeah, 11 and earlier, but not as early as 8, which I have a load of images for. Bummer. I'd really love to find a way to make a Virtual Disk out of them. It would save me a lot of time and trouble rebuilding them. Maybe there is a way.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Or Another Way @ Bradley Hardleigh-Hadderchance

            Here's an idea.

            Restore your old tibs to a spare hd using true image v 10 or 11 (I think they deal with v8 ?) and then just image them again using true image 10 or 11. It might work provided your back ups have not corrupted after all this time.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Or Another Way

        Another approach (if using Virtual PC/Hyper-V/Virtualbox, not sure about VMWare) might be a P2V conversion to VHD format using the extremely handy Disk2VHD utility that uses Volume Shadow Copy to build a VHD.

        My experience with it has ranged from the trivially easy to the frustrating and unsuccessful, depending on the PC being P2Ved, so as ever YMMV.

        1. (AMPC) Anonymous and mostly paranoid coward

          @Andrew Fernie

          I also like DIsk2VHD. TBH, the only time I ever had problems with it was when the network connection between the source and target became shaky, was less than optimal or had too many hops.

          Problems like this can be quickly solved by putting both systems on the same switch or linking with a cross cable.

      3. vis1/0n

        Re: Or Another Way

        I tried it and it worked - it was really simple even over the network. Now my boss does not have to go into windows 8 except for to click resume or suspend. That is a great function as well - to leave a desktop intact and resume months later ...

        Best thing (apart from still being licensed for Office 2003) is that we can print to our ancient HP Laserjet 5si without any work - having given up trying to find the correct drivers for this workhorse.

  3. ElNumbre
    Stop

    Danger Will Robinson

    Some of the instructions on this article feel a little close to the limit of legality with regard to licencing. I hope El Reg's lawyers have reviewed this article before it went to press.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Danger Will Robinson

      Yep, I looked into this approach a little while back.

      Many people will be using XP machines that came with an OEM version of XP. Unlike retail versions of XP, the OEM licence can't be transferred to a different machine. Windows 7 Professional, of course, includes a valid XP license so this isn't an issue.

    2. hammarbtyp

      Re: Danger Will Robinson

      It would of been a nice gesture that once MS had thrown support under the bus, they could of done likewise with the licensing requirements. However I won't hold my breath.

      They are probably worried about a free unencumbered XP becoming a competitor to there latest and greatest (ignoring the fact that XP is pretty easy to pirate and if you want a free OS there is lots of choice out there). They should of instead looked the Adobe Photoshop CS2 example and see how releasing non-supported software actually encourages lock in

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Danger Will Robinson

      Yup, time to call the Lawyers! This is from an earlier copy, but:

      1.1 Installation and use. You may install and use one copy of the Software in a single virtual machine on a single computer, such as a workstation, terminal or other device (“Workstation Computer”) that contains a licensed pre-release copy of Windows 7 Ultimate edition, to design, develop and test your programs for use with the Software. Virtualization software is required to use the Software on the Workstation Computer. The Software may not be used by more than two (2) processors at any one time on any single Workstation Computer. You may not use or test the Software in a live operating environment unless Microsoft permits you to do so under another agreement.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Danger Will Robinson

        "that contains a licensed pre-release copy of Windows 7 Ultimate edition, to design, develop and test your programs for use with the Software. "

        That sounds a lot like an agreement for preview or beta software on MSDN or TechNet. It's definitely not the actual licencing terms for XP Mode, for which there are (and I quote):

        "no special licensing requirements for using Windows XP Mode; it is free if you have Windows 7 Premium, Windows 7 Enterprise, or Windows 7 Ultimate. For more information, see Install and use Windows XP Mode in Windows 7."

        It doesn't mention Windows 7 Professional, but the 'more information' link in the page explicitly mentions it.

    4. Rodrigo Valenzuela

      Re: Danger Will Robinson

      Yes, the legal aspect is a problem.

      Specially this part: " Of course, you may well have one on a sticker on your PC case or knocking around somewhere.".

      Most probably, the sticker on your PC case is an OEM license, which according to the EULA:

      "1.2 SOFTWARE as a Component of the COMPUTER - Transfer. This license may not be shared, transferred to or used concurrently on different computers. The SOFTWARE is licensed with the COMPUTER as a single integrated product and may only be used with the COMPUTER. If the SOFTWARE is not accompanied by HARDWARE, you may not use the SOFTWARE. You may permanently transfer all of your rights under this EULA only as part of a permanent sale or transfer of the COMPUTER, provided you retain no copies of the SOFTWARE. If the SOFTWARE is an upgrade, any transfer must also include all prior versions of the SOFTWARE. This transfer must also include the Certificate of Authenticity label. The transfer may not be an indirect transfer, such as a consignment. Prior to the transfer, the end user receiving the Software must agree to all the EULA terms."

      In other terms, you can't use an OEM version of XP in any computer, except the one where it was first installed.

      So yes, be careful.

      R

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Danger Will Robinson

        Hmm. Isn't this one of those one-sided contracts that tried to establish trade restrictions that may actually be illegal? I mean, if we're throwing law around..

      2. auburnman
        Trollface

        Re: Danger Will Robinson

        XP hasn't been transferred to a new computer, honest. This is the same computer, I've just upgraded the Motherboard, Ram, CPU, Graphics card, Hard Drive and chassis. It's the same power cable and screws I've always used.

        1. Jamie Jones Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: Danger Will Robinson

          Bollox.

          Hyperthetically, if I have a valid license for XP that is no longer in use, I'm perfectly entitled to transfer it to another installation if it's a transfer and not a copy.

          Why do people still think EULAs are above the law?

          Adding to that, breaking a contract doesn't automatically mean you are breaking the law anyway.

          1. Jamie Jones Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: Danger Will Robinson

            "Hyperthetically"

            Thank-you fellow commentards for not commenting on that abomination of a brain-fart (honestly!)

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Danger Will Robinson

              Thank-you fellow commentards for not commenting on that abomination of a brain-fart (honestly!)

              Sometimes we take pity on people, but you've now exhausted the quota for this year.. :p

          2. oiseau Silver badge
            Mushroom

            Re: Danger Will Robinson

            > Bollox.

            Exactly.

            Took the word right out of my mouth.

            I have accumulated at least a half dozen or so W2000Pro / XPPro licences in the past years.

            And I'll bloody well do what I please with them.

            Cheers.

        2. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. Anonymous Bullard

        Re: Danger Will Robinson

        It's still running on the same physical computer... just encapsulated within a "compatibility layer".

        Besides, I'm sure most readers here have collected plenty of valid XP licences throughout the last decade.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Danger Will Robinson

        Rodrigo et al., there is a difference between breaching the law and not honouring a private agreement between two parties--not to mention the matter of enforceability of said private agreement, or its compliance with local laws and regulations.

        If you wish to see how this works in practice, I suggest searching court records for relevant cases in your jurisdiction. Apart from the scarcity of said cases given how widespread software licences are, it is a rather different story that you will see there compared to what you may read on press releases and advertising (!) from certain parties.

    5. This post has been deleted by its author

  4. Charles 9 Silver badge

    Hardware?

    Plus this solution only works if the only snag is software. If your problem is due to EOL hardware, you can't virtualized and you're basically on your own.

    1. JQW

      Re: Hardware?

      Even talking to external hardware by a network connection can be a bar to virutalisation if the device talks using a different protocol to TCP/IP. NetBEUI is one such protocol that last worked under Windows XP, but there's several others.

      1. Grikath

        Re: Hardware?

        yeah , but if you're *still* using stuff dependent on extreme legagy protocols for mission-critical tasks , that you have a whole range of other problems, of which XP not being supported anymore is really minor.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Hardware?

          That's the thing about the computer industry vs. other industries: they move at different paces. In most other industries, it's pretty common to obtain a very expensive piece of equipment and expect this equipment to last a few decades at least (otherwise, amortizing the cost over the life of the equipment isn't worth it). Many of these industries are small, highly-competitive, and wary of the competition. This means there are no standards in them since no one trusts the other to agree on anything. End result: the machines become black boxes, and the computers that control them (part of this black box and the point of contention here) are full of proprietary trade secrets. It's a Hobson's Choice since all the players do the same thing; you have to put up with it or you can't play in the industry.

  5. Nanners

    WAAAAAIT a minute....stop.

    So people are loading up and running windows 7-8 just so they can run xp virtually? Is that what's going on here?

    1. Chika
      Facepalm

      Re: WAAAAAIT a minute....stop.

      Yes. That's exactly what they are doing.

      Windows 7 (and 8 presumably though I've not delved that deeply as yet) has many different tools included to try to make old software run, but some software just doesn't play well. Let's face it, there are some companies out there that still use software that goes back to the days before Windows XP and elder sister Windows 2000 which only just worked when moved onto these systems. I know as I still have the onerous task of dealing with some of this software!

      While Microsoft can wail about the age of the underpinning that keeps XP from falling to bits and so forth, the other side of the argument is that much has been done by many to keep some applications, some of which are vital to some users, working on XP and have yet to receive the same degree of attention with regard to Windows 7+.

      So you are surprised?

      1. PhilipJ

        Re: WAAAAAIT a minute....stop.

        To be fair, any decent software vendor has been supporting Windows7 for at least 3 years - if a vendor is not able to provide support for Windows7 almost 5 freaking years (!) after the OS has been released, he's not worthy of my business.

        1. theModge

          Re: WAAAAAIT a minute....stop.

          Software vendors who haven't yet got their products running on 7 may not be worthy of your business, but what if everyone else thought that and they went bankrupt?

          I think of examples where buy specialised hardware talks only to it's specialised software, which was made by a company that went bust years ago. The hardware works fine and replacing it is a cost that would hurt a small business (or a bigger one if they had lots of it...). In those cases (some of which still need a parallel port or some other ungodly connector) it would gall to spend often tens of thousands on new kit, just because an operating system was end of life.

          1. PhilipJ

            Re: WAAAAAIT a minute....stop.

            It's not my problem when an incompetent vendor goes out of business.

            End of life does not mean that all existing copies stop working. There's absolutely nothing wrong with running XP after it's no longer supported, as long as security measures are taken. Like keeping the computers off the network or on a dedicated VLAN with no access to the rest of the network. That desktop with that special exotic unsupported hardware can run another 10-20 years on Windows XP just fine. It just needs to be handled as a security risk, that's all.

          2. Grikath

            Re: WAAAAAIT a minute....stop.

            What PhilipJ sais....

            If the XP system is just used as a control box for some exotic/legacy/custom hardware the whole issue of "support" is moot, since it does not need to be connected to the interwebz ( or for that matter any ( open) network) per sé , so the Security Risks are basically a non-issue.

          3. Tannin

            Re: WAAAAAIT a minute....stop.

            Old special-purpose hardware is a huge issue in some industries. An example from Australia. Some years ago I was asked to repair an ancient 386 system in a factory. It had an ISA card in it which communicated with and controlled a complicated metal-folding machine, which was used to custom-make air conditioning ducts. Without going into tedious detail, they wanted me to take on the difficult task of getting this system back up and running with the existing software and communications hardware. That was going to cost them what I thought was a fortune - there were complications which added up to lots of time and effort on my part - and it was still going to leave them with an upgraded but nevertheless ancient system. So I told them it just didn't make sense to fix it. For half that cost they could just buy a whole new computer and get a new model control and communications card from the manufacturer of the machine (who was still in business). Much easier and cheaper too, I thought.

            But no: even setting aside the cost of the new control card and associated upgrade to the folding machine electronics, they would have to start by flying out (at their expense) a factory technician from Germany to do the upgrade. In short, it didn't matter if I spent weeks on the job and charged them thousands for it, it was still going to be vastly cheaper than upgrading, and get them back into production again sooner too. So that's what we did, I cobbled up some ancient old parts and fiddled about with it for as long as it took. The duct-folder and the computer I rebuilt went on happily making them money for another decade, and keeping their staff in work. Sadly, the large cheque they gave me in exchange for my efforts didn't last nearly as long: I spent it.

            The point, of course, is that sometimes it's worth doing things in IT that seem mad on first sight, but which from a whole-of-business perspective, are sensible and practical, even if they do make life difficult for you, the IT person.

        2. Anonymous Bullard

          Re: WAAAAAIT a minute....stop.

          " if a vendor is not able to provide support for Windows7 almost 5 freaking years ..."

          Using hindsight, perhaps.

          How would you know this would happen, while XP was the latest? Also, how would you know such incompatibilities would be introduced?

          1. kain preacher

            Re: WAAAAAIT a minute....stop.

            you missed vista.

    2. FuzzyTheBear

      Re: WAAAAAIT a minute....stop.

      Yeah .. and you can do that for free using linux instead of w7 .

      VirtualBox is available for every distro. There's no reason to use Win7 if you want to run XP .

  6. PhilipJ

    not to diss open source software

    but VirtualBox is terribly sluggish compared to VMware, it's a night and day difference !

    XP Mode in MS Virtual PC was not really fast either.

    For personal use, the free VMware player is the best solution hands down.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: not to diss open source software

      Did you remember to install the Guest Extensions? This creates hardware abstracting bridges between host and guest making it much snappier.

      1. PhilipJ

        Re: not to diss open source software

        of course - since it was unusable without those guest extensions (low resolution desktop etc)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: not to diss open source software

      "but VirtualBox is terribly sluggish compared to VMware, it's a night and day difference !"

      VMWare Player's nice, but I must say, sluggish is not a word I'd have used in my experiences with Virtualbox. On the flipside, both of them seem to comfortably beat Virtual PC, so it's handy to have Hyper-V in Windows 8.x - one of its redeeming features.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: not to diss open source software

      "VirtualBox is terribly sluggish compared to VMware, it's a night and day difference"

      Oh I've noticed the opposite. I used VMWare from the start, and I hate Oracle... but V-box performance cleaned the floor with VMware. (£0 was just a bonus)

      I guess it depends on the hardware?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: not to diss open source software

        > Oh I've noticed the opposite. I used VMWare from the start, and I hate Oracle... but V-box performance cleaned the floor with VMware. (£0 was just a bonus)

        Same here. I guess your mileage depends on what the VM is doing and what the hardware is.

    4. Bradley Hardleigh-Hadderchance

      Re: not to diss open source software

      Well, I have only ever used VBox, but the winxp VDs I have set up, absolutely blaze along on a very mediocre laptop that is very sluggish with win7. And this is running VBox off of Knoppix7 off a USB stick. No complaints at all.

      I'm going to be trying VMWare next though now I've got my head around cloning and re-sizing disks in VBox and whatnot. Even set up a shared disk and usb for transferring stuff. Works remarkably well in win7 too. I should use it more really. It's night and day in terms of speed when surfing, plus the extra security it provides.

      And a browser is a browser is a browser pretty much. You forget you are in a VM. Whether that VM was started off a usb stick in Linux or your hard disk in windows. Plus being able to transfer stuff you download is a major convenience. It is also a security risk too, I suppose, and that is why I have a couple of VMs, one with a shared disk and one without which is locked down and isolated.

      If VMWare turns out to be faster than VBox, I will be most pleasantly surprised.

  7. M Gale

    Re: OEM licenses

    Fortunately, "OEM" licenses are a load of bollocks. Especially Microsoft's insistence that if the motherboard dies, replacing it counts as replacing the computer, thus demanding a new purchase of Windows. One local computer shop has already been stung by a £4,000 demand after the guy reactivated Windows on a mystery shopper's PC after replacing a "broken" motherboard, and didn't charge for it.

    He didn't pay.

    He's still not been taken to court over it.

    Fuck you, Microsoft. Fuck you.

    1. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: OEM licenses

      Odd, I've had to talk to an actual human at Microsoft before, when re-installing XP on a machine.

      Having a 'broken' motherboard was one of the legitimate reasons for reinstalling, and the mere mention of the word would get you an OK.

      For some reason the excuse 'it's been installed for over a year and now runs like a dog' wasn't good enough.

  8. Bob Camp

    Once again...

    Make sure your VM is in NAT mode and not bridged mode, so the host OS's virus scanner and firewall can detect the XP virus before it gets to the virtual machine. If you use Linux as the host OS, it needs to be running an AV program (and a firewall) that can detect Windows viruses.

    Note that a virtual machine has all the same vulnerabilities as a regular PC, so no real benefit is gained from using one for this purpose. VMs aren't meant to be all that secure -- they're meant to run older programs. All VM software has vulnerabilities -- they are constantly releasing bug updates for them.

    It's not just the Internet, it's CD-ROMs, USB drives, etc. that can also infect a VM. Make sure the VM does not automatically mount these drives when you start the VM up. All it'll take is one slip up. Frankly, I don't trust the average user to use a VM safely, as many of the things I talked about above can be easily changed once everything is set up.

    In my company, VMs are banned because they are the worst of both worlds -- they can cause compatibility issues (the host OS still needs functioning drivers) and they're still highly prone to infection. When necessary, we just use plain XP machines so at least we know which PCs to keep a closer eye on.

    1. John Deeb

      Re: Once again...

      Bob Camp, so much wrong in one post! Where to begin.

      1. No, the host will generally not detect most viruses as they enter a NAT-ed XP client. Better to rely on solutions on the client to cover a broader scope.

      2, No, the VM is not just as vulnerable since you must mentioned the NAT mode but also the ability to create snapshot and do restores faster, to strip functionality to bare bone and use the more secure host for more sensitive matters would differ quite lot.

      3. You don't trust the average user with a VM but you trust them with a complete PC? Where's the logic? It still needs some level of support or management, obviously

      4. The host does not need "functioning drivers" for everything at all and to know "which PC's" to keep a closer eye on" sounds not like a professional consideration. You will have to keep an eye on a lot of services, logs, rules and configuration, no matter in which box, virtual or not, they are stuffed.

      1. Bob Camp

        Re: Once again...

        1. The host PC *does* detect viruses coming from the Ethernet in NAT mode, assuming you're not running Linux without an AV. My point was that it won't detect ANY viruses if you run in bridged mode. Of course you should also run an AV inside the VM, but in theory if the VM worked as everyone thinks it does, you wouldn't have to. My point was that a VM setup still won't catch everything. It might be a little less vulnerable than a native installation, but it'll be far from perfect.

        2. Restoring a ghost image is almost as fast as a VM copy. And if you're running XP for compatibility reasons, you can't really strip that VM down to the bare bones because the program you're trying to run might not work. Besides, you can strip a native XP installation in the same way.

        3. If you ban VMs, you (in theory) only have to really worry about the XP PCs. You could put them on a separate network, for example, in an attempt to isolate them from your other PCs. With VMs, you have to worry about ALL the PCs. It's very easy for the end user to switch the Ethernet support in a VM from NAT mode to bridged mode or to mount a USB drive. VMs give a false sense of security. At least with an XP machine you know the exact level of security you're getting.

        4. In my experience, if the host PC does not have drivers for a piece of hardware, more often than not the VM will have trouble recognizing and/or using that hardware. I have also had problems with VMs in general, and have had to resort to native XP installations.

        Maybe a dual boot XP/7 installation would work better? Then Windows 7 could scan the XP partition for exploits daily, something it can't do with an XP VM. But then you have rely on the user to boot back into Windows 7 when they're done. They might do it if you put all the other applications on the Windows 7 partition and just put the bare minimum on the XP partition.

        My point is that VMs are not touted for security, but compatibility. Just like XP was. Which is why XP had all those exploits in the first place.

  9. Phil W

    Dear author

    Dear author,

    Please hand in your IT professional/journalist credentials at the front desk and proceed to leave the industry immediately.

    You have written an article that strongly implies, thought admittedly doesn't explicitly state, that keeping an archaic operating system running inside a VM is a good way to keep it secure, in lieu of future security patches.

    This is clearly utter horse manure. In order to install software in your VM of XP you still need to download software or copy data into it via network shares/usb pass through mass storage or whatever other means. This data you've then exposed the VM to could easily be infected with some malware that could affect your out of date OS.

    You also advise and demonstrate download the "XP Mode" VM provided as a free download for Windows 7 and running under it Linux. While you do indeed suggest that people doing this should own a Windows XP Pro licence, I think you will find this insufficient and legally speaking puts you and those following this advice in the wrong.

    The XP Mode download requires a Windows 7 licence, because it is provided as a feature of Windows 7 and is not intended for use in any other way.

    I'm not getting into the OEM licences and transfer between computers argument, because that's one for the lawyers. But the "XP Mode" licence is quite clear cut, it's provided free of charge for Windows 7 Pro/Ultimate/Enterprise licence holders for install within Windows 7 and that's all.

    If you are going to write an an article suggesting people run Windows XP in a VM under Linux, then you should advise them to purchase both a licence and install media for Windows XP and build a new VM from scratch. But really, unless you actually intend to migrate to Linux, why would you bother?

    If you must have XP then buy a Windows 7 Professional and run XP Mode legally in that.

    Then as new versions of your old software become available you can install them in your Windows 7 installation and phase out your XP Mode VM.

    1. garetht t

      Re: Dear author

      Wow! Must be an amazing view from that high-horse!

      1. Phil W

        Re: Dear author

        "Wow! Must be an amazing view from that high-horse!"

        My horse is amazing....

        http://www.weebls-stuff.com/songs/Amazing+Horse/

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Dear author

      >This is clearly utter horse manure. In order to install software in your VM of XP you still need to download software or copy data into it via network shares/usb pass through mass storage or whatever other means.

      The author gave the caveat that the virtual XP machine should only be used to run the existing old software that won't play nice with Win7 etc. There is no point in installing *new* software onto the virtual XP machine, since new software can be installed onto the host OS, or another machine.

      Also, the XP virtual machine's Virtual Hard Disk can be cloned and backed up - every ten minutes if desired.

      1. Phil W

        Re: Dear author

        "The author gave the caveat that the virtual XP machine should only be used to run the existing old software that won't play nice with Win7 etc"

        He certainly did, but you've got to get that old software onto the VM somehow. We're talking about a new XP install in the VM here, not a virtualisation of the one you already have the software installed on.

        1. Bradley Hardleigh-Hadderchance

          Re: Dear author

          ----------------------

          "The author gave the caveat that the virtual XP machine should only be used to run the existing old software that won't play nice with Win7 etc"

          He certainly did, but you've got to get that old software onto the VM somehow. We're talking about a new XP install in the VM here, not a virtualisation of the one you already have the software installed on.

          -----------------------

          Sorry, I'm probably being dense and just not getting it, but why can't the whole xp shebang be done perfectly legally through the win7 pro setup - download, install of software etc. - and then, once set up and you have a new legal working xp VD, what law is there that states that that image can not be accessed by VBox or whatever in Linux?

          I often switch between using my VDs in both Linux and Win7 and tweaking as I go. Proof of concept more than real world usage as I'm new to all this, but still. Am I actually breaking the law by accessing an xp VD from VBox, even though it is on the same machine/physical drive and is a legitimately licensed copy? Serious question. I'm not using the win7 xp virtual mode, it is an old boxed copy that I bought from Tottenham Court Rd. years ago, and that is no longer used on any machines. Shouldn't make a difference anway, should it?

          Don't tell me after all this money I have spent and given to one of the biggest companies in the world that I am being criminalised, after great effort, trouble and expense to remain on the straight and narrow.

          1. Phil W

            Re: Dear author

            "Am I actually breaking the law by accessing an xp VD from VBox, even though it is on the same machine/physical drive and is a legitimately licensed copy? Serious question. I'm not using the win7 xp virtual mode, it is an old boxed copy that I bought from Tottenham Court Rd"

            You're fine, both morally and legally, because you have a proper boxed copy with licence which can be installed on whicher (single) machine you wish be that physical or virtual.

            XP OEM licences (the ones that comes with prebuilt PCs) are a grey area, as the licence specifies they can only be used on the machine it was supplied with. Whether that is legally enforceable is questionable and morally even more so.

            The Windows 7 XP Mode VM on the other hand, is provided free of charge for Windows 7 licence holders (effectively it is included in the cost of the Windows 7 licence). So if you are using it and don't have a Windows 7 Pro/Ultimate/Enterprise licence then you are quite definitely in the legal wrong. If you have a Windows 7 Pro/Ultimate/Enterprise licence but are using the XP Mode VHD within Linux then I would suggest that that is another of those questionable legal/moral issues.

            1. Bradley Hardleigh-Hadderchance

              Re: Dear author

              --------------------

              The Windows 7 XP Mode VM on the other hand, is provided free of charge for Windows 7 licence holders (effectively it is included in the cost of the Windows 7 licence). So if you are using it and don't have a Windows 7 Pro/Ultimate/Enterprise licence then you are quite definitely in the legal wrong. If you have a Windows 7 Pro/Ultimate/Enterprise licence but are using the XP Mode VHD within Linux then I would suggest that that is another of those questionable legal/moral issues.

              --------------------

              Ah. That is sort of what I expected and how I pretty much look at it, not knowing any better.

              I don't use it for production (though I aim to one day) and it is strictly for private/educational use.

              I am curious now about this XP Mode in win7. I think I am going to have to try it out. Not sure if you even need to put in a serial no. for it. Not sure how it works at all. Or if it even will be accessible in Linux. I'm sure it won't take long to figure out. If I did get a working VM up, I wouldn't bother with it in Linux anyway. I have enough VMs and am seriously running out of disk space. I made a separate 50GB partition for VMs and that has practically all been eaten up now, just keeping what is left for the dynamic re-sizing. Surprising how much extra space gets eaten up when you start playing about and installing extra crap (beyond the size of the crap you install).

              Anyway, whether in Linux or win7, both the winxp images just absolutely fly along. So no need to use Linux in this case.

              I'm just looking at buying a bog standard Dell system for someone. And they aren't just technophobes, but computerphobes. They HATE computers. They can barely switch the thing on or off. They will lose all their programs if I get win8 for them, otherwise I would. One benefit of being totally ignorant and not having any understanding of how a computer works is, that when the goalposts are moved, it makes no difference to them. They switch it on, start firefox, log onto facebook. And they play their games. And that is it.

              So I'm going to get them the win7 Pro license and then set them up with XP Mode. Not sure how it will work with connecting to the printer, but we'll see. Seems perfect for them otherwise.

              Do you know, I didn't even know there was an XP Mode in win7 and I've had it a couple of years?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Dear author

        "Also, the XP virtual machine's Virtual Hard Disk can be cloned and backed up - every ten minutes if desired."

        But's it's not just about easily recovering from a malware infection on the XP guest by rolling back to a clone or snapshot. Phil's (valid) point is that data moves around, and if you use a vulnerable Windows XP VM to manipulate that data, that's a vector for infection of files. If those infected (Office/PDF/JPEG etc) files then end up on your Windows 7/8 host, patching will not necessarily protect you from anything nasty that hitched a ride from your guest instance.

    3. Bradley Hardleigh-Hadderchance

      Re: Dear author

      "If you must have XP then buy a Windows 7 Professional and run XP Mode legally in that."

      He/they, chances are, already have that license, making it morally ok in my book to run XP in Linux. Whether it is technically legal is another matter. We could argue about this ad nauseum. I don't even disagree with parts of your viewpoint. But if I had a previous OEM license that I could no longer technically use because I don't own that software, merely license it, and I am in fact following that diktat, and go to all the trouble of buying win7 Pro which includes the new XP license for the purposes as mentioned, then who is going to dob me in if I just have a little tinker 'round in me ol' Linux install? It's not as if you could possibly use both at the same time anyway, being booted into one os or the other.

      "Then as new versions of your old software become available you can install them in your Windows 7 installation and phase out your XP Mode VM."

      Not really. New versions of the software don't become available because microsoft moved the goalposts and changed the APIs. Not to mention native 16-bit/32-bit/64-bit compatibility. That is why some of us NEED to do this time consuming bullshit, because we have no other choice, if we choose to use our otherwise obsolescent software. Not because it's fun, or hacking or any of the other golden age of computing rationales. In fact, I know of people that have actually upgraded their software and choose to use the 'older' version out of preference, and there is no way that will run in win8 without a VM because it is 16-bit. The new crappier version just sits in the draw unused.

      Just like microsoft, they took something that worked perfectly well and ballsed it up and no one wants to use it now. This is another argument, granted, but, pertinent, I feel. Amelioration is the name of the game. A word I fear that is not in their comprehension. Instead, they re-invented the wheel. Guess what? It was not an improvement, and now we are left with this clusterfuck of either abandon your old software that you need/love, OR upgrade to new versions and abandon your old software that you need/love, OR possibly find some kind of way to keep that software running despite the drain on your wetware resources to do so.

      I agree in principle with your first point, if not in spirit.

      As to your second point, well, I just thought I would point out some alternative views.

    4. streaky

      Re: Dear author

      12 year old OS with a very broken SSL stack (which is something you want in the current security environment) - and no patches for new security issues, much less the old non-security bugs that were never and will never be fixed.

      If your a) home or b) business IT environment includes basically any of this you should be quite possibly be fired and/or shot - and if you don't know why it's a problem: lynched.

  10. John Deeb

    Perhaps I missed something

    Perhaps I missed something but isn't it way easier to install XP directly into the virtual machine instead of downloading the MS image and make it somehow work with Virtualbox or VMware? I know it was faster for me at the time to manually install XP than to use lets say the Windows 7 evaluation image.

    It's hard to imagine serious businesses with only OEM licensing for XP but even so, there are still original and legal XP media and licenses for sale, no big effort to track one down.

    I wonder now, would Windows PE 2004 or BartPE be a solution for some cases? Based on XP2 and for just running that one program it might just work. Yes, the licensing might be limited but aren't you actually recovering a malfunctioning OEM XP that way?

  11. ItsNotMe
    FAIL

    "Doing an in-place upgrade to Windows 7 isn't a good choice...."

    "...Yes, it will keep all your apps and settings,..."

    Ah...sorry...but you CAN NOT do an "in-place upgrade to Windows 7" from XP.

    One CAN upgrade from XP to Vista and THEN to Win 7...but not from XP to 7. It must be a "clean install".

    When you buy Windows 7 Professional you can only do an in place upgrade from Windows Vista Business.

    You can do a custom install from XP Pro to Windows 7 Professional.

    Installing - What does "in place upgrade" mean?

    Upgrade means you can install Windows 7 by simply inserting the Windows 7 upgrade software into your PC's DVD drive and follow the instructions on your screen. While you're not required to backup and reinstall your files, or reinstall your programs, it's a very good idea to back up your files and settings before you start any software upgrade. Get more information about software upgrades and best practices .

    Installing - What does "Custom (Clean)" Mean?

    A custom (clean) installation erases the contents of your PC's hard drive. Your files, settings, and programs will not be transferred to Windows 7. That means that to install Windows 7, you'll need to:

    •Backup all the files and settings you want to keep

    •Install Windows 7

    •Reinstall all your files

    •Reinstall all the programs you want to use.

    These four steps take time, some technical skill and Windows Easy Transfer can help.

    http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/forum/windows_7-windows_install/how-do-i-upgrade-a-windows-xp-pro-to-windows-7-pro/7b2e8a8a-dfac-4fdc-a161-f01d3d198928

  12. Mystic Megabyte
    Windows

    " the copy in the VM is keyed against VirtualPC's emulated hardware "

    In the interests of research only, where is the emulated BIOS file kept?

  13. Gis Bun

    A few thoughts. XP Mode only works with Win 7 Pro. The XP image assumes you have Win 7 pro installed on the host.

    You can't use an OEM license legally in any VM.

    You can't P2V your XP machine if it can with the OS that was installed by Dell, HP, IBM, Lenovo, etc. Must be retail.

    I ran 64-bit Vista for a short while before switching to Win 7. Something as old as Adobe PageMaker 7 worked under 64-bit with just minor issues - and it came out before Win XP.

    1. Wensleydale Cheese
      Happy

      "You can't use an OEM license legally in any VM."

      I went into this with the OEM version of Windows 7 Ultimate and I was happy (IANAL of course) that the license did allow me to run it in a VM.

      I did that on the box it was originally installed in though - I changed it from running Win7 as the main OS to running Linux as the main OS, with Windows 7 inside VirtualBox. I did a fresh install from DVD and it activated without problems.

  14. Grease Monkey Silver badge

    A lot of people* sticking with XP are doing so because they are too tight to buy a new OS or a new PC or just too lazy to do anything about it. As such this advice means nothing to the majority of XP users.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Proof of this assertion?

      A lot of the XP installs I've heard of include ATMs, medical scanners, and other dedicated equipment that cannot simply be moved to Win 7/8/8.1, for financial or legal reasons.

    2. Bradley Hardleigh-Hadderchance
      FAIL

      I'll bite.

      -------------

      A lot of people* sticking with XP are doing so because they are too tight to buy a new OS or a new PC or just too lazy to do anything about it.

      ---------------

      You must be one of them there computer nerds. Perhaps even a geek. Yeah, probably a geek.

      I'm sure some are sticking with XP because they are too tight, but maybe also because they are a bit skint. Or horror of horrors, it does everything it needs to do, is working perfectly and after a while of figuring it all out, it is going to mean a major upheaval and a new learning curve to tackle. Then again, you may also be right when you say they are too lazy. No law against laziness last time I looked.

      But where your major oversight is, I think, in the fact that microsoft have not provided a pain free alternative. And by them slowly moving the goalposts bit by bit with the changing of APIs and the purposeful obsoleting of hardware in collusion with the hardware manufacturers (win/win for both of them - microsoft get to sell more software - the hardware vendors more hardware), we have now reached a point where the bluffs are being called all around. It's the software vendors I feel most sorry for, if there is an innocent party in this unholy shitstorm, they are probably least to blame and the most held to ransom to go along with it all.

      Unless it has escaped your attention, microsoft once attaining the full monopoly have not just used their customer base for experimentation, they have corralled them into a pen for total control and submission. They have created an OS that is intended to be used on mobile touch screen devices, all because what they have is not enough for them, they want MORE, seeing the riches being gained by their rivals. They want it ALL. Good old fashioned greed. They have basically told their Most Valued Professionals to go and fuck themselves. Dedoimedo for one example was noting what a cluster fuck win8 was 2 (TWO) years ago. And he is a big microsoft fan, giving credit where credit is due to them. Look up his tutorials and viewpoints on system hardening in windows via EMET.

      I will speak for myself here. I am happy to use win7. It is a hog. Illogical at times. And not very customisable (you can't change the glaringly white background of an explorer window for example without slipping into classic mode, which is what I run all the time making my win7 resemble something more akin to bleeding win95). But it works well, very well for the most part with the myriad of Audio software I own and use. In fact, I am forced into using win7, because the software devs were forced into only supporting it via the change of APIs. And not all of them have come up to speed. It is actually another unholy cluster fuck with virtual folders being employed because microsoft says 'naughty naughty' bad software and slaps it down to the naughty step. So a lot of Audio software is in transition. It won't work on xp, but it still does not work perfectly well on win7. I digress.

      So, when forced to use win7, I use win7, and for software that will not work on win7 but will only work on xp, I use xp. Microsoft totally, willfully split it down the middle. No transition. Disruptive technology, indeed. And that is just xp/win7, win8 is another level of hurt again.

      If I have spent thousands of pounds (literally) for software (I don't use cracks except for research [No, really, I do not use cracks in production, only to test in certain circumstances]), why should I just suddenly say, oh, never mind, put it all in the bin, forget about it. Spend another couple of thousand to upgrade? If I had the money I would still not appreciate being held to ransom. I don't anway as it goes, but I want to keep on using the software I LOVE, that I have spent years learning how to use to a professional level.

      And this is without getting into the hardware that I have that will not work on win8 because of lack of drivers. Yes, that old chesnut. Still getting away with it.

      But that's just me. Most of the people you have maligned just want to stick with xp because they have games or industrial software that will not RUN on new systems, be that because of the software being 16-bit or a lack of drivers.

      ------------------

      As such this advice means nothing to the majority of XP users.

      -------------------

      Not sure what your point is here, so I'll stop 'biting' now.

  15. southpacificpom
    Linux

    HALT!

    Stop all this fucking around with XP and just install LINUX!

  16. kb
    Windows

    The pirate version is better.

    Like in much software the pirate version of Windows XP, called "TinyXP" is a MUCH better candidate for a VM than the bog standard XP and as a nice bonus it takes all of 10 seconds to put in your XP Pro key and make it a fully licensed copy of XP pro.

    The reason why its better is simple, it was originally made by a Windows gamer (who sadly stopped making Tiny Windows after Tiny 7 Rev 2 due to losing his job in the downturn) whose goal was to make it run better than 95% of the software for Windows while using the least resources possible. Due to its age XP has a LOT of cruft like netmeeting that pretty much nobody uses anymore so by cutting that and other junk (the installer even gives an option of not having IE/OE/WMP which lowers its RAM footprint on desktop to a microscopic 50MB) you have an OS that was practically built for a VM.

    He also has versions of 2K3, Vista, and Win 7 out there if you have the need for one of those as a VM, I'm sure anybody looking can find them easily enough. Oh and for those that wonder "how long can ya go?" the answer is the now hard to find Tiny Win2K Pro, it uses just 34Mb of RAM and a full install is less than 500Mb.

  17. steven W. Scott

    You Cretin Pigs!

    Why would you exploit a Windows oversight just to keep running.... *.gasp.* FREE SOFTWARE!!!!!!

    Barbarians!!!!

  18. ecofeco Silver badge

    Actually, rather clever

    First, let's put the license and lazy/cheap argument to rest.

    There are so many specialized programs out there that may not ever be upgraded or will, eventually, but not for some time. Weird middleware kind of stuff. Things that would mean not just an upgrade in software, but very expensive hardware and entire enterprise systems. Yes, yes, the management are slacking gits. We know this. Doesn't change reality.

    As for license. MS could give a flying fart about XP these days.

    That said, this is a very clever solution and so are some of the other suggestions posted here. Well done.

    And this from someone who despises XP these days.

    Tip of the hat.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Exactly opposite of my approach.

    In my case, there's a user with an old engineering program that only works if it sees the license dongle on the parallel port. Nothing I have tried will make the program see the dongle on anything newer than XP.

    This user will get a new machine running Win 7 x64 and all required productivity stuff. The old machine will be cloned, then cleaned of all applications except the dongleware, (including removing browsers, media players, whatever) and physically moved to the data center where nobody can get physical access to it. The machine will have no network access except for a private vlan where the user will connect with rdp. They will be able to copy/paste text and screenshots, print to a local printer, and hopefully nothing else.

    *posted anonymously because I'm not supposed to talk about work stuff, not because I'm afraid.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Exactly opposite of my approach.

      "physically moved to the data center where nobody can get physical access to it."

      Don't forget to put a "Beware of the Leopard!" sign on the cupboard door.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Quote about XP

    I agree with Mike Eldridge of Michigan who said:

    "I am worried about security threats, but I'd rather have my identity stolen than put up with Windows 8"

    We like XP and will continue to use it. I'll even go so far as to say I won't program any software that is suppose to run on Windows 8. Take that Microsoft.....

  21. Spoonsinger

    Not entirely sure you can do an inplace install from XP to Win7!

    You can do an inplace install from XP->Vista->Win7. However I would love to be proved wrong, and if so maybe someone can write an article on how to do an inplace install from XP straight to Windows 7.

  22. Tim Brown 1

    Much easier way

    If you keep your old, legitimate copy of XP on a separate hard drive when you install Windows 7 you can either then just set up your machine to dual boot so you can run XP when you need it OR using Virtualbox you can create a VM that attaches to the old physical XP disk (as a raw disk) and boots from there. No need to re-install XP, fiddle with any licence or reinstall any apps, your XP machine lives again :)

    The only wrinkle if you use the 2nd method is that you must make sure that the XP disk is 'offline' as far as Windows 7 is concerned but is available read/write to the VM while using the VM. You do this using the DISKPART utility from the command line in Windows 7

    DISKPART

    SELECT DISK 1 (where this number is the window 7's logical disk number for the XP drive)

    OFFLINE DISK

    ATTRIBUTES DISK CLEAR READONLY

    Do that BEFORE starting the XP virtual machine. You also may need to change the graphic driver for XP running under the VM since it no longer has direct access to the graphics card (depends on your original setup).

    1. Pookietoo

      Re: Much easier way

      The problem with sticking with an actual HDD is that you lose the convenience of the VM being just a couple of files that you clone and delete as required.

  23. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Indeed a decent solution.

    Indeed a decent solution; I have a Win7 and WinXP virtual machine. With snapshots, if a software install blows up, or an update causes a problem, or you managed to get virus or spyware (I don't use IE even on a Windows system so I haven't had that problem...) then you can roll back to your snapshot. Store your documents on a "shared drive" outside the VM and you don't have to worry about losing files in case you roll back to the snapshot. And don't use the browser inside the VM (or, alternately, have a VM just for browsing that you reset at the end of each use.) This truly keeps Windows in it's place. I'm using Ubuntu (with Unity booted off in favor of the "traditional" desktop) as my host and it's great. But a VM is a VM, you can do it just as well under Windows 8.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Doing an in-place upgrade to Windows 7 isn't a good choice. Yes, it will keep all your apps and settings, but it'll also preserve all the clutter and crud that slows down an old Windows install, and you're limited to 32-bit Windows 7. You really need to nuke and start over."

    It is not possible to perform an in-place upgrade from XP to Windows 7. The only route would be from XP to Vista, then from Vista to Win 7.

    The only way to 'upgrade' straight to Windows 7 while keeping most of your settings is to use the User State Migration Tool (USMT) to backup the user data from XP, format the drive and install a clean copy of Win 7 then use USMT to restore the data. USMT will automatically put all the data into the right places on the Win7 install (i.e. it's not just a backup utility, but performs a proper migration). USMT is the 'pro' version of Windows Easy Transfer. WET is built into Windows and is intended for transferring data from an old computer.

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