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Computer hardware is regularly upgraded or replaced in an office, which allows for better performance, tighter security, and support for newer software. But these constant upgrades can cause problems over time with older, legacy software. It could be an in-house program developed years ago for a Windows XP environment or freeware from the days of Windows 98.

For those apps, we often default to using Compatibility Mode found in the right-click menu. However, it does not always work or run the program perfectly. For those situations, there are several other methods we can use to run legacy software.

Windows XP Mode (Windows 7)

Select editions of Windows 7 (Professional, Enterprise, and Ultimate) include a Windows XP license key, though XP is not installed with Windows 7 by default. This method allows you to run an installation of Windows XP from within Windows 7. It goes beyond compatibility mode, as the necessary hardware to run Windows XP is emulated to ensure your legacy software runs the way it was programmed to.

What You Need

  • A Professional, Enterprise, or Ultimate edition of Windows 7
  • A processor that supports hardware virtualization

How to Install

  1. Go to the Microsoft Download Center page for Windows XP Mode.
    Step 1_1
  2. Select your language and click Download.
    Step 1_2
  3. Choose a version to download and click Next to begin the download.
    Step 1_3
  4. Run the installer after the download is completed.
    Step 1_4
  5. After installation has been completed, click Finish.
  6. Next, download Windows Virtual PC from the Microsoft Download Center.
    Step 1_6
  7. Choose a language and click Download.
    Step 1_7
  8. Select either the 32-bit or 64-bit version, depending on your Windows 7 installation. If Windows 7 64-bit is installed, download the 64-bit version. Click Next to download.
    Step 1_8
  9. Run setup and restart your computer when it finishes.

You will now have Windows XP Mode added to your Start Menu under the Windows Virtual PC folder.

Oracle VM VirtualBox (Windows 7 & Windows 8)

Unfortunately, Windows XP Mode was not designed to work with Windows 8, so we need to go with a third party program such as Oracle VM VirtualBox. Other virtualization programs such as VMware Player also work. With this method though, you will need a copy of Windows and a license key as one isn’t included with Windows 8. The upside of this method is that you can technically install just about any version of Windows, not just XP.

What You Need

  • A copy of Windows (Disk image or physical CD) with license key
  • Oracle VM VirtualBox
  • A processor that supports hardware virtualization

How to Install

  1. Download VirtualBox from the website link above.
  2. Open VirtualBox and under the Machine menu, click New.
    Windows 10 via VirtualBox - Step 1
  3. Enter a name for your virtualized environment and set Type to Microsoft Windows and Version to the edition of Windows currently running.
    Step 2_3
  4. Allocate system memory for the virtual machine and click Next.
  5. Choose the size of the virtual hard drive.
    Step 2_5
  6. Select a file location and size for the virtual machine and click Create.
    Step 2_6
  7. After it has been created, click Start under the Machine dropdown.
    Step 2_7
  8. When asked for a start-up disk, choose the CD drive or image you have for Windows XP and proceed through setup as normal.
    Step 2_8

You can now run your legacy software in the Windows environment it was designed for, whenever VirtualBox is open.

Do you have an alternative to running older applications in your office? Let us know your preferred method of running legacy software in the comments below.

How to Run Legacy Software in Windows 7 / 8 - HardBoiled
Article Name
How to Run Legacy Software in Windows 7 / 8 - HardBoiled
Compatibility Mode sometimes fails to run legacy software, but there are other options. We provide instructions on how to virtualize a Windows installation.
Wallace Chu

Author Wallace Chu

A self-professed tech hipster that loves computers and music. Uses an iPhone ironically.

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