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Simplest Virtual Machine?

tinpanalley

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Jul 13, 2011
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I'm on Windows 10, I'm looking for something that can simply run a handful of Windows XP programs that don't run in Compatibility Mode. I don't want this taking up tons of space or being super complicated. I have no knowledge of how to do this but I keep getting told it's the best way to run these old programs. Can anyone recommend a good, reliable VM for this kind of simple task?
 

TheELF

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Dec 22, 2012
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It might sound simple but it's not a simple task, you have to fool XP into believing that your 2020 hardware is hardware from around 2000.
You will need as much space as a full XP installation takes plus the software you want to run on it.
The two best choices are Virtualbox and VM workstation player with the second one being the more professional one but both are available for free.
Looking up tutorials on youtube is easy and will show you step for step how to do it.
 

Steltek

Platinum Member
Mar 29, 2001
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I'm on Windows 10, I'm looking for something that can simply run a handful of Windows XP programs that don't run in Compatibility Mode. I don't want this taking up tons of space or being super complicated. I have no knowledge of how to do this but I keep getting told it's the best way to run these old programs. Can anyone recommend a good, reliable VM for this kind of simple task?
What programs are you trying to run? Are they games, or something else?
 

tinpanalley

Golden Member
Jul 13, 2011
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What programs are you trying to run? Are they games, or something else?
In fact, they are really simple little applications FOR games that were never really thought of as something that would need to be run this far into the future. :D But people in the community say they use a VM setup to run those applications and the games themselves as well.
We're talking games from about 15 years ago. I'm surprised my discs still work.
 

Steltek

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Mar 29, 2001
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In fact, they are really simple little applications FOR games that were never really thought of as something that would need to be run this far into the future. :D But people in the community say they use a VM setup to run those applications and the games themselves as well.
We're talking games from about 15 years ago. I'm surprised my discs still work.
Yeah, you won't have any problems at all with running stuff like that.

Anyway, the basic VM setup is a piece of cake as they have made it dead simple for even beginners. Give it a shot - you won't have any problems with it at all provided you have an XP product key to use for the install.
 

tinpanalley

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Jul 13, 2011
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Yeah, you won't have any problems at all with running stuff like that.

Anyway, the basic VM setup is a piece of cake as they have made it dead simple for even beginners. Give it a shot - you won't have any problems with it at all provided you have an XP product key to use for the install.
Ok, so I have to find a legitimate place to buy windows xp from... I suppose eBay?
 
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Steltek

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Ok, so I have to find a legitimate place to buy windows xp from... I suppose eBay?
Probably the best source. Just make sure to scan any CD you get for malware. Also, if you get an OEM copy (which you probably will), make sure that you make a note of the name and specific version of the virtual machine software you activate it in. Once you activate it, XP will be tied to that version of the virtual machine software. You probably won't be able to update the "virtual hardware" in the virtual machine to a new version without invalidating the license and thus needing a new key. Of course, once have it up and running, you won't really have a reason to update it again anyway.

If you have a computer running Windows 7, there is another option (I didn't mention it because I didn't realize the downloads were still available). You can also install Windows XP Mode.

Download Windows Virtual PC from Microsoft from here.
Download Windows XP Mode from here.
Follow these instructions to install.

If you are running Windows 10 Professional, a third option exists. However, be aware that this will get you a 30 day trial version of XP running. To go beyond that, you'll either have to reinstall the virtual machine or activate a valid license code on the install. Using the XP Mode download above, follow these instructions to get XP Mode working under Hyper V in Win10 Pro in 30 day trial mode.
 
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tinpanalley

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Once you activate it, XP will be tied to that version of the virtual machine software. You probably won't be able to update the "virtual hardware" in the virtual machine to a new version without invalidating the license and thus needing a new key. Of course, once have it up and running, you won't really have a reason to update it again anyway.
When you have let's say Windows 7 or XP running in a VM, can you still run certain EXEs in compatibility mode if need be?
get XP Mode working under Hyper V in Win10 Pro in 30 day trial mode.
30 day trial mode means you'd have to pay after? Wouldn't that be the safest way to get Windows then?
So what's with Hyper V, why don't people recommend that instead of Virtualbox?
 

TheELF

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Dec 22, 2012
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If you are running Windows 10 Professional, a third option exists. However, be aware that this will get you a 30 day trial version of XP running. To go beyond that, you'll either have to reinstall the virtual machine or activate a valid license code on the install. Using the XP Mode download above, follow these instructions to get XP Mode working under Hyper V in Win10 Pro in 30 day trial mode.
When following these instructions you can just extract the KEY along with the VirtualXPVHD it's the legal XPmode key,so if you have a legal version of windows running you should not have to be forced to buy another licence.
Buying a licence from ebay is a grey area at best for MS anyway, it's just as "illegal"
 

Steltek

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Mar 29, 2001
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When following these instructions you can just extract the KEY along with the VirtualXPVHD it's the legal XPmode key,so if you have a legal version of windows running you should not have to be forced to buy another licence.
Buying a licence from ebay is a grey area at best for MS anyway, it's just as "illegal"
I'm pretty sure the extracted key won't activate running under Hyper V (or any other virtualization software) because transferring it from Virtual PC to another virtualization system changes the underlying virtualization hardware abstraction layer (i.e. the "virtual hardware"). This would invalidate the key just like installing it on a different computer would in the real world.

You might actually be able to install Windows 7, install XP Mode and get it working, then upgrade Win7 to Win10 and still have an activated XP Mode. The license is still spotty there, though, because XP Mode is specifically licensed only to be run under Windows 7 with the provided key.

When you have let's say Windows 7 or XP running in a VM, can you still run certain EXEs in compatibility mode if need be?
30 day trial mode means you'd have to pay after? Wouldn't that be the safest way to get Windows then?
When you run a virtual machine, it is like a separate computer with a separate OS with a separate file system. For the most part, anything you can do on a computer you can do in the virtual machine (subject to the limitations of the "virtualized" hardware provided in the VM). So, you can use compatibility modes as needed as that is an OS-specific feature.

Don't get me wrong - there are things that don't work well on older OSes in virtual machines, like hardware dongles, but there are technical reasons for it (related to direct accessing of hardware, which more modern OSes don't allow). High performance games also don't work well on VMs unless your hardware and virtualization system allow the host video card to be passed through to the VM (you have to have specific computer processor, BIOS, and hypervisor support to do that, though).

The 30 day trial mode is exactly what it says it is - you can test the unactivated OS for 30 days before it restricts use. You have to activate a valid key within 30 days to continue using it past 30 days.

XP Mode was only licensed to run under a Windows 7 host OS. If you install it on a Windows 7 machine, it can be used forever with no purchase necessary (i.e. the XP key is licensed to that VirtualPC VM hardware). You only have to have a legal license if you move it outside Win7. If you move it outside Win7, you could also technically use it in trial mode forever by wiping the virtual machine and creating a new virtual machine every 30 days if you wanted to. That is a lot of work, though, since if you have a valid key you can activate XP using that key and it is again permanent.

You even technically could install Win7 in a virtual machine and install the XP Mode virtual machine under the virtualized Win7 (so you literally have a XP virtual machine running nested inside a Win7 virtual machine). It would also probably be dog slow, though.

So what's with Hyper V, why don't people recommend that instead of Virtualbox?
The Hyper-v virtualization hypervisor is only supported on the Professional or Workstation versions of Windows. If you have Win10 Home, you are out of luck.

I don't use Hyper-v myself, as I always used Virtualbox and VMware Workstation Professional. One advantage of those products is that they have drivers to easily support USB passthrough for USB devices from host system to virtual machine (i.e. your hardware connected to the host machine can be passed through to the OS in the VM), while Hyper V (at least it used to in the past) only supported passthrough of USB flash storage drives. I don't know if that has changed or not as, again, I very seldom mess with it given I have other good options. I'm sure an expert here will chime in about that shortly.

EDIT:

I've read that there actually may now be activation issues with Windows XP - some folks are reporting the activation servers aren't responding anymore and that the telephone number for phone activation is disconnected. I've also read it is still possible to activate it via phone though by calling the automated phone activation toll free number for a currently supported product (like Win10). So, YMMV on getting it to work.

Edit 2:
FYI: Yes, online activation for XP appears to be dead. The phone activation number still works - I was able to use the automated system which offered to text a link to an activation app that did work for XP. So, at least for the one I tried, it did work via phone activation.
 
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tinpanalley

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Ok, thanks for everyone's help.
To be honest it doesn't HAVE to be Windows XP, I just wanted to get as far back as possible. I could easily use Windows 7 and just run certain things in compatibility mode.

What I don't understand is, if it's not for emulating older OSes then what is it for?
 

Steltek

Platinum Member
Mar 29, 2001
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Ok, thanks for everyone's help.
To be honest it doesn't HAVE to be Windows XP, I just wanted to get as far back as possible. I could easily use Windows 7 and just run certain things in compatibility mode.

What I don't understand is, if it's not for emulating older OSes then what is it for?
I don't understand your question. Are you asking about virtualization or compatibility modes?
virtualization.
Virtualization doesn't emulate an old OS -- it is executing the actual old OS code in question just like it used to run on hardware back in the day. Where emulation comes in is with the hardware it is running on. The virtual machine is actually "emulating" compatible hardware that the old OS can support and be executed on.

Say I run Win98 in a virtual machine.

When I do this, I am actually running the genuine Win98 OS. The virtualization software package emulates a very basic Win98 compatible hardware environment and provides drivers for that "virtual" hardware (like a basic VGA/SVGA or VESA display card, USB port drivers, input/output hardware, a hard disk, etc) that Win98 can use to run on. The virtualized Win98 installation is actually insulated from the fact that it is running on physical hardware that is otherwise totally incompatible with Win98. Win98 knows nothing about SATA, USB3.x, PCIe busses, 64 bit processors, etc, so the virtualization system simply hides these details from Win98 behind a wall of code.

Kinda make sense?

Compatibility modes are something different, and they work in a different manner than do virtualization. Each compatibility mode is based upon a block of code called a "shim". A shim is written for each older OS supported under the compatibility mode (i.e. there is a Win98SE shim, a Win2000 shim, a WinXP shim, etc). The aim of the shim is to provide support for a limited subset of the older OS'es most common system calls (either by intercepting them and providing directly the necessary functionality, or by re-directing the requests to same/similar system calls on the newer OS). Because the shim code only provides a subset of compatibility with the older OS, it only somewhat increases the likelihood the older software will run but does not guarantee all software will work.

A virtualized system, on the other hand, is running the full older OS so the likelihood is that any software executed on the virtualized OS will work (other than software that won't work due to technical and/or security reasons as mentioned in post#10 above).
 
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lxskllr

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2kpro is nice to run on a vm. It doesn't do any online key check, so it can be easily moved around, with no "I don't feel like working today cause reasons...". You need a key for install, but after that it doesn't flip out if you change hardware(virtual or not) or anything.
 

tinpanalley

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Jul 13, 2011
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2kpro is nice to run on a vm. It doesn't do any online key check, so it can be easily moved around, with no "I don't feel like working today cause reasons...". You need a key for install, but after that it doesn't flip out if you change hardware(virtual or not) or anything.
Sorry what's 2kpro?
 

lxskllr

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Nov 30, 2004
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Windows 2000 Professional. It's XP's predecessor. It has the old style interface, but is almost 100% compatible with xp programs, and not as archaic as win98.
 

Red Squirrel

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May 24, 2003
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www.uovalor.com
Virtualbox is nice. It should run old OSes fine, I have a 98 VM for shits and giggles. The issue is getting the display drivers and such, there's "guest additions" but they don't include drivers for older OSes anymore.

And yeah win2k is a nice OS to run older stuff. At the very least it should pickup the virtual network card.
 

Red Squirrel

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www.uovalor.com
Games won't really run well in a VM. Especially ones that rely on GPU power. You'll be lucky if they even start. Lot of them will just have an error. Some people have found ways to make it work by making the VM see a real graphics card and presenting it directly to the OS but it's more trouble than it's worth. Never was able to get that to work. You'd be better off using a separate machine if you're doing this for games.
 
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tinpanalley

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Games won't really run well in a VM. Especially ones that rely on GPU power. You'll be lucky if they even start. Lot of them will just have an error.
Ok, that's what I figured. No, it's not for games, I was just curious. Most of what I play works fine even on Windows 10 and what doesn't I have DOSBox for. But there are a couple that don't work at all and I think those are just lost to me sadly.
 

Insert_Nickname

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May 6, 2012
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Wikipedia says 2kpro supports dx9.
Not only basic DX9 but even SM 3.0 is supported.

Back in the day, 2K was leaner and used less RAM then XP. Leaving more for the game. Was one of, if not the best, OS MS has put out. I was very sad once hardware stopped supporting it.
 
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mxnerd

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Jul 6, 2007
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Play Windows game on Linux with Wine. Most are using physical machines though, not VM.

 

Steltek

Platinum Member
Mar 29, 2001
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Virtualbox is nice. It should run old OSes fine, I have a 98 VM for shits and giggles. The issue is getting the display drivers and such, there's "guest additions" but they don't include drivers for older OSes anymore.

And yeah win2k is a nice OS to run older stuff. At the very least it should pickup the virtual network card.
Win98SE still has driver support on VMware workstation. Some really dedicated (or moderately demented, take your pick) people actually came up with a simple kernel extension that allowed it to use more memory and run some early Win2k/XP software (which, MS said was totally impossible, but it worked at least until software devs began to depend upon the junction feature introduced in Win2k).

Somewhere (where, exactly, I can't tell you right off hand), I do have a patched version of Win98SE in a VM that supported 512MB of memory and also that runs Firefox 8 and Opera 11. God only knows what a modern virus would make of THAT mess of an OS.... ;)

Win2k did end up absolutely great, but it was a pain starting out due to all the (then) new restrictions it imposed on direct hardware access.
 
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