New computers – Windows 7 – compatibility (2) XP Mode

In researching the purchase of the new desktop, I found/was told/noted that you needed Windows 7 Pro version for “XP compatibility.”  Naturally, I assumed that this would be built into the product that I bought.  (Actually, I was a bit worried by that statement, since one would assume that a new version of an operating system would still run stuff that the old one did.  I still use programs that I first ran on MS-DOS 2, and they were still working fine on XP.)

Not so.

Well, I’m sure that Microsoft would take issue with that statement.  After all, when you try to use the “recommended settings” when troubleshooting compatibility, it tells you that it is running “Windows XP (Service Pack 2)” compatibility mode.  (Pretty much regardless of what the program or utility is.)  And if, trying the more manual troubleshooting, you tell the troubleshooting program that it did run under previous versions of Windows, there are XP SP2 and XP SP3 options (among nine others) to choose from.

It doesn’t matter which you choose.  I haven’t found any of them to work with any program to date.

However, the advice to buy Win7 Pro is sound, if you want to have much of a chance of running anything (interesting) that you have been using up until now.  You absolutely must have XP Mode.  It solves all your problems.  (Well, it solves a bunch of problems, and you can probably fix the rest with some scripting, which is annoying, but better than nothing.)  You have XP Mode if you buy Win7 Pro.

Well, no you don’t.

XP Mode turns out to be part of Windows Virtual PC.  You don’t have it with the base install.  You have the right to have it, but you don’t have it, and you have to download it and install it.  In trying to find out why I couldn’t run stuff that had run perfectly well under XP, I found a mention in the Help system, which made me realize this was a possiblity.  Sure enough, chasing this mention down through a few related help articles, I found a link to go and get it.  So I did.

Well, I tried.  In order to install Windows Virtual PC, Microsoft wants to run MGA.  MGA stands for Microsoft’s Grasping Authenticator.  Microsoft disputes this, and refers to it as Microsoft Genuine Advantage, but there is absolutely no advantage to you, the user, in MGA.  There definitely is an advantage to Microsoft, because, if you need MGA to run or install something, and anything at all goes wrong, you have to pay Microsoft to get it fixed.  Even if you’ve paid already.  I had no fear of MGA, because a) I knew that it was a genuine product, and b) I’d already had to run MGA to get the updates to work, and it hadn’t blinked.  This time, however, it would not believe that my Win7 Pro was Win7 Pro, and would I please cough up an extra $200.

(I took it back to the store I bought it from.  They got it fixed, for no money, but it did take them two days to do it.  And all my passwords were gone.  Oh, you thought passwords were there to keep people out of your computer?  Silly you.)

So now I have Windows Virtual PC, and XP Mode with it.  And, absent the fact that it creates a virtual disk for itself, and that, if you want to work on anything on your real disk you probably have to copy it on to this virtual disk, and mess around with settings, it runs everything just fine.  Per my previous posting on compatibility, Netscape/Communicator 4.8 works.  Eudora 1.5.2 works.  My beloved WordPerfect 4.2 (yes, that old) works.  So does WordPerfect 5.1, which is what Gloria prefers.  (I’m not sure I’m going to go to all the trouble of setting up the system that allows us to print from WordPerfect to a winprinter: we really only need to get at the files for reference purposes.)  Good stuff.

I did have to do a whole bunch of Windows Updates on XP Mode itself, which seems very strange to me.  Seeing as how I was downloading it from Microsoft, couldn’t they keep it patched and up to date?  Three or four sessions with Windows Update, and something close to a hundred updates by the time it seemed to settle down.

Ceterum censeo Microsoft esse delendam.

  • MartinW

    It seems to me that you bought Win7, Virtual PC, and ended up running an actual (unpatched…) Windows XP on top of all that. Except for all the extra layers, what is the difference between that and simply sticking to XP? Security won’t be any better, will it? Won’t you need an extra instance of AV running in XP, too?

  • p1

    Oh, well, at least I get something to blog about …

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