Windows XP Mode
The last part of the Applications compatibility series of articles is about a virtualization tool that creates a Windows XP environment. This would solve many problems for legacy applications and once it is set up you can run these applications as if your computer system is still running Windows XP. However, I would use this option as the last way out since it requires a lengthy setup process and a maintenance effort. For example, you need to keep the virtual machine updated with the latest updates, you need to configure the networking options and while it’s running additional computer resources are consumed.
The Windows XP Mode tool is free and can be downloaded from Microsoft together with Virtual PC which serves as the underlying platform. It is available only for Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise and Ultimate editions. The cool thing about this virtualized Windows XP is that applications installed in it will be available in Windows 7 and appear as if they were actually executed in Windows 7. On the other hand, the major setback is that the computer processor must support hardware virtualization, otherwise you cannot install it. Make sure that the CPU virtualization technology option is not disabled from the BIOS.
Windows XP Mode installation steps can be found here. When the installation is completed, start the XP Virtual Machine (VM) and install your legacy applications. Windows XP Mode VM is 32-bit (restricted by Virtual PC) and hence, does not support x64 platforms. If you require an x64 virtualized platform go for a third-party solution such as, VirtualBox tool from Sun.