When it launched Windows 7 Release Candidate Build 7100, Microsoft also introduced the last two features it had kept safely up its sleeve until then, namely Windows Virtual PC and Windows XP Mode. Essentially, the Redmond company revealed that it was planning to provide a fully activated copy of Windows XP Service Pack 3 to all Windows 7 users running the Professional, Enterprise and Ultimate SKUs.

Five months after the availability of Windows 7 RTM, Windows XP Mode RTM and Windows Virtual PC RTM, an update delivered by the software giant is synonymous with the evolution of the free virtualized copy of XP SP3 for the latest Windows client.

When Windows XP Mode and Windows Virtual PC were initially introduced, they came with a set of requirements. First off, the technologies would only be available to customers running the Professional, Enterprise or Ultimate editions of Windows 7. At the same time, Microsoft had made hardware-assisted virtualization capabilities mandatory, meaning that users had to run Windows XP Mode and Windows Virtual PC on machines equipped with CPUs with HAV support and that had HAV enabled in the BIOS. KB977206 comes to correct this aspect.

“We’re announcing an update to Windows XP Mode today that will make it more accessible to PCs in small and midsize businesses who want to migrate to Windows 7 Professional but have applications that still require Windows XP. Windows XP Mode will no longer require hardware virtualization technology to run. This change makes it extremely easy for businesses to use Windows XP Mode to address any application incompatibility roadblocks they might have in migrating to Windows 7.

Windows XP Mode will of course continue to use hardware virtualization technology such as Intel VT (Intel Virtualization Technology) or AMD-V if available,” Brandon LeBlanc, Windows communications manager on the Windows Client Communications Team, noted.

There are two versions of the update available for download (look for links below), designed for the 32-bit (x86) and 64-bit (x64) flavors of Windows 7. The refreshes will remove the hardware-assisted virtualization requirements associated with Windows XP Mode and Windows Virtual PC. With XP Mode, Windows 7 customers are getting a free virtual copy of XP SP3 in which they can run programs incompatible with their guest OS. However, because they’re running in the host XP SP3 on top of Windows 7, the programs are accessible right from the main desktop, as any other application.

“Windows XP Mode is designed for small and midsize businesses. For enterprise customers, we recommend they use Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V) which is part of the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack for Software Assurance. MED-V provides deployment and manageability features better fit to address the needs of the enterprise customer,” LeBlanc added.

Update for Windows 7 (KB977206)

Update for Windows 7 for x64-based Systems (KB977206)

Windows XP Mode RTM and Windows Virtual PC RTM are available for download x86 or x64 | xp mode | SP1 x86 or SP1 x64 | Virtual PC 2007

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