Windows Virtual PC

Windows Virtual PC

  • Comments 121
  • Likes

Windows® Virtual PC (WVPC) is a client virtualization software, which can be used on Windows 7 to create multiple Virtual Machines (VMs), each running a different operating system (OS). WVPC can be obtained as a free download from Windows Virtual PC website. WVPC is the engine which supports Windows XP Mode, a preconfigured VM running Windows XP SP3 provided by Microsoft on Windows Professional, Ultimate and Enterprise SKUs.

A VM functions as an additional PC on your Windows 7 desktop, complete with its own Start menu, applications, folders such as My Documents, access to the network for email and Internet, and access to USB and serial devices. Installing WVPC creates a short-cut named “Windows Virtual PC” on Windows 7 Start menu (Figure 1). Clicking on the shortcut opens the Virtual Machines folder, with a command bar that has an option to create a new VM. You can create a new VM using a guest OS image (e.g. Windows XP SP3 DVD or ISO image, or a VHD containing the OS image).


Figure 1. Start menu integration of Windows Virtual PC, VMs and virtual applications

WVPC supports Windows XP SP3, Windows Vista SP2 and Windows 7 as the guest OS. To the guest OS running in the VM, WVPC presents a virtual hardware, complete with disk, CPU, memory, I/O and other devices. Virtual Machine Monitor (VMM), a kernel-level component running on the host OS, manages the instructions from the VM for all the guest VM operations such as CPU, disk and I/O access, device and network access.

Key Features in Windows Virtual PC

  • WVPC is seamlessly integrated into the Windows desktop. This enables you to launch and use a full VM or a virtual application as if it is just another native Windows 7 application, and navigate between the host and guest environments and applications freely. This is provided via features such as clipboard sharing, printer sharing, Start menu integration, file system and drive sharing, and file association with host.
  • WVPC comes with a new UI including a full VM Console, Settings interface and a WVPC Wizards interface to create new VMs, and advanced management of VMs using diff disks. 
  • Windows XP Mode, a preconfigured Windows XP SP3 VM, is provided with WVPC on Business SKUs, to easily create and setup a virtual XP desktop which gets integrated with the Start menu.
  • WVPC can run in two modes: a Virtual Applications mode to run legacy applications seamlessly, and a full desktop mode that gives the user a full desktop experience of the guest operating system. 
  • Printers, flash memory sticks, external hard disks and backup disks, digital cameras and smartcards are USB devices important to the Enterprise and SMB users, which can be used easily in WVPC VMs.
  • WVPC provides extensive networking capabilities to a virtual machine. You can configure network connections between a VM and the host, among multiple VMs, and between VMs and the external network. 
  • COM scripting support and headless VM support are provided, with an SDK for developers and IT Pros to extend the basic WVPC functionality to enable their unique scenarios.
  • WVPC takes advantage of Hardware Assisted Virtualization (HAV) feature (Intel® VT and AMD-V™) which improves the performance and robustness of VMs on HAV-capable hardware. HAV is required to use WVPC on Windows 7.

In the upcoming blog articles, we will dive into how each feature and component of WVPC was engineered and how to use them in different scenarios. In this first article, we will focus on seamless application compatibility, which is the key scenario WVPC enables.

Seamless Application Compatibility

Windows 7 is built to effectively address the application compatibility need, using the Application Compatibility features provided in-box. Windows XP Mode is an additional solution specifically targeting Windows XP application compatibility. It is a preconfigured VM, created using a pre-activated and sys-prepped copy of Windows XP SP3 in VHD file format. It will be made available on the Download Center as a separate EXE package containing a VHD (with XP SP3) for installing on Windows 7.

Using a VM as a Full Desktop on Windows 7

In Figure 1, clicking on the shortcut to Windows XP Mode launches a full XP desktop in a VM (Fig. 2). User is able to run Internet Explorer® 6 and Excel® 2003, two LOB (Line of Business) applications, in XP Mode in this way. Notice the XP Taskbar within the VM right above the Windows 7 super bar, on which Excel and IE6 icons are shown. The full VM also provides a toolbar (at window top) with different options to interact with the VM. For example, expanding the ‘Action’ dropdown menu item presents options to view the same VM in full screen mode, to restart, sleep or close the VM. The Tools menu item presents a shortcut to VM Settings. Clicking on it launches the Settings dialog where user can specify any changes in VM memory, networking options, logon credentials and other settings. The Ctr+Alt+Del option is necessary to shutdown the VM, whereas clicking on the (X) icon on the far right would close the VM as per the user’s preference specified in Settings (i.e., hibernate, logoff or shutdown). These features and scenarios will be discussed in detail, in future blog articles.


Figure 2. A VM created using an XP guest OS running on a Windows 7 desktop

Virtual Applications: Running your Windows XP Applications seamlessly on Windows 7

In the above full VM scenario, to run an LOB app (Excel 2003), user has to launch the XP VM first and then start the application within the VM. WVPC offers a much more seamless solution to application compatibility, via the Virtual Applications and Windows XP Mode features. Virtual applications are seamlessly integrated with the Windows 7 desktop and Start menu. When an application is installed in the XP Mode VM, a shortcut gets automatically created on the Start menu of Windows 7 (Figure 3). Notice the shortcut link to Internet Explorer 6 and Excel 2003 – two virtual applications. Clicking on the Excel shortcut will launch that application. Virtual applications icons can also be integrated with Windows 7 notification area (Systray). Files created using such applications have their file association enabled, which means that, clicking the file’s icon shortcut will also launch the required virtual application and open the file. Book1.xls, an Excel 2003 file, has its shortcut placed on Windows 7 desktop. Such virtual application files can be saved in the host My Documents folder or the Desktop.

Launching the first virtual application starts the underlying VM, automatically logging the user in. Launching of subsequent applications is much faster. Notice the shortcuts to Excel and IE6 pinned to the Windows 7 super bar, and appear in a jump list as well. Such seamless integration with Windows 7 Shell is designed to facilitate a simple, delightful experience using legacy apps.


Figure 3. A virtual application, Excel 2003, running in seamless mode on a Windows 7 desktop

In Closing…

The central vision of WVPC is to drive the overall adoption of Windows 7 by addressing the legacy application compatibility needs of enterprise and small business users with a very simple, readily accessible and seamless presentation of applications and virtual desktops. We will blog about these features and scenarios in detail soon. Watch this space, and welcome to the Windows Virtual PC and Windows XP Mode experience on Windows 7!

Prasad Saripalli

Principal Program Manager

Microsoft Virtualization Team

  • I'm sorry, but until this product supports an x64 guest it is of absolutely no use whatsover to me. I just don't understand how this feature is still not included in this product.

  • I have a Sony VGN-AR71ZU laptop which has a dual core T9300 processor but Sony disable virtualisation in their bios. Can you PLEASE put pressure on manufacturers like Sony to release bios updates that will enable virtualisation to be used. I have been told by Sony that there is no demand for virtualisation on laptops so they disable VT to 'simplify support'. Clearly this is complete rubbish. Please put pressure on them to release updates not just for new PC's but for any that have processor VT support.

  • Tim - I agree, I think x64 guests is the number #1 feature missing from the new VPC engine.  SharePoint Server 2010 will be out soon and the only way to play with it will be via VMWare.  Its so sad, because I really like the job that has been done integrating VPC into the Windows 7 shell, very slick and nice to use.

    Number #2 missing feature is virtual SCSI drive support for virtual disks bigger than 128GB.

    Number #3 Guests support - What about Windows Server 2003 guests, Windows Server 2008 etc.

    I understand that the product aims to support backwards compatibility - but that is not the only thing virtual machine technology is used for. Carrying around a Windows Server + HyperV to do demos is totally overkill.



  • I have to agree with James -- if all three of those features were present with decent performance, I'd likely stop running VMware on my laptop.

  • One more question/comment: is there a way to join the VM to an Active Directory domain, and then log in to the VM using pass-through credentials (with my domain account) when launching a virtual application? This would be great for accessing SharePoint with a downlevel version of IE/MS Office. My experience is that the virtual application is launched with the local admin account on the VM. So, I get prompted for credentials if I try to launch a MS Office application and then try to access a document from SharePoint.

    If this isn't possible, let's tack that on the list of desired features! :)

  • Frank,

    You can indeed join the VM to the domain (like any other physical machine) and publish applications using your domain account in the VM. Then you can start the published applications and use your domain credentials when prompted.

  • What I'm really looking for is the application being launched under the context of my domain user account, seamlessly (similar to the way that Terminal Services 2008 can pass credentials to launch a RemoteApp without prompting for credentials). I'd rather not have my application launch using local admin credentials and then prompt me when I try to access a domain resource.

  • Hi,

    Just downloaded and installed Virtual PC and XP Mode on my Windows 7 RTM Ultimate.  

    I have to say I am very impressed with how it works seemlessly having the applications installed on the Virtual PC accessible directly from the Win7 Task Bar is great.  

    I do a lot of development for a leading UK Bank and they still use SQL Server 2000 which struggles to run on Windows 7 or Vista.  Now I can run it in XP Mode and it's like running it natively. Brilliant!

    A couple of issues do exist though, when I first started the XP Mode applications like SQL Enterprise Manager and Query Analyser they opened in my right hand display with the top half of the application missing.  

    I run a dual monitor display, the right hand display is oriented in portrait mode and my left hand display is in landscape.  It appears as if XP Mode apps are trying to start centred across the two displays, because the top of the left hand display is lower than the right hand display, the right hand display seems to truncate the top of the application Window level with the top edge of the left hand one??

    I managed to get out of it by pressing ALT + Spacebar to get the Control menu to pop up and then I could resize the Window so that I could see the top half of the application.

    This needs sorting as I expect a non-technical user probably wouldn't know how to get out of that one?

    I also had to remove my existing Virtul PC 2007 installation in order to install the new version.  I am now struggling to figure out how I import the Virtual PC 2007 VMC files into the new Virtual PC? Is this possible, if not how do you get to your old virtual machines??

    I can see how to create a new Virtual PC but it seems to want to create a new file rather than offering you to open an existing VHD or VMC??

    Any help appreciated.


  • Hi Siv,

    Virtual application windows being centered across two monitors is a known limitation. The application opens in span mode and treats the 2 monitors as 1 big screen, hence the centering.

    For importing VMC, simply double click the VMC file and it will register the VMs with Windows Virtual PC.

  • I think its a good design, waiting for Win7 to release; this will solve some vista woes :-)

  • Hi, I installed the WVPC RC on Windows 7 Professional RTM and I can't get the drag&drop between the host and the client to work. It's a problem with my installation or is it a missing feature?


  • I agree that 64bit support is a major missing feature and I’ll continue to use VirtualBox when I need certain functionality (64bit/SCSI/multiple CPUs/etc).  But I do like a lot about WVPC and it will be very helpful while migrating users to Windows 7.

    Question - I'll be using WVPC's published virtual apps to evaluate beta's, should I use Windows 7 or XP for the VM?

    For example, I have an Office 2010 Technical Preview that I was going to install in a Windows 7 Enterprise VM, is there any reason (like performance, appearance, functionality) to use a Windows XP VM instead?

    I will probably setup both and see for myself, but is there a recommended OS when the app is compatible with several?

  • @EnricoG:   Drag and Drop is not a supported feature in WVPC.  Clipboard sharing (for cut, copy and paste) and drive/folder sharing are supported.

    @Tony B:  You can use any of the supported guest OS (XP SP3, Vista SP2, Windows 7) to evaluate virtual applications.  If the app is compatible with Windows 7 itself, it is best to run that app natively on Windows 7.  If not, it should be run in a down-level guest OS with which it is compatible.

    Prasad Saripalli (MSFT)

  • Prasad,

    Has the attached devices compatibility been improved in the released version?

    For example, I have an HP scanner that requires backlevel software to use. I launch the VM and attach the scanner, and it works. But I it doesn't work when I launch the app directly from my start menu because it requires a manual attach of the scanner to the VM.

  • I have two questions regarding Virtual PC:

    1. Can I keep a USB device attached? Right now I have to reattach it every time I plug it in.

    2. How can I make built-in XP applications (for example Solitaire) appear in Win7's start menu?


Your comment has been posted.   Close
Thank you, your comment requires moderation so it may take a while to appear.   Close
Leave a Comment