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article imageOp-Ed: XP Mode on Windows 7 works, but there are problems Special

By Paul Wallis     Dec 16, 2011 in Technology
Sydney - I had a few special reasons for getting XP Mode: I needed to access some materials from my old system and to finally play some of my beloved games which Windows 7 won’t run. It turned out to be a good idea, with some qualifications.
The first stage to getting XP mode was to get Windows 7 Ultimate or Windows 7 Professional. The choice was Ultimate, because it’s a full spectrum platform. So I scurried over to Microsoft Australia, got my license key- And found some information on the Microsoft US website about needing a clean install when upgrading from my old version of Windows 7 to Ultimate.
Just what I needed- A clean install. This is actually best practice, and it’s a good idea, but it’s also complex, when you’ve got a lot of working materials on your computer. I rang my computer guy, and was told that there shouldn’t be a problem, which was what I wanted to hear, but of course by this time I was half-persuaded that nothing could be that simple.
Meanwhile I sent an email to Microsoft complaining about not being able to directly access the Windows 7 download. I got a polite reply which in effect said that if I looked, I’d find Windows Anytime Upgrade on Control Panel. Ahem… Well, I like to complain…
So, by accident, I had some time to get things done, so I put in my license key code, got things running and came back from my laundry to “Windows upgrade was not successful”. Tried again, and got “Product license key is incorrect”. Obviously- I’d been right all along. Nothing could be that simple.
Rang Microsoft Australia, and got some good service from a guy called I think Denver. (Sorry mate, if I got the name wrong) The guy asked for the basic info about my order, and asked me to restart the computer before we attempted to do the upgrade.
The computer started its upgrade automatically. It couldn’t do the reboot it required, and the manual restart was all it needed. I thanked the Microsoft guy, gave some customer feedback, and then scampered off to download XP Mode.
No problems at all- Until I noticed that I should have gone to the link which downloaded Virtual PC and XP in combination. Uh-huh. Obviously I hadn’t bothered to wake up. Despite all this applied stupidity, I got it all done.
XP mode
XP started up with the old familiar piano notes- And a blank blue screen with a few basic icons, like a new computer. The first thing I did was to install Civilization 2, Test of Time, a game in which I’ve had some truly fantastic battles. I got a Civ rating of 300% in one game, not bad, and I love the exploring. I have played other Civ games since, up to Civ 4, but they’re too gamesy-wamesy for my taste. I like a game where I can really go to work, not just admire the theories.
Started up the first game- The sound was better than I remembered. Then I discovered that the game was (a) playing slowly (b) There was no soundtrack. That was a real nuisance, because I love that soundtrack and (c) wasn’t full screen, a bit like an arcade game.
Civ 2 is not a game where you want to spend 10 seconds watching something move. I tried to access various bits and pieces and went in and out of Win 7 and XP trying to set up sound files. Still working on that. As a matter of fact, Civ 2 is a Win 98 game, and I’m not even sure if it was 16 or 32 bit. It did run on XP, but I also wound up with some rather iffy versions of it which I think had corrupted files, because some game routines didn’t work properly.
Then I installed Music Works Personal, the classic original write your own music software which is now available on bit torrents and dubious downloads around the world. This was a great piece of Australian music software, but typically the company lost track of itself. I rang them a few years back and discovered that they hadn’t even got the thing organized for XP, when XP had been out for a few years.
To my surprise- First, the thing wouldn’t install at all. Then it installed, and played better sound than I’d ever heard it achieve with my original XP. Admittedly, I’ve got a new sound card and two new computers since this thing came out, but it was, undeniably, excellent quality sound.
The next project was setting up another legendary game- TalonSoft’s East Front II, which is a really fun game if you’re into it. Same problems, although this time the soundtrack was present.
This can be a truly gigantic game, and take days to play, with hundreds of individual game units. So the go-slow approach wasn’t exactly appreciated. I did get interested when watching the AI’s tanks firing at my tanks in slow motion and vice versa. Won the game with a major victory, but could have done it in about a third of the time in normal speed. Also didn’t have the usual cascades for game controls above, although fortunately someone doing the game design must have remembered the old Commodore 64 setup and had keys to do all that, which I found on help.
Being a true gamer, I then remembered what I was supposed to be doing, which was digging out my music and other stuff from the old hard drive. Plugged in the drive and it said- Do you want to format this drive- Warning: If you format the drive, you’ll erase the disk. Nice to know.
Then XP mode couldn’t open it. Then Windows 7 couldn’t open it. All I know for sure is there’s something on there, and the drive is still alive. I’m going to have to get that organized.
Downloaded iTunes for XP mode, so I could have some music. iTunes, naturally, crashed, which it also does occasionally on other non-virtual systems. I’m sure I’ll either trick iTunes, trick XP or trick myself into getting it right and set up properly, sooner or later.
The virtual mode idea
The virtual PC idea is actually a very good idea, but it needs to be expanded into creating true OS environments which are accurate reproductions of the originals. If virtual modes were standard, I doubt if anyone would be complaining, because virtual XP is about 90% of the original, which was always a very good, reliable system, regardless of cynical views of system 32. It was originally an NT system introduced after Windows 98, and a good one. This virtual XP is XP Service Pack 3, and it’s pretty good, even if it takes a bit of getting used to.
Running XP mode is very easy. It runs off “All Programs” in the start menu, and has an all-purpose off/on/restart and other functions on its screens so you’re able to get in and out of it quickly and simply.
I don’t quite believe the common theory that developers come up with these ideas and then get lumbered with whatever marketing decides should be on these systems. I do, however, think that functionality should be standardized, and the virtual systems should stick as close as possible to the known operating parameters of the originals, because the various vintages of software running on these systems are always going to be pretty much immovable and inflexible. A template/standardized system approach could be the best option.
Win 7 Ultimate turned out to be a good idea overall. I have a customized computer, very fast, and it seems to prefer it to Home Premium.
Just for the record, I haven’t tried Win 7 Ultimate compatibility mode for my games yet. I was in such a hurry to get Civ 2 going that I didn’t even think of it.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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