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October 23, 2021

Import Windows XP Mode from Win 7 to Win 10

It is somewhat surprising to think that there are still private users and businesses continuing to use Windows 7 only because they need a free Windows XP Mode virtual machine to run important legacy software. Upgrading to Windows 10 would render XP Mode useless, and requires that new XP virtual machine to be set up, and its software reinstalled and relicensed. In short: lots of time and effort just to restore the Windows 7 status quo on Windows 10.

Some time ago I was asked to write a tutorial on Ten Forums about how to set up a Windows XP Mode VM in Hyper-V in Windows 10. There’s nothing wrong with that approach, but it is not a permanent solution — without activation, the VM only remains usable for 30 days. After that, user would need to delete the VM and repeat the procedure to re-start from scratch.

Yesterday, I saw a fellow Ten Forums member posting this about his Windows 7 to Windows 10 upgrade, and why he had to revert to Windows 7:

The real problem I had was attempting to reinstate my virtual Windows XP Mode. I followed all of the directions given in a tutorial as best I could, but could not make the virtual device recognize my version of XP. Then I read someplace, that such was impossible — and that is a non-starter for me. I need the virtual XP to run some legacy programs.

This got me thinking – how hard could that be? Windows XP Mode running in Virtual PC in Windows 7 is free, and activated. Digital licensing was only introduced in Windows 10. If I managed to move the XP Mode VM from 7 to 10, wouldn’t it remain activated? If not, it could be activated by phone, for sure?

I prepared for a long and dull test session. It was clear that simply copying the VHD from Windows 7 device to Windows 10 would not do the trick. XP Mode VM uses differencing disks and consists of five (default setup) to seven files (if hibernated and Undo Disk is used). I then realised that Disk2VHD, an excellent Sysinternals tool made by Mark Russinovich could provide an elegant solution. And in fact, it did just that.

I was surprised to see how fast and easy it was. I created a new VHD with Disk2VHD, copied it to Windows 10 machine and used it in a new Windows XP Mode VM running in Hyper-V. Activation status (after phone activation), user data and all installed software remained intact.

The whole process only took a few minutes. Read the short and simple tutorial on Ten Forums: Import Windows XP Mode from Windows 7 to Windows 10. There’s no reason anymore to hold back from upgrading Windows 7 to 10, even for those still running legacy software on an XP VM.


Author: Kari Finn

A former Windows Insider MVP, Kari started in computing in the mid 80’s writing code for VAX / VMS systems. Since then, he’s worked in a variety of IT positions. He specializes in Windows image capture, customization, repair and deployment as well as Hyper-V virtualization. Kari is a proud Team Member at number #1 Windows site TenForums.com.

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