In an attempt to run Windows XP applications on Windows 7 via Windows XP Mode, I recently tried out Windows Virtual PC. However, while Windows Virtual PC is the next version of Microsoft Virtual PC and has some remarkably new features, the software as a whole still disappoints me. Here’s why.
Improvements in Windows Virtual PC
1. Seamless integration with Windows Explorer. User can now browse through the list of virtual machines using an Explorer-like interface, instead of the ugly-looking window that can only support a maximum of 3 virtual machines (without scrolling) in the old Microsoft Virtual PC.
2. Support USB devices. USB devices plugged into the host machine can be detected by the guest operating system. This feature has long been present on other emulators (VMware, Sun Virtual Box, etc.) but is not present in Microsoft Virtual PC 2007.
What make it worse despite the improvements…
1. Windows Virtual PC requires hardware virtualization and will not run without it, even though it does not always use this feature. In other words, many older computers that can run Windows 7 smoothly will not be able to run Windows Virtual PC. Since Microsoft Virtual PC refuses to install on Windows 7, owners of these computers will have no choice but to use other emulator software, unless they plan to downgrade to Windows XP.
2. While I may not have used Windows Virtual PC extensively, the newly so-called Integration Features seems to be worse than its predecessor, Virtual Machine Additions:
- Limited file sharing capabilites: Integration features only support sharing of entire hard disk disk; user cannot share a specific folder as they could in Microsoft Virtual PC 2007.
- Integration Features is implemented as a remote desktop session into the Virtual Machine. This will make it unusable in many other older guest OS’es such as Windows 98 and will also reduce the speed.
This explains why the sharing settings look similiar to that of the Remote Desktop client that comes with every version of Windows – maybe Microsoft is just too lazy to re-write the code in a different way…
The older Virtual Machine Additions does not need a Remote Desktop session to communicate with the virtual machine; it instead uses some special communication mechanism, see this for more information.
3. No official support for OSes ealier than Windows XP.
In particular, Integration Features will not work with ealier OSes such as Windows 98 or DOS. Linux is out of the questions, too. In Microsoft Virtual PC 2007, even though DOS is not supported, one could still enable file and folder sharing by using the virtual machine addition floppy image that comes with Microsoft Virtual PC 2004.
4. Floppy Disk and parallel port emulations are removed.
While I seldom use the parallel port emulation and I doubt anyone is still using it frequently, unless they need to print to a parallel port printer or interface some parallel port peripherals from a virtual machine, the floppy disk emulation should not have been removed as it is still needed for some older operating system such as DOS.
5. Finally, it’s overall slower than Microsoft Virtual PC and other emulators, when running on the same system configuration.
For example, using the same VHD image that comes with Windows XP mode, Sun VirtualBox starts the virtual machine within 5 seconds, while Windows Virtual PC spends 15 seconds staying at the “Starting the virtual machine…” screen.
Enough said… I have uninstalled Windows Virtual PC from my Windows 7 machine and use Sun VirtualBox or VMware for emulation purposes. If there is a need, I will just boot to Windows XP and use Microsoft Virtual PC 2007.