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Windows Virtual PC Help

Applies To: Windows 7

Windows® Virtual PC is an optional component of the Windows 7 operating system that lets you run more than one operating system at the same time on one computer. One of the key benefits is that you can use Windows Virtual PC to migrate to Windows 7 while continuing to use applications that run on older versions of Windows, such as Windows XP or Windows Vista®.

If Windows Virtual PC is not located in All Programs on the Start menu, you can download it free of charge from the Windows Virtual PC home page (


Hardware requirements for Windows Virtual PC differ slightly from Windows 7. For more information about these requirements, see the Windows Virtual PC Evaluation Guide ( We recommend that you review the requirements before you try to install Windows Virtual PC because the computer must be configured correctly to install the component.

Windows Virtual PC basics

Windows Virtual PC enables you to run more than one operating system at a time on one computer by providing a virtualization environment. This environment uses virtual machines, each of which is like a separate physical computer. Each virtual machine emulates a physical computer and can run one 32-bit operating system, which is called a guest operating system. The physical computer and the Windows 7 operating system that runs directly on the computer (instead of in a virtual machine) together are called the host. This instance of Windows 7 is sometimes called the host operating system.

Windows Virtual PC offers two basic ways for you to interact with this virtual environment. You can:

  • Use applications directly from the host when those applications are actually installed in the guest operating system. This is useful when you just want to run these older applications and you do not need to interact with the guest operating system. When you use this option, the virtual machine environment is essentially hidden. The applications are called virtual applications and are available from the Start menu of the host. This option is supported for specific versions of Windows (which require an update) and is suited for business applications. For more information, see Publish and use virtual applications.

  • Interact directly with the guest operating system and the virtual machine. You can view the desktop of the guest operating system from a window, called the virtual machine window—or in full desktop mode, which is similar to a Remote Desktop client session. This is useful if you want to interact with the guest operating system. For example, you might do this to reproduce a scenario for troubleshooting or support purposes.

In either case, you will need a virtual machine. Your options are:

  • Set up Windows XP Mode. This option creates a preconfigured virtual machine with Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3) already installed. After an easy set up, this environment is ready for you to customize with your own applications. Windows XP Mode is available for the 32-bit and 64-bit editions of Windows 7 Professional, Windows 7 Enterprise, and Windows 7 Ultimate. For more information, see Configuring and using Windows XP Mode.

  • Set up your own virtual machine. To do this, you create a virtual machine and install the guest operating system yourself. This option is useful if you do not want to run Windows XP SP3, or if you are using a version of Windows 7 for which Windows XP Mode is not available. For instructions, see Create a virtual machine and install a guest operating system. For information about the operating systems that are supported for use with Windows Virtual PC, see the Windows Virtual PC home page (


Windows XP Mode is the faster method because it requires fewer steps.

One of the benefits of using a virtual machine is that you can change the hardware faster and more easily than on a physical computer. For example, to add or remove a network adapter or change the amount of memory, you shut down the virtual machine and modify a setting. There is no need to open a computer case. For more information, see Configuring a virtual machine.

Windows Virtual PC includes the Integration Components package, which provides features that improve the integration between the virtual environment and the physical computer. For more information, see About integration features.

See Also


Using a virtual machine
About virtual hard disks
Modify a virtual hard disk
Troubleshooting Windows Virtual PC
Resources for Windows Virtual PC
Remove Windows XP Mode, virtual machines, or Windows Virtual PC