Whether it’s nostalgia or running old software, there are benefits to using a Windows XP machine – for the right reasons. Obviously, it is not recommended to use Windows XP as the only operating system because it is outdated, unsupported, and full of security threats.
Fortunately, a Windows XP virtual machine is free to set up. While the official methods require a Windows 7 PC, you can use Windows 10 and other operating systems, although this method requires a little workaround. To run Windows XP as a virtual machine, you must carefully follow these instructions.
Download Windows XP and extract the installation files
To start using a Windows XP virtual machine, you need a Windows 10 computer with virtualization enabled in BIOS or UEFI settings. You can use a different operating system, but these instructions were designed with Windows 10 in mind.
The operating system you are using must also support VirtualBox, the software we will be using to run Windows XP.
- If your computer is ready, download the Windows XP Mode EXE file from the Microsoft website (named WindowsXPMode_en-us.exe). After downloading, don’t run the file. This XP installer is only supported on Windows 7, so we will need to extract the files you need to run XP on Windows 10 from it.
- If you don’t already have it installed on your computer. installed, download and install 7-Zip before proceeding. After installing 7-Zip, locate the Windows XP Installer file in Windows Explorer, then right-click the file.
- From there click on 7-Zip> Open Archive> Cab to open the EXE file in the 7-Zip File Manager.
- In 7-Zip File Manager, double-click the Sources folder, then double-click the xpm file. A second window of the 7-Zip File Manager will open, containing the files for your Windows XP virtual machine.
- Please select the content before clicking the Check Out button.
- Choose a suitable location for your files. Before doing this, you may need to create a new folder. When you’re ready, click “OK” to unzip the files to your computer.
- Open the folder containing the Windows XP files in Windows Explorer. Find the VirtualXPVHD file, right click> Rename, then change the name from VirtualXPVHD to VirtualXP.VHD, adding a dot between XP and VHD.
Adding the VHD file extension turns this file into a virtual hard disk file supported by VirtualBox, allowing you to run Windows XP as a virtual machine.
Set up a Windows XP virtual machine with VirtualBox
After extracting the Windows XP boot files, you can start configuring as a virtual machine.
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- First you need to download and install VirtualBox. Once installed, open VirtualBox and click the New button to start creating a new virtual machine.
- In the Create Virtual Machine window, click the Expert Mode button at the bottom.
- Enter Windows XP in the Name field to automatically configure settings for XP. Check again if Windows XP (32-bit) is installed, then set the memory size to about 512 MB or higher. You can climb higher, although experience is enough with less.
- In the Hard Disk section of the Create Virtual Machine window, select Use an existing hard disk file. Click the folder icon next to it, then click Add in the Select Hard Drive window.
- Find the VirtualXP.VHD file and click Open to add it. When VirtualXP.VHD appears in the hard disk selection window, select it and click the Select button.
- Back in the Create Virtual Machine window, double check that the settings are correct before clicking the Create button.
VirtualBox Final Configuration and Windows XP Testing
Your newly created Virtual XP simulator will appear as a virtual machine in the VirtualBox Manager. However, you need to make a few changes before you can start running it.
- In VirtualBox Manager, select the XP virtual machine and click the Settings button to start configuring.
- First go to the System tab. Under Boot Order, uncheck Floppy Disk, then use the side arrows to reorder the items in the following order: HDD, Optical, Floppy, Network.
- Click the Display tab. Increase your video memory from 16 MB to 128 MB using the slider in the Display section.
- After all the settings are correct, click OK to save the Windows XP virtual machine settings. You can now start your XP computer for the first time by clicking the Start button.
- The first time you run XP as a virtual machine, you will need to confirm some initial XP settings, such as keyboard layout and time zone. Confirm these settings at each step by clicking the Next button.
- Give your XP virtual machine a name and also provide an administrator password. You can leave the password blank if you like. Click Next to continue.
- After confirming the date and time settings, XP will complete the configuration process and reboot. When it’s complete, click Devices> Insert Guest Additions CD Image in the VirtualBox window. This will install additional drivers and settings to improve XP performance in VirtualBox.
- Follow the installation process by clicking “Continue Anyway” if any driver warnings appear.
- After installing the VirtualBox Guest Additions, click Finish to restart the XP virtual machine.
- With your XP virtual machine running, click Machine> Take Snapshot. Give a name to the original Windows XP snapshot before clicking OK.
- If you want to later restore a virtual machine to this snapshot, click the menu icon next to the XP virtual machine in VirtualBox Manager and select Snapshots. From here, select a snapshot before clicking the “Recover” button.
The Windows XP virtual machine that boots up at this point can only be used for 30 days as it does not have a valid license. If you can find your Windows XP license key (for example on an older PC), you can add it directly to your virtual machine, although it may still not activate.
To work around this, take a snapshot of your virtual machine immediately after it is created.
Restoring a Windows XP virtual machine using a snapshot will reset the clock, allowing you to use XP indefinitely, although you will lose any files or software installed after that point.
Running newer operating systems in VirtualBox
After 30 days, remember to go back to your original VirtualBox snapshot to reset your XP license clock if you want to continue testing it.
There is only so much you can do with a Windows XP simulator like this, but if you want to continue testing, you can try other operating systems as VirtualBox VMs. For example, if you want to try Linux, install Ubuntu in VirtualBox instead.