I’ve read lots of discussion of XP Mode over the past 10 days (a tip of the hat to Rafael Rivera and Paul Thurrott for their excellent coverage so far, including Rafael’s breakdown of Windows XP Mode Internals, part 1 and part 2.). But I’ve only seen a few passing mentions of a possible stumbling block that will affect many people who try out Windows 7.
If you download the Windows 7 Release Candidate, as many people will do when it becomes available this week, you can also download a beta version of Windows Virtual PC and a fully licensed virtual machine running Windows XP SP3 to go along with it. But will you be able to install XP Mode?
That depends on whether your CPU supports it. Don’t assume that you can use this feature because you have a new PC with a fast, powerful processor. Windows Virtual PC, which powers XP Mode, requires hardware virtualization. In the case of Intel CPUs, that means the CPU has to include a feature called Intel VT.
If your PC is powered by a new quad-core Q8400, you can’t run Windows Virtual PC. An E6600 supports VT, while an E7400 doesn’t. But an E8200 includes VT support.
The Intel product matrix is downright baffling, which is why I went to Intel’s website and spent a couple hours putting together information about which CPUs in which families support hardware virtualization. You’ll find the detailed explanation, along with separate charts for desktop and mobile CPUs from Intel, here:
If you’re thinking of buying a new PC with Windows 7 in mind, you’ll definitely want to incorporate this data into your research.