In case you haven’t heard, Windows XP is being phased out. If you love it, like many users do, this is not good news. Windows XP allows users to seamlessly run multiple applications and toggle between them with ease. Also, many software application are dependent upon the use of Windows XP.

While many people feel like Microsoft is doing the right thing by moving away from Windows, there are still many people who like the “feel” and easy-to-use features of Windows XP. There is a “Windows XP mode” in Windows 7, but it is restricted to Professional versions of the hardware. You can, however, get Windows XP with Windows 8, and you do not have to buy any additional products or software keys. You will need to download several free programs (if you do not already have them installed).

The first step is to download the Windows XP Mode installer file directly from Microsoft. You will then be asked to validate your version of Windows. If you are using a pirated or shareware version of Windows, Microsoft will not let you download this file.  After you have successfully validated your version of Windows, download the file as prompted, but make sure you do not run the installer. At this stage, just download the file. (If you are asked to choose between two files, choose: WindowsXPMode_en-us.exe).

Next, you will need to extract the files. If you do not currently have extraction software you will need to get one (7-Zip and WinZip are both good programs and are free to download). Once you have extracted the files from the Windows XP Mode installer, you will need to view the files. Locate the file marked “xpm” and drag it to any folder on your computer to extract it. Repeat the same process with the file marked “VirtualXPVHD.”  This file is a virtual hard drive file, so once you extract it (if done correctly) you should now see the .VHD extension. If you do not, right click the file and rename it to “VirtualXPVHD.vhd”. Once you have successfully completed these steps, you can delete the “WindowsXPMode_en-us.exe” and “xpm” files in order to save space on your hard drive.

Now, you have a .VHD file we can boot in a virtual machine program. If you do not have one already, try VirtualBox because it’s free and runs on all versions of Windows 8. After downloading, click the “new” button to create a new virtual machine and follow the instructions. When asked for the operating system, select “Windows XP (32-bit).” In the next step, you can select as much memory as you like to be allocated to VirtualBox. I would suggest sticking to the recommended 192MB simply because it causes less issues. For the hard drive, select the last option (“use an existing virtual hard drive file”) and select the .VHD file you saved earlier.

You can now boot your Windows XP Mode system by clicking the Start button in VirtualBox. You’ll have to enter a few details to finish setting it up, but you won’t have to go through the entire installation process or enter a product key. From here, the process is about the same as if you had installed Windows XP inside a virtual machine from a Windows XP disc. Install any old software that requires Windows XP inside the virtual machine and you are ready to go! You will now be able to use all of your old programs inside the VirtualBox, while still maintaining the use of Windows 8.

Featured photo credit: Windows XP/Alfred Hermida/Flickr via flickr.com

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