make your older programs run seamlessly in windows 7

This week I ran into a little bit of a snag while upgrading our last engineering workstation to Windows 7.  The workstation that I was working on needed to have AutoCAD 2002 installed on it in order to deal with some legacy data that we still have in the system.  My original plan was to install it normally in Windows 7 and then change it to run in Compatibility mode by switching to this option in the properties of the application (you can see how to do this by clicking here).  But, as most CAD Administrator and/or IT Professionals know usually things like this do not go as smoothly as planned.

At first glance everything seemed to work fine but once the designer started using AutoCAD again he ran into some serious problems.  When he opened up some pre-existing files some of the text was either missing or completely unformatted.  I traced the problem down to that AutoCAD 2002 uses a font format extension of .shx while all of the new Windows operating systems using a True Type Format (.ttf).  So our first option was to go through and switch all of the text to a TTF font but some of the dimensions were not even available to select in order to change.  This is when I remembered a tip that Jeremy Regnerus shared in his “Seven Tips for Windows 7” screencast in the Tips for Engineers Screencast Series that SolidWorks is doing.

Windows XP Mode!  What this does is install a virtual Windows XP machine on your computer that will allow you to install and run older programs on your new computer.  In order to use this tool however you will need to install some programs from the Windows Virtual PC website.  You can see this website in the picture below.  Once you select your operating system and language you will be presented with 3 files to download (step 3).  Install these in the order the Windows suggests and you will be ready to start using this great tool.

01_download xp mode

Once it is installed you will notice a new folder in your Start menu called Windows Virtual PC.  In the picture below you can see that I have also installed AutoCAD 2002 on my virtual Windows XP machine so I also have a subfolder called Windows XP Mode Applications.  The 1st time you start Windows XP mode you will be required to set up a user account with a password.  I just used the same password that is required on the Windows 7 machine to join our network.  I figured this would be easy for the user to remember.

02_start menu

When you get Windows XP Mode setup you have some options on how you would like to access the programs you have installed on it.  The 1st option is to click the application link in the Windows XP Mode Applications folder (in my case this would be AutoCAD 2002).  When you do this you will see a window popup similar to the one shown below saying that Windows 7 is starting the virtual application.

03_starting application

Once it loads you will see your application as shown below.  It look as if you are still fully working in Windows 7 but with ALL of the compatibility of Windows XP.  This is a great way to go because you still have quick access to all of your Windows 7 applications and drives.

04_acad in 7

The other option is to start Windows XP mode first which will result in a windows as shown below.  This works exactly like Windows XP did. 

05_windows xp mode

From there you can launch your older program and it will look and function like it always did in Windows XP.

06_acad in xp   

Both options are great functionality and give you the same result.  A fully compatible older application being able to run on your brand spanking new machine!  One thing that I have not tried to do is see how something like SolidWorks 2007 runs using this tool.  A little while back I installed SolidWorks 2007 on my Windows 7 machine out of curiosity and it was ugly.  But by using this tool I would imagine that it should work seamlessly similar to AutoCAD.

Thanks Jeremy for tipping me off on this tool!

2 thoughts on “make your older programs run seamlessly in windows 7

  1. We have set up Virtual XP mode for AutoCAD R2002 on one of our Win 7 64 bit machines to also edit old legacy files.

    What we ran into is a graphic issue in XP mode. The drawing commands work fine, lines, arcs etc, but when you use the edit commands: move, copy, stretch etc. there is a serious lag time and artifact trail left on the screen. Have you actually been able to edit drawings, large and small to see how it behaves?

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