Windows 8 XP Mode?

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Windows XP has had a pretty good run. It came out in 2001, and ruled the roost until Windows Vista was introduced in 2007. Windows 7 came out in 2009, and Windows 8 will be out next month, but a lot of people and businesses are still faithfully using the quaintly archaic XP in spite of Microsoft’s best efforts to get people to upgrade. Why? Well, some would say that it just plain works. Not only that, but there’s a lot of software out there that was designed to run on XP, and won’t work with the newer versions of Windows… at least, not without a handy feature known as “XP mode” that preserves compatibility by making computers think that they’re still running the old system.

It seems like a pretty reasonable balance, right? An XP devotee doesn’t have to sacrifice perhaps hundreds — or even thousands — of dollars replacing old software, and Microsoft gets to keep them upgrading Windows as new versions are released.

Until now.

Microsoft has dropped the bomb on such users by announcing that Windows 8 will not feature an XP mode. And while this seems like a great tragedy for the people who have relied on XP for more than a decade, don’t forget that a virtual machine can still run alternative operating systems — including XP — independent of Windows 8. The only thing that’s different is that XP won’t be officially supported by further versions of Windows. Considering that XP’s been technically obsolete for five years (we’ll pretend that Vista counted), this really isn’t an unreasonable stance for Microsoft to take.

How do you feel about Microsoft’s declaration of independence from XP? Here’s how our community has weighed in on this news thus far (via Google+).

Seth Harkins: I wouldn’t say moving away from XP compatibility is one of those risky moves, though. Support for it only affects people who use really old programs — and I’d wager most people buying laptops or PCs with Windows 8 will be using at least the Windows 7-generation software, like Word and stuff like that. The only place I’ve even seen it as necessary is with really, really old games. You can’t replace an old game, but you can replace old productivity tools.

Jon Dye: I’ll hang onto Window 7 until Microsoft figures it out.

Byron Alley: Good point. Windows originally built its market share largely on a devotion to legacy support, both of earlier Windows versions, and even old DOS programs. In fact, that was one of the reasons it was known as such a buggy, technologically flawed operating system in the earlier years: because Microsoft knew that people the main purpose of an OS was to run programs, so really the most important thing was to be able to run as many existing applications as possible. However NT and the whole 2000/XP/etc. series has been moving away from that, as it becomes more common for applications to self-update via the Internet, meaning that there’s less and less need to support antiquated software. It seems early, but it will probably make for a better operating system in the end.

Edward Williams: At my job we use XP mode on some of our systems. We’ve already decided we won’t be using Windows 8 here. But, of course, that could change.

Ray Sanders: Even Apple ditched the OS 9 emulation layer, right?

Patrick He: For as much as I think they should, it doesn’t make sense. Like you said, three generations later, the programs you needed should have updated by now. If you really need XP on your computer, you can use VMware Player or VirtualBox for free. Not sure about Player, but VB has a sharing mode that allows you to merge the virtual machine’s desktop with the physical. I’ve been running VMware Workstation for years doing this on my Windows 7 box. I’ve had better luck with this setup than XP mode.

My thoughts, exactly. So what do you think about this turn of events? Leave a comment and share!