How to legally install Windows XP for free in Windows 8 using Virtualbox

Windows XP in VirtualBox!

Last summer, I showed you that despite declining use, Windows XP is adamantly hold on.

People are inexorably drawn to Windows XP and I think  part of the reason is because Windows XP is accessible.  It’s really easy to use.

But everything isn’t perfect here.

XP’s ease of use means many companies continue to use outdated systems.  Organizations aren’t able to apportion the requisite funds to upgrade their systems and the lack of automation tools makes migrations an onerous process.  As a result, government bureaus and public schools cling to this antiquated OS.

The strictures of their budgets simply keep them fettered to XP.

In fact, according to a 2013 survey from AVAST that solicited 164 educational institutions, over 96% of the US schools will face a cataclysmic technology crisis when Microsoft pulls the proverbial “XP plug” next month.

But wait! There’s more.

I was aghast when I learned there are literally millions of crusty ATM’s around the world still relying on XP.  Yes it’s true that most bank ATMs are locked down but that won’t deter determined hackers from prying open the metal casing and booting ATMs from infected USB sticks.

XP is everywhere if you pay attention

Just how ubiquitous is Windows XP these days?

According to February 2014 data from NetMarketShare, 30% of the market is still using Windows XP.

Windows XP Market Share Feb 2014

That’s a prodigious sum.

So Windows XP is still here; therefore, we need to do something about it.

Yes, the dilapidated version of Internet Explorer that ships with Windows XP is the bane of every web designers existence.  But thankfully, the diminution of IE6 is fading at a rapid pace (as of February 2014 it’s less than 5%),

But it’s not just Web Designers who need to contend with Windows XP.  IT support staffs are faced with the challenge of having to support a moribund operating system with an impending doom about as scary as the apocalypse.

I’m afraid that for some organizations, the death of Windows XP may portend the death of a significant part of the organization.

So here’s the deal…

Today, I want to propound the point that we still need a way to support Windows XP (even after Microsoft gives up next month) because people will inevitably continue to use it.  Just because Microsoft abandons its estranged operating system doesn’t necessarily mean the world will immediately follow.

In this guide I’m going to show you how to install Windows XP in Virtualbox for free.

And it’s legal.

Thus, there’s no need for:

  • Bittorrent
  • Underground support forums.
  • Shenanigans.

Here’s what you need to get started:

  1.  A valid, licensed copy of Windows 8 or Windows 8.1
  2. VirtualBox
  3. 7-zip
  4. A willingness to look like a hipster (in front of your non-hipster friends)

Let’s jump in!

Getting Windows XP

1. Grab the Windows XP Mode Validator from Microsoft.  Microsoft uses this validator tool to confirm that your existing copy of Windows is genuine.

When you download and run the validator, GenuineCheck.exe, it’ll reveal a 8 character code that you’ll need to paste into the validation box on Microsoft’s website.

Windows 8.1 Genuine Advantage Code

2. When you validate the program, you’ll have an option to download the Windows XP Mode executable.

Grab WindowsXPMode_en-us.exe.  It’s 469.8MB.

Now this is a perfect time to sit back and play 2048 in your browser while you wait for the download to finish.

3. Right click the executable and open the archive with 7-zip.   We need to extract:

VirtualXPVHD

It’s in the sources\xpm folder.  You can see the path in the 7-zip address bar below.

Windows 8.1 Extract VirtualXPVHD for Windows XP Virtualbox

4. Rename VirtualXPVHD to VirtualXPVHD.VHD.

The VHD extension will make VirtualBox happy later.

5. Flip open Oracle’s VirtualBox and create a new virtual machine.

Here are the settings that worked for me:

  • Windows XP (64 bit)
  • 512 MB Memory size
  • Select Use an existing virtual hard drive file and browse to the VirtualXPVHD file you renamed in the previous step.

Create new Windows XP Virtual Machine

6. Click Create, fire up the VM and breeze through the XP setup screens.

When it finishes the screen may suddenly turn black so you’ll need to manually reset the VM by going to the Machine menu and clicking Reset.

Log in with Administrator account you created during setup then go to Add or Remove Programs and uninstall Virtual PC Integration Components.

I think this virtual program thingy conflicts with mouse integration in Virtual Box so that’s why we need to zap it.

After you uninstall it, restart the VM again.  If the screen goes black Reset and then login normally.

Windows XP Remove Virtual PC Integration Compontents

Next we need to Insert the Guest Additions CD image so we can configure Shared Folder Settings.  This is a key step because it’ll allow us to pull in the Ethernet driver we’re about to download onto our Host machine.

7. Click the Devices menu in VirtualBox and choose Insert Guest Additions CD image… 

Feel free to keep all the defaults.

Install Guest Additions in Windows XP

8. Now, let’s visit the Intel Download Center to grab the Final Release of the Intel PROSet Ethernet driver for Windows XP.

Once the download finishes, return to Virtualbox and choose Shared folder settings from the Devices menu.

We need to create a new Shared folder and browse to the path of the Ethernet driver you just downloaded to your Host machine..

I downloaded my Ethernet driver to:

C:\Users\vhudson\VirtualBox VMs so adjusted my settings accordingly.  I also checked Auto-mount and Make Permanent but I don’t think this is required.

Windows 8.1 installing Shared Folders in Virtualbox for Windows XP

Once you do this you we you might be wondering how we actually find this shared folder because it won’t automatically appear in My Computer.

Click Start and go to My Computer; then in the menu bar go to View, click Explorer Bar and choose Folders.

In the left pane keep expanding My Network Places until you get to your Shared folder.  In my case, I drilled down to:

My Network Places > Entire Network > VirtualBox Shared Folders > \\Vboxsvr

Windows XP Shared Folder

Install the utility here and you’ll be well on your way to surfing the web with Internet Explorer 6. :: gag ::

Don’t worry, no one envies you right now.

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Posted in News, Windows, Windows XP
  • Bryan “Ironman” Stark

    Perhaps doesn’t work anymore. as of todays date 2014-06-29 I am unable to install XP Mode for validation purposes in step 1 of your tutorial. I get the msg “Windows XP Mode is supported only on Windows 7 operating system.” Any suggestion on how to get it to work? other than purchasing Windows 8.1 Pro upgrade.

    • Hugh Steve

      Windows XP wants me to activate it, but I don’t have the code. I’m having the same problems as you.

    • André Chalella Das Neves

      The tutorial is outdated in this point, but it works. What you have to do is open that .exe in 7-zip instead of executing it. Then extract the file “sourcesxpm” and continue as described.

      • Mr Angry

        Sorry my above comment should’ve been in reply to this – that folder doesn’t exist in the .exe when I open it in 7zip.

  • Norman Enz

    i got the samethng and just didnt use that step

  • Leoni Mullett

    Windows XP is now asking me to activate … following these steps. What to do? It does not activiate online, it is now telling me to telephone them.

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  • DWSWesVirginny

    Followed instructions. Installation works fine except that the Intel Ethernet drivers won’t install. Virtualbox says I have an AMD PCNET Family PCI Ethernet Adapter installed. Also, when I finished installation I was told that I have a trial version of Windows XP professional and 30 days to activate it.
    1) Do I keep the currently installed Ethernet adapter?
    2) How does one deal with the activation issue? Re-install Windows XP once a month?

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  • Mr Angry

    Doesn’t seem to be working. GenuineCheck.exe isn’t downloaded anymore, MS site downloads the exe straight away. However when I open the archive in 7zip there is no ‘sources’ folder to extract the VHD from.

  • The installer has been changed. You can run it and it will unpack into a random directory on the C: drive, there you’ll find the VirtualXPVHD in the sourcesxpm directory.

  • Des Chew

    Alright, this is what I did to get it running. Download the file mentioned and install. It will create a file “Windows XP Mode base” in “c:program fileswindows xp mode”. The file is write protected. You need to take ownership of this file. I will not go into details how to do that. Once done, you verify that the “read-only” mode is disable for this file, else uncheck it.

    Next, open Virtualbox as administrator. Mount this VHD file as a Sata file. First launch will bring you to a Win XP setup. A quick post-installation setup screen asking timezone, computer name, password etc.. Once done, reboot. I have problem rebooting hence I click power off. And restart Virtualbox as admin. Do the same again. And able to boot.

    Have fun!