Tips on how to Obtain and Set up Home windows XP for Free

Would you like a free copy of Windows XP? It is possible to use a virtual machine. This article explains how.

Windows XP is old and Microsoft no longer offers official support for the venerable operating system. Despite the lack of support, Windows XP still runs on millions of computers around the world. Why are users still using Windows XP? Mainly because of work, research, or entertainment.

Finding a copy of Windows XP is not easy. Finding hardware to run it on is just as difficult. For this reason, it is best to install Windows XP on a virtual machine so that you can always have it at hand. This is how you do it!

Is Windows XP really available for free?

Microsoft has long provided Windows XP Mode, a full version of XP that runs on Windows 7. Most of us have long since deviated from Windows 7, however, so this compatibility fix … well, a little unhelpful.

Unfortunately, Microsoft has since removed the option to download Windows XP mode directly. However, that doesn't mean you're out of luck, and you can use the Windows XP mode download link below to get a copy.

Before proceeding with this Windows XP mode tutorial, you will need a few things:

  1. Download and install the latest version of VirtualBox.

  2. Download and install a file archive tool. This tutorial uses 7-Zip.

  3. A copy of Windows XP Mode (see below).

1. Download the virtual hard disk in Windows XP mode

Download the virtual hard disk in Windows XP mode.

When it is finished, don't install it yet!

Instead, navigate to the executable, right click and select 7-Zip> open archive> cabin from the context menu.

This will instantly open the executable in 7-Zip for you to poke around. There are three files:

to open swell to reveal three more files:

Double click xpm. This is the virtual hard drive folder in XP mode. It should look exactly like the picture below:

These are the files you will need to create the virtual hard disk in XP mode. Unfortunately they are archive Files and non-executable files, meaning they are up to date Read only.

You will need to extract these files into a new folder.

Choose extract On the toolbar, press the ellipsis icon next to the address bar. Navigate to where you want to extract the files – your C: drive is fine – and select Create a new folder.

I named my folder Windows XP Mode, but the choice is yours. When you're done, press OK, then OK again to start the extraction process. This can take a minute or two.

Go to the folder you created after the extraction process was complete. You will see the same list of files. The difference is that you can now edit these files however you want.

Select the named file VirtualXPVHD. Press F2 rename. Insert a period between "P" and "V" and press Enter, read now VirtualXP.VHD. The file should immediately be converted to a virtual disk and the icon to boot.

2. Install Windows XP Mode in a virtual machine

Before we finished the virtual hard drive extraction in XP mode, I asked you to download and install VirtualBox. VirtualBox is a free app that lets you run operating systems in one window.

We are going to install the virtual hard drive in Windows XP mode in VirtualBox.

  1. Open VirtualBox. Choose New.

  2. At the end of Create a virtual machine Select window Expert mode (if you see an option for in your window Guided mode, You are already using expert mode).

  3. Now give your virtual machine an appropriate name. If you add "XP" to the virtual machine name, the execution will automatically change to reflect this. Check the version anyway Windows XP (32-bit).

  4. Allocate memory to the virtual machine. Storage is a shared resource, meaning that both the host (your PC) and the guest (virtual machine) use it at the same time. Fortunately, Windows XP is old and doesn't need any RAM buckets to run. I would recommend allocating at least 512MB (but you don't need more than 2048MB).

  5. Finally, you need to assign the virtual hard disk that we extracted earlier from the executable in Windows XP mode. Under hard disk, choose Use an existing virtual disk file. Then hit the folder with the green arrow. Navigate to the folder where we extracted our files and select VirtualXP, then to open.

When you're done, your new virtual machine setup should look like this:

OK? Beat Create.

3. Hard disk settings in Windows XP mode

Before you can start your shiny new Windows XP virtual machine, there are a few settings you need to make.

Press on the VirtualBox toolbar The settings. Go to system. Look at the Starting order. Uncheck the box Floppy, and move it in the list. Promote hard disk to the top of the pile. Just like your host PC, the virtual machine has a specific startup order. You need the virtual hard disk at the top of the list for it to start first:

Under display, increase the video memory to 128 MB:

Network settings of the Windows XP virtual machine

Next, check the network settings of the Windows XP virtual machine. Older versions of VirtualBox required a more manual approach to network configuration. The software is more intelligent (read: automated) these days and usually takes over your network settings without prompting.

For example, my virtual machine in Windows XP mode works with the default configuration: using NAT, the VirtualBox specific adapter, and make sure Cable connected is checked.

However, if it doesn't work (and you can tell the good news or bad news the moment you start the virtual machine) then you can try an alternate configuration.

  1. to adjust Connected to: host-only adapter

  2. to adjust Name: VirtualBox Host-Only Ethernet Adapter

  3. to adjust Promiscuous mode: Deny

  4. Check Cable connected

Enter in the Start menu search bar network and choose the Network and sharing center. Select in the left column Change adapter settings. Stop CTRL and select both your Ethernet / WLAN card and the VirtualBox host-only network. Then right click and choose Bridge connection.

"Combining" the adapters creates a network bridge that allows the virtual machine to connect to a network even though it does not have direct access to the router (or an alternate switch).

When you enter the virtual machine, you need to update the settings of your network adapter:

  1. Go to Control Panel> Network and Internet Connections> Network Connections.

  2. Then right-click on the Local Area Connection and select properties. To mark Internet Protocol (TCP / IP), then choose properties.

  3. Choose Use the following IP addressand enter an available IP address for your home network. For example, I'll enter Give your Subnet mask and Standard gateway.

  4. Not sure what they are? On their Host machine, Press Windows key + R.Then enter CMDand hit Enter. Now enter ipconfig / all. You can find the information you need under the name of your Ethernet or WiFi adapter.

  5. Enter the same DNS server addresses as a host. I'm using Google DNS so I'll enter and

  6. Beat OK.

4. Run the Windows XP virtual machine

You have extracted the virtual hard disk. You have created a virtual machine, played around with the settings, and are now ready to flip the power button.

Highlight your virtual machine in Windows XP mode in the VirtualBox main window. Double-click it and wait for Windows XP to come to life:

Looks like you did it!

There is a strong possibility that your mouse will not immediately work with the virtual machine in Windows XP mode. Navigate the operating system installation pages using the tab key, arrow keys, space bar, and enter.

Complete the installation. You will get to a completely black screen. Do not worry! Press Right Ctrl + R. to restart the virtual machine.

If it restarts, you can Cancel the New Hardware Installation Wizards and Microsoft Automatic Update.

Instead, go to Devices> Install the Guest Additions CD image. The VirtualBox Guest Additions CD image adds some useful features to VirtualBox, including custom resolutions and mouse options.

If the installation does not start automatically, use the keyboard to navigate to My computer. Press the Windows key To open the start menu, press the arrow keys on My Computer. Use the default installation location and wait for setup to complete

Warnings appear that you are trying to install unsupported software and / or drivers. Choose Go ahead anyway. The installation process takes some time and requires regular input in order to bypass the software warnings.

When the Guest Additions installation is complete, select the option Restart now.

If the restart fails, restart the virtual machine.

And there you have it. A working, fully functional Windows XP installation that you can run yourself.

What about Windows XP Product Keys?

The Windows XP mode virtual machine has a temporary license that expires after 30 days.

If you have an old Windows XP license, dig it up and enter it to try to keep the virtual machine alive. I say "try" because the Windows XP activation servers have been offline for a long time, but you can try phone activation.

If you're feeling bad, you can try the old Windows activation loop, which involves resetting the trial license to the original 30-day counter. However, I haven't tried the Windows XP mode virtual machine, so you'll have to do a private experiment.

The simpler solution, however, is to take a snapshot of the virtual machine in Windows XP mode right after installation. When the license expires, you can revert to your new snapshot (however, you will lose all data on the virtual machine so keep that in mind).

Without snapshots, you have to keep reinstalling the virtual machine in Windows XP mode.

Windows XP is not safe

Just because Windows XP works doesn't mean you should! Windows XP is no longer suitable as the primary operating system due to the security risks. If you're still running Windows XP on your home computer or laptop, consider upgrading to a modern operating system.

Here's how to optimize Windows XP and stop worrying about the apocalypse

Are you forced to stick with Windows XP? Using an unsupported operating system is risky, but don't despair! We'll show you how to keep Windows XP running if necessary.

Continue reading

About the author

Gavin Phillips
(826 articles published)

Gavin is the Junior Editor for Windows and Technology Explained, contributing regularly to the Really Useful Podcast, and was the Editor for MakeUseOf's crypto-focused sister site Blocks Decoded. He has a BA (Hons) in Contemporary Writing Using Digital Art Practices Looted from the Devon Hills, as well as over a decade of writing experience. He enjoys plenty of tea, board games, and soccer.

By Gavin Phillips

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