WinXP Mode in Windows 7

OK, so now we have got some of the customers upgrading to ArcGIS 10. Some still use ArcGIS 9.3/9.3.1, though. Most of them do not have any particular need to upgrade at the moment. Others, perhaps, are not that familiar with the new functionality available in order to pursue the new version. Moreover, when moving from one platform to another or from one version of the software to another, providing a smooth transition of the workflows is always critical. These principles are applied in the same degree to the enterprise-wide operating system upgrade and to a tiny application, which might support a very specific highly-customized workflow within a small organization.

ESRI ArcGIS suite is a rather large platform regardless of the scale of use and shifting to another version can sometimes be cumbersome. New system requirements, deprecation of a certain technology, renewed interface design – all of these can take some time to get to grips with. In ArcGIS 10, we have got many updates in all of the family products, yet a large number of users need to support their specific ArcGIS 9.3 operations. Many of those users are willing to upgrade to the ArcGIS in order to take advantage of the new functionality, but they still must have ArcGIS 9.3 installed on their machines to be able to get their work done.

Recently, I have upgraded one of my machines to Windows 7 Professional 64 bit operating system. Personally, I like it very much – the graphic design is more appealing comparing to Windows XP, the customization options are fantastic, and the new functionality features are just great. A lot of people I know have upgraded their XPs to Windows 7, too. ESRI Training courses are designed for official support of Windows 7 as well. So it seems like we are going to have more people starting to use Windows 7 on their machines, both at home and in the office.

While browsing on the MSDN Web site, I have run into a Windows 7 feature called Windows XP Mode. As it turned out, Windows XP Mode is basically a new feature of Windows 7 (Professional, Enterprise, Ultimate), which provides additional application compatibility, i.e., it makes it possible to have a virtual machine with a preconfigured Windows XP Professional SP3 operating system where you can install your applications and then run them from the Windows 7 graphical user interface, as if they were actually installed in the Windows 7. Thus, the Windows XP Mode technology utilizes the Microsoft virtualization platform, Windows Virtual PC, to provide a virtual Windows XP environment for Windows 7.

If you are speculating over whether to give ArcGIS 10 a go, yet you still would like to have ArcGIS 9.3 at hand and have Windows 7 on the machine at your disposal (or you are planning to get one), you can consider activating Windows XP Mode in the Windows 7 and can start taking advantage of this technology. Personally, though, I have been using only VMWare virtualization products (mostly VMWare Server and VMWare Workstation, but some ThinApp, too) for the past few years. So, to set up a virtual machine with XP and ArcGIS installed in VMWare Workstation takes roughly an hour. However, this solution is not able to provide this “seamless” integration of the applications on the Win7 and WinXP. Moreover, Windows XP mode feature is already included in the Win7 license, so all you have to do is download and install a certain Windows 7 update. This very process can take an hour or so, which is still a very short period of time, considering the fact that you can continue to work on your machine – except when you have restart your computer, in order for the updates to come into action.

Personally, I have ArcGIS 10 installed on the Win7 (physical machine) and ArcGIS 9.3 installed in the WinXP (virtual machine). One can access the disk drives of your physical machine with Windows 7 as well, which provides users with a very smooth workflow indeed.

You can get started with Windows XP Mode in Windows 7 at the Microsoft Web page:


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