Windows 7’s solution to beta software

Short Answer:  XP Mode (download it for Windows 7 here)

As a Microsoft MVP, I’m always getting emails asking me to try out {insert unstable pre-beta or beta build here}.  A lot of the pre-release software (both public and private) can really hose your machine if there is something wrong.  Those who know me know that I am not fond of installing machines from scratch.  Because of that, I don’t install much pre-release software.

I have also done the VMWare thing with snapshots, and it works ok, but it is a pain to manage that (for me).

Windows 7 gives me a more streamlined option:  Windows XP Mode.  It gives me another machine embedded within Windows 7.  I don’t have to install it.  I didn’t have to set it up (besides running the setup wizard), and any programs I install in it appear in my regular Windows 7 start menu.

I opened it up today and installed Visual Studio 2010 Beta 2.  I shut it down and then saw it appear in my normal Windows 7 start menu:


When I click on it, it doesn’t push me inside a VM.  It opens this beta software in a regular windows on my Windows 7 desktop.  You can tell it is running emulated in the XP VM by the blue title bar.  This is exactly what Citrix has done for years, but now it is built in to the operating system for a single VM. 


So go ahead:  install all the pre-release software you want.  When (not IF) you screw up the embedded OS, you can just uninstall and reinstall XP Mode, and you are back where you started.  Seems pretty streamlined to me!