Virtually Safe Surfing

There are a lot of viruses out there on Windows.  If you are not using an anti virus program, you are probably harboring them as well as a trojan or two.

This isn’t a primer on how to get rid of viruses.  I have already gone down that road.   There’s a lot of different ways to clean a computer.   Most folks get frustrated that their machines have slowed to a crawl and go out and buy a new one.   If that’s you and you have a laptop that us under a year old in that state, feel free to send it to me… oh and get yourself a Mac, they don’t have the same numbers of viruses.  You won’t be quite as compatible, and the software is more expensive, but as long as you stay in the Mac Environment you will be much better off.   If you’re a casual user it frees you up from having to deal with all that virus crap.

On the other hand, if you’re a little bit technical, you should look into getting a virtual environment and running a computer in a sandbox.   That is how I am writing now.   I’m looking at Firefox running on a virtual Windows XP program that is running on Virtual PC 2007 that is running on Windows 7.

Got all that?

I have done all this so that I can stay away from Viruses and Google’s snoopy tendencies (They already know WAY too much about everyone and I’m moving away from Google’s software) and do everything I need to.  When I am done, I click the X box to close the entire environment, tell it no to “Save State” and its done.   All the snoopy things are gone.   There’s no connection to the main machine, there are no worries about viruses and illicit cookies, and I’m completely safe.

If you are really curious, and have an older Windows Machine that you want to save, you can create an image legally from your existing older machine (It is legal as long as you have retired the computer you image – like this one was), install free software like Virtual PC 2007 or VMWare Player, and you are good to go.   You just need to have an extra amount of memory over what you normally run on the computer.  

If I’ve lost you, find your favorite 16 year old geek and turn them loose on this and tell you what you want to get done.  Get the right software on the machine and you’re safe.

I’ve obviously glossed over everything here, this is basically a very high level executive summary.   But that is how to do it.   It works well.

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Virtual PC 2007 instead of XP Mode for Windows 7

Not technical?   Did you just say Huh?

Ok, Microsoft is being generous to us who still have XP or want to keep what we have in XP.   Windows 7 doesn’t like a lot of software although everything I personally run works on Windows 7.  I have moved from a trusty and rusty old Dell Inspiron 600m Laptop that pretty much doesn’t want to be a laptop any more since the Left Mouse Button isn’t working well.  Sound familiar?  That’s what happens to laptops after a couple years, the Left Mouse Button dies and your Battery fails to take a charge for more than a quick run across the house to plug it in somewhere else.   I’ve been there, trust me.

If you have a new PC that was build with a newer processor, you can still run XP within a window in XP Mode.   I’ve done it on a newer laptop at work, and it works real well.   There was a posting I did a few days back that explained all that and what to download.   You’ll want to find that post that I wrote on November 8th if you think you qualify.

On the other hand, if you are like me on this older but still useable Acer Aspire 5610 then you can go a different route.   That will mean you will have to install Virtual PC 2007 at that link.   Virtual PC will let you install a completely new copy of XP within a software window.   Works great, I’ve used it for years now… well various versions of  it.   Its free. 

How this will help you and I run XP on our shiny new copy of Windows 7 is that you tell it to install that new copy of XP that you have somewhere lying around and you can use it like you would any other PC.   It’s not perfect since you’re running it in “Emulation”.  You might not be able to run EVERY piece of software you have now, but that you will have to check that on your own.

There’s one last helpful hint here.   Somewhere you have an older XP computer.   You don’t want to throw it out because there’s something on there or some piece of software that you’ve installed that you don’t have the discs.   Here is why you want Virtual PC.  You can make a full copy of that machine, as long as you have the hardware to do it (Get yourself a big external drive, you’ll be happy you did), and be able to run that PC within a window just like any other XP machine.

Without going through a lot of fiddly details, the software you can use is all over the web, it makes a big image that is as big as the used space on your old machine.  You put that image (Called a VHD file) on the new Windows 7 machine and run it in Virtual PC 2007 and you’re back where you were.

The imaging software is at this link among others.   I haven’t used that one, or have I used this one, but there are a lot of them out there.   Good luck at finding one that works.  The google search that I used to find both was this one.

XP Mode install on Windows 7

Now that I had installed Windows 7 on my Acer Aspire 5610, I set about this new thing called “XP Mode”.   If you have a lot of XP software, and who doesn’t, you will be considering this.   What it does is set up a way for you to run your old software in a box that looks like a Windows XP desktop within your Windows 7 machine.

It looks just like your current Windows XP desktop, if you’re still on Windows XP.   The way it works is that Microsoft is going to give you free for download a copy of Windows XP called XP Mode that will only install on a Windows 7 machine.  You will download that (Its a big one, 1.4GB of disc space) and a copy of “Windows Virtual PC 7” which is fairly small.   This only runs on Windows 7 so if you haven’t gone that route, this discussion won’t help you.   If you’re on a Mac I’d suggest looking elsewhere like VMWare Fusion 3 that I’m evaluating for my boss at work.

There is also another wrinkle.   Windows Virtual PC 7 will ONLY run on specific computers and only after you twiddle with your bios to turn on something called Virtualization.   If you have that you will have a great experience, if you don’t I’ll have a later post on what to do there, since I had to go that route for this machine.

To test this, surf over to this link and run the program that is on the page called the “Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor”.  That link will give you an idea of first whether your machine will run Windows 7.

Further you will want to look at this link which will tell you if you can run Windows 7 XP mode.  You will download a program and it will run and look at your hardware and tell you whether you have that little bit of extra goodies in your computer that will work with XP Mode.   The program is called “havdetectiontool.exe” as of this writing.

In my case it said no.   It would have saved me time surfing some really confusing pages on Acer and Intel had I done that but I’m hard headed.

Assuming it says yes, then surf the XP mode page here and select your language and version of Windows 7 that you have, and yes you do need to know that.   In my case it was Professional 32 bit and English.

Step 4 says download XP mode, and install it.   When that is done, download and install Windows Virtual PC.  

At that point you’re installed, you probably have some reboots to go through and some set ups, but I have seen XP Mode, its worth the effort, and lets you run Windows XP like you were used to.   It runs almost as fast as the Native Windows 7 that you are running as the PC operating system at about 97% of normal speed – from what has been reported.

The only gotcha is that XP mode will only be supported until 2014 so better get going huh?   Well by then you’ll have other worries and other PCs but for now it works like a champ from what I saw on my Network Admin’s laptop.