VirtualBox and Windows XP


Over the years, I had accumulated an eclectic array of hardware and software. Well, time has moved on and it was time to declutter. As for my Windows XP collection, this is what I had in my inventory:

  1. An Asus EeePC netbook with an Intel Atom CPU N270 @ 1.60GHz, 1GB RAM and 160GB HDD running Windows XP Home
  2. A Dell Dimension 2400 desktop with a Pentium 4 CPU @ 2.26GHz, 1GB RAM and 40GB HDD also running Windows Home.
  3. Windows XP Home original disks with product keys.
  4. Windows XP Professional disk without product key (I must have ditched that machine at some point in time).
  5. Various CDs with XP service packs.

The Challenge

Now, this brings us to a multi-faceted dilemma:

  1. I was keen on getting rid of the hardware, both the netbook and desktop, as they were just taking up space and they were unbearably slow, but…
  2. A large part of my working life was spent with early versions of Windows so there was some sentimental attachment to the operating system. On the other hand…
  3. Microsoft had tied activation of the product key to the hardware, and…
  4. Officially, Microsoft ceased support for XP on 8 April 2014, Since then, they have been trying their damndest to get us off this legacy OS.

So, with all this happening, these were my objectives:

  1. Ditch the hardware, but maintain original disks (and product keys) as proof of purchase, and…
  2. Keep the legacy of XP alive.

Key questions that came to mind:

Q: How was I going to get rid of the hardware?

A: Move the OS into a virtual machine (VM).

Q: If I was going to move XP into a VM, I really wanted to have XP Professional installed. I had the original disc, but had lost the product key as I’d ditched the machine it was on. Could this be overcome?

A: If you’re resourceful, you will find a way around this. I won’t describe the approach I took, as the practice would be considered questionable. Let me just say ‘There are many ways to skin a cat’ and ‘The internet is your friend.’

Edit: Here’s a hint.

Q: Windows activation was going to rear up its ugly head when I moved XP into the VM. Could this be addressed?

A: See answer to the previous question.

The Result

To cut a long story short, I was able to run XP in a VM, ditch the hardware and consolidate my software inventory. These are the list of legitimate tools I used during the process:

  1. VirtualBox for the VM.
  2. ImgBurn to create ISO files of my original disks.

Due to its controversial nature, I won’t be responding to any questions on this post. I just wanted to bring to your attention that if you find yourself in a similar situation, with a little effort, you can find a way forward.

Having successfully virtualised XP, it was time to turn my attention to other legacy Windows hardware and software that I own including Windows Vista and Windows 95.

Summary

Words that describe my experience in key areas in getting Windows XP to a functional state:

  1. Installation – Wow! There’s some clever people out there! 
  2. Windows Update –  Pleasantly surprised.
  3. File services – Frustrating.
  4. Print services – Trivial.

References

  1. VirtualBox
  2. ImgBurn
  3. Compatibility with security: How to run Windows XP in a virtual machine