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Windows 7: SOLVED: Run XP Mode Explorer from Windows 7

04 Oct 2012   #1

Windows 7 Ultimate x64
SOLVED: Run XP Mode Explorer from Windows 7

As a software developer, I still need to run older development tools under XP and still want to use version control tools like Tortoise SVN. Ideally I wanted to do this using the seamless XP Mode, but SVN largely works via Explorer extensions, which would therefore not be accessible directly from the Windows 7 host if installed in the VM.

However, I noticed the integration of the XP Mode's Explorer dialog in the Open/Save of programs running as virtual XP applications in Windows 7. This surely meant that XP Mode Explorer itself can function as a virtual application?

But there are some peculiar stumbling blocks to making that happen. First off, the publishing of Explorer.EXE is prevented by an entry in the VM's registry. Removing that did NOT do the trick! It would appear that other (undocumented?) hindrances exist.

My solution turned out to be incredibly simple: just copy Explorer.EXE from the VM's Windows folder to the VM's Programs folder, and rename the copy as XPModeExplorer.EXE. Then create a shortcut to that renamed copy in the All User's Start Menu of the VM.

Not only did this work, (much to my surprise, given the said hindrances), but it also worked sensibly and (so far) reliably! Be aware, of course, that the folder listings and the right-click Explorer extensions are all in the context of the VM, not Windows 7. Don't expect to be able to drag and drop between Explorer windows of XP Mode and Windows 7 - although Copy and Paste does work.

Here's a screenshot:

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This screenshot shows how a Tortoise SVN checked out folder is correctly displayed with its overaly icon in the XP Mode Explorer window. Right-clicking this provides the correct Tortoise SVN operations and these work properly as XP-Mode instances (whether or not Tortoise SVN is installed under Windows 7 itself).

This means I can run my ancient Delphi compiler as a virtual XP application in Windows 7, keeping the developed code inside the VM, and still benefit from an Explorer-based toolset like Tortoise SVN without having to close Delphi and restart the VM.

Whilst this does not allow Windows 7 host applications to save directly to the VM folders, I can at least keep the VM "closed" when switching between Windows 7 applications and virtual XP applications. Plus, copy-and-paste between two Explorer windows allows two-way transfer between the host and the VM without having to fully start-up the VM. This is an added bonus.

Note that having Aero switched on is a good idea, since it makes it very obvious when you are using the XP Explorer rather than the Windows 7 Explorer (just visible behind it in the above capture).

Mission accomplished!

My System SpecsSystem Spec

13 Oct 2012   #2

Windows 7 Ultimate x64

Ok - have used the XP Mode Explorer trick for a while now without any real problems.


However, it did irk me somewhat that the "My Documents" special folder in the open/save dialogs of XP Mode and in the tree of my XPModeExplorer.exe were defaulting to the PUBLIC documents folder of the host. Not very secure.

A bit of research showed that Windows 7 pokes some folder defaults into the XP Mode VM registry when using the seamless XP Mode operation. This cannot be "overridden" (with tools like TweakUI) - at least not permanently. Windows 7 will always poke the latest "tsclient"-based references into both the documents and desktop special folder entries of the VM whenever it restarts the seamless mode. Oddly, it does not do this for My Pictures, My Videos, etc. I assume that is because the designer of this feature assumed these special folders would normally reside under "My Documents" anyway.

So, the trick is now how to alter what Windows 7 pokes. I could not find anything in the VM XML settings file, nor anything on the Internet to guide how it could be changed. Indeed, even searches through both the VM and the Windows 7 registries proved fruitless. HOWEVER...

Quite by chance I stumbled on the "tick" that resides beside the My Documents, Public Documents, etc folders in the Documents LIBRARY mechanism of Windows 7. This tick determines the "default save location" of the library. And it turns out that if you change the default, it affects ALL the XP Mode programs when running in seamless mode: INCLUDING my XPModeExlporer.exe!

So having changed this to "My Documents" rather than "Public Documents", I feel that bit more secure!

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My System SpecsSystem Spec

 SOLVED: Run XP Mode Explorer from Windows 7

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