Key Differences between InstallFree and Microsoft XP Mode (XPM)

Source: Alon Yaffe, director of marketing for InstallFree

XPM (description):

  1. It is a full Windows XP virtual machine (VM) that gets delivered to the Windows 7 host machine and then executed using Microsoft Virtual PC technology.
  2. When a user executes an application that resides within the XPM VM, the whole VM is started and then the application gets executed from within the VM and “presented” to the host machine using Remote Desktop Protocol. This is similar to running an application in a Terminal Services session, except the “server” in this case is the XPM VM itself.
  3. Because XPM apps are contained in a VM, they have limited connectivity with the host machine. You can do simple stuff like copy/paste and file associations, but real application interaction (objects, context menus, etc) is not possible.
  4. The limited integration of XPM apps into the host OS is achieved by installing an integration layer into the physical OS. This requires the installation of system services.
  5. Since an XPM VM is a full copy of Windows XP, it cannot contain applications that would normally not run together on a Windows XP machine. For example, if you have app A (e.g. IE6) that conflicts with app B (e.g. IE7) and both of them conflict with Windows 7, you won’t be able to put them in the same XPM VM and you will need multiple VMs.
  6. Running a full XP VM introduces performance issues and possibly security issues (this is a very old OS after all). This will be especially problematic when you have multiple conflicting apps, as each of them will need to reside in its own VM. It will also make XPM not practical for organizations with older hardware because the older devices may not be able to support the increased system requirements.
  7. XPM requires hardware that supports virtualization and may require changes to the BIOS in order to work. Again, will not work on older hardware.
  8. XPM does not provide any management capabilities and no built in facility to update the XPM apps. In fact, if XPM apps need to be updated then the whole VM will need to be replaced. The assumption here is that these applications are “legacy” and therefore “static”, but in practice this is simply not true. Customers may have home grown apps that were developed using legacy technologies but are still being frequently updated. The fact that XP does not have a management / update capability will introduce a very large overhead for IT in the long run.

The key areas where InstallFree is different from XPM:

  1. InstallFree does not require a full Windows XP VM to be deployed to every machine. This is very important because customers want to get rid of XP, not perpetuate it.
  2. Applications that are virtualized with InstallFree run directly on top of the host OS (Windows 7) and provide seamless experience to the end user with all expected connectivity/integration features.
  3. InstallFree does not require any system services or “permanent” software to be installed on the host machine. Everything runs in user mode and can be delivered to a completely locked down PC.
  4. InstallFree can run multiple conflicting applications on the same OS instance. If you had a single machine that needed to run multiple web-based applications with different IE versions and plug-ins you would have needed multiple XPM VMs, whereas with InstallFree you can run everything on the host without a single VM.
  5. InstallFree executes applications directly within the native OS instance, and thus has a significant performance / end-user experience advantage over XPM. No VMs to run = less CPU and memory required.
  6. InstallFree does not require specific hardware configurations. It can run on any machine that can run Windows 7.
  7. InstallFree provides integrated management capabilities that will allow you to update your applications down to specific components (e.g. just the Java plugin) on an ongoing basis. With XPM, this will be very difficult to do: you will need completely new VMs every time you have an update and then find a good way to deliver them to all the PCs in the organization. The size of these VMs can be quite large as they include a full copy of Windows XP.

About the Author:

Meris Stansbury

Meris Stansbury is the Editorial Director for both eSchool News and eCampus News, and was formerly the Managing Editor of eCampus News. Before working at eSchool Media, Meris worked as an assistant editor for The World and I, an online curriculum publication. She graduated from Kenyon College in 2006 with a BA in English, and enjoys spending way too much time either reading or cooking.