Download Windows XP For Free and Legally, Straight From Microsoft

vintagecomputer   Download Windows XP For Free and Legally, Straight From MicrosoftAs the years progress and Microsoft moves on from Windows 7 into Windows 8 and beyond, it’s certainly starting to feel like Windows XP is just an artifact of the past. But is it? Might there be situations where you need to use XP again – or maybe you just miss XP and want to take a stroll down memory lane?

Well, what if I told you that right now, by using VirtualBox, you can download a free Virtual Machine featuring a full, free version of Windows XP? It’s absolutely true – you can download Windows XP. Microsoft knows that web developers always have a need to test their websites on a variety of browsers and operating systems (OS). So, Microsoft provides a Virtual Machine that you can run on your computer, which will offer you a contained system with a fully-functioning version of Windows XP installed.

You can use this system to not only test out what your website looks for people running older versions of Internet Explorer (IE) on an older operating system, but you can also use it to test applications on XP if you’re an application developer, or to run older programs that only run on Windows XP. The version of XP gives you a temporary use license, but if you need to use it longer, you could always reinstall it or activate it with a valid XP license you may have already purchased but aren’t using on any of your computers anymore.

Downloading and Installing Windows XP Virtual Machine

At the Virtual Machine download page, you’ll need to choose the options to download a Windows OS Virtual Machine, and choose which version of IE you want to test. Yes, you’ll also notice options like  Windows Vista running IE7 and Windows 7 running IE8. For the sake of this article, where the goal is to focus on testing websites and applications that run on an older OS, we’re going to focus on the XP Virtual Machine.

Installation

Once you’ve downloaded the image file, you’re going to want to import the appliance.

winxp VM1   Download Windows XP For Free and Legally, Straight From Microsoft

The download is an OVA file, not a virtual hard drive, so you need to use the appliance import by going to File, and then “Import Appliance”.

winxp VM2   Download Windows XP For Free and Legally, Straight From Microsoft

The wizard will give you a single button to choose the appliance file you’ve just downloaded.

winxp VM3   Download Windows XP For Free and Legally, Straight From Microsoft
Browse to the OVA file – in my case it’s Windows XP running IE6 – and select it.

winxp VM4   Download Windows XP For Free and Legally, Straight From Microsoft

The wizard will import the appliance and then show you all of the features that are included/pre-configured with it, including CPU, RAM size, etc.

winxp VM5   Download Windows XP For Free and Legally, Straight From Microsoft

Once this quick wizard is done with the import, you’ll see the new Virtual Machine show up in your list of appliances.

winxp VM6   Download Windows XP For Free and Legally, Straight From Microsoft

At this point, your brand new Virtual Machine with a fresh Windows XP install is ready to go. When you hit start, it’ll launch. However, there is one more little thing you need to do to get the system connected to the Internet, so you can test what your website looks like on this version of IE.

Setting Up Your Windows XP Virtual Machine Internet Connection

If you use VirtualBox often to test out different images, then you probably already know how to get the Internet working via your host PCs network connection. However, if this is your first time, it’s not just a quick and simple matter. Unlike when you’re running the TorBox Gateway, which connects to the Internet via its own proxy (after going through your home network), this setup is strictly meant to connect legitimately through your network directly to the Internet.

When you first launch the XP machine, you’ll see that it looks and acts just like a regular, freshly installed Windows XP machine.

winxp VM7   Download Windows XP For Free and Legally, Straight From Microsoft

However, you most likely won’t be able to connect to the Internet. In the larger VirtualBox window, before you launch the Virtual Machine, choose the “Settings” icon and then navigate to the Network item in the left menu.

winxp VM8   Download Windows XP For Free and Legally, Straight From Microsoft

In many cases, simply selecting NAT and making sure “Cable connected” is selected would work for other Virtual Machines that I’ve tried, like the test of Google Chrome OS that I tried recently, this will work fine. However, in the case of this Windows XP appliance, I could not get a good Internet connection. In fact, I couldn’t even get on the local WiFi network.

What I found that I had to do was change the network adapter to “Host-only Adapter”, and select the “VirtualBox Host-Only Ethernet Adapter”. This is actually an adapter installed with VirtualBox that you’ll find in your network settings area of your host machine.

winxp VM9   Download Windows XP For Free and Legally, Straight From Microsoft

What I did was I held down the control key, clicked and selected the regular WiFi host connection and the VirtualBox network adapter, right clicked, and chose to “bridge” the two connections.

winxp VM10   Download Windows XP For Free and Legally, Straight From Microsoft
This created a third icon called a “Network Bridge”, which connects to the wireless network (or whatever your hosts network connection normally is), and shares that with the two connections you’ve just bridged. You’re almost done. Now, you just have a couple of things to check.

Double check the Network setting in VirtualBox to be sure you have “Cable connected” selected. Trust me, not having this selected has had even the most skilled PC troubleshooters banging their head against the wall.

winxp VM12   Download Windows XP For Free and Legally, Straight From Microsoft
Inside of your XP Virtual Machine, go into the network settings and manually set the IP settings to match an available IP on your home network. For example, my network subnet is 192.169.1.x. After pinging 192.168.1.9 from my regular computer, I knew that nothing on the network was using that IP, so I set the XP Virtual Machine with that IP manually.

winxp VM13   Download Windows XP For Free and Legally, Straight From Microsoft
Also make sure to set the right subnet mask and default gateway (the gateway is your router IP). Then set the DNS servers to match your own host PC’s DNS server. If you don’t know what it is, open a command prompt on your host PC and type “ipconfig /all” and look for “DNS Servers:”.

Once you’ve done all of that, restart your XP Virtual Machine again, launch IE – in my case it’s the antiquated IE6 – and you should have no problem connecting to the network.

winxp VM14   Download Windows XP For Free and Legally, Straight From Microsoft

Now you’re ready to start using your brand new XP Virtual Machine to test web pages, applications, run old programs and much more. Are you as excited as I am?

Using Your Windows XP Virtual Machine

So, to give this a test drive, I opened up IE6, and launched my blog to see how it handled running in a much older browser. I have to admit I’ve never even considered testing in IE when developing the site, so I knew this would be interesting.

I immediately came across an issue with some Flash-based videos not loading on the main page – apparently due to the fact that this version of IE6 did not have the latest Flash Player. Not really a surprise there of course, but good to know.

winxp VM15   Download Windows XP For Free and Legally, Straight From Microsoft

However, I found other pages just falling to pieces in this old browser. Clearly many pages on the site don’t really have compatibility with older browsers like this, something I never really knew or gave much attention to. In fact, I found that my geo-feed page completely broke the browser – it stopped responding.

winxp VM16   Download Windows XP For Free and Legally, Straight From Microsoft

It’s clear that this is a great way to test websites or applications, but if you think about it – even after you’ve thrown out your last good Windows XP machine, downloading this Virtual Machine and running it on your system allows you to never be without Windows XP.

Why does this matter? Well, think of all the cool games you’ve got stashed in your basement. Games that you used to love to play, before your old PC died and you upgraded to Windows 7. Now  you’ve got a fully-functioning XP machine that can use your network connection and your CD ROM to do anything you would have normally done with that old XP system you no longer have.

winxp VM17   Download Windows XP For Free and Legally, Straight From Microsoft

Conclusion

Who says Windows XP is dead? Thanks to VirtualBox and Microsoft offering these test appliances for free, now we can hold on to Windows XP forever. Because, it really was one of the best Windows versions of all time, wasn’t it? Well, I think so.

Can you think of any cool reasons to download Windows XP Virtual Machine? Are you going to give it a test drive? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below!

The comments were closed because the article is more than 180 days old.

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56 Comments -

Bruno Casarini Grillo

Where’s the link to the virtual machine download page?

Douglas Liberalesso

Great article, but i have one little question: where is the link to get the VMs images? I believe that’s a MS page, right?

Ryan Dube

Sorry guys – Cntrl-F5 refresh the page and you’ll see it under the first header – “Virtual Machine download page” link.

Kishan T

thanks for sharing this :)

Saumyakanta S

Definitely Windows XP was the best version of windows . It still dominates the mind of users…

Emanuel Barros

Ryan Dube

Yes – as I said in the intro, it’s a temporary activation. You’d either have to reinstall the VM or use an activation you purchased for an older computer that you aren’t running Windows on anymore.

Lisa Santika O

Guess MS won’t give anything for free even if it’s already outdated…
Well, it’s good while it lasts though.

WorknMan

Some people say Win 2000 was the best OS MS ever did, but I’d say that honor goes to XP, post-SP2. I still find it superior in many ways over Win7, esp its smaller install footprint. (How the hell did they go from 1gb to 10gb+?)

I went from XP to Win7, and most of the new ‘features’ in Win7 (like the aero-snap and the horrible OSX-style dock) got turned off pretty quickly. Some features that were in Win8 (like native ISO mounting and taskbars on multiple monitors) should’ve been present in 7 (or even Vista for that matter).

Philip Robar

I kind of understand why people like Windows XP so much, especially if you enjoy reinstalling your OS regularly due to it getting slower and slower and slower as you use it. In my experience this is no longer the case with later versions. You’re also ignoring years and years of security fixes that later versions have along with better memory management/access and better multiprocessing, and …

WorknMan

Some people say Win 2000 was the best OS MS ever did, but I’d say that honor goes to XP, post-SP2. I still find it superior in many ways over Win7, esp its smaller install footprint. (How the hell did they go from 1gb to 10gb+?)

I went from XP to Win7, and most of the new ‘features’ in Win7 (like the aero-snap and the horrible OSX-style dock) got turned off pretty quickly. Some features that were in Win8 (like native ISO mounting and taskbars on multiple monitors) should’ve been present in 7 (or even Vista for that matter).

George

Can you do OS updates in the new XP VM? Does it authenticate OK with Microsoft or is it stuck in the state it is downloaded in?

Ryan Dube

Great question George – I didn’t try enabling and running an update, but it would be interesting to see what happens.

Paul

The version I downloaded still needed to be activated. I guess you will still need to buy a key then.

Ryan Dube

Hi Paul – as I mentioned in the intro: “The version of XP gives you a temporary use license, but if you need to use it longer, you could always reinstall it or activate it with a valid XP license you may have already purchased but aren’t using on any of your computers anymore.”

dragonmouth

There are still many corporate clients who are sticking with Win XP although Microsoft is trying hard to Win 7 or 8.

For the past few years I have been strictly a Linux user except at tax time. There still is no tax software, such as Turbo Tax or TaxAct, for Linux, so I keep a Win XP PC around. The only time I fire it up is February-March every year and then, once taxes are done, it gets disconnected and put away.

I also have couple of W2K, Win XP Pro, Win XP Home CDs squirelled away. :-)

Ryan Dube

Yup – same here. I’ve got a really old PC running XP that I use as a test web server. Personally I love those older operating systems. Which doesn’t really say much because I also loved Windows 3.1. :-)

Sherry Beard

I have crashed my 2005 Gateway PC and lost my Restore CD – the repair shop wants $80 to restore XP Pro – I have replaced my computer but I was like to pass the old Gateway on to someone else if I could have a cheap way to restore the system. You say you have CD’s. Is there any way to borrow one? I have my product key and believe I would be able to install and get the computer running again,

Elrick B

why did you take the long way around instead of bridge the network adapter right there in virtualbox?

Ryan Dube

Probably because I’ve never used the short way! Thanks Elrick. :-)

pd

Artifact? Ryan, it’s still a perfectly functional OS. No subsequent version has included anything substantially better.

Have some respect. It’s still got a huge market share and that’s because most people don’t get sucked in like you in the tech media, to the concept that anything new must be better. I’ve never seen as much inobjective analysis talked about any industry than the IT industry. If it was the car industry, you wouldn’t be going around saying people shouldn’t buy a 10-year second hand model that has proven reliable, repairable and very efficient over those years.

In more sensible times, we didn’t have critics and analysts who felt the need to spew out something every other minute. Magazine authors thought through their articles, spent time analysing it. The false notion that speed and volume of output is more important than quality is the basis for IT media and it produces predictably terrible journalism.

Ryan Dube

Thanks for your feedback. I’m not sure where most of this came from, because if you’ve read most of my articles here, you’d know that I tend to wait 1-2 years after a new OS comes out to adopt it (mostly because it takes that long for the bugs to get fleshed out of it). You might have also missed my comment a few posts up from here. :-)

I tend to agree with you – too many people are quick to pass off older operating systems as worthless and antiquated. That’s why I wrote this post in the first place, actually…because I don’t believe Windows XP is quite yet down and out as many do in the IT industry (which you are correct about).

Philip Robar

> No subsequent version has included anything substantially better.

This is absolute nonsense. Later versions are vastly better at security, multiprocessing, driver and overall stability, using physical memory …

pd

Hey Ryan

I think I was a bit harsh. I didn’t read the entire article, I got too worked up by the ‘artifact’ comment. Sorry.

As for you Philip, which part of the atrovious joke that is Vista impresses you the most? In addition, I’m not expect but DEP was included in XP, concepts like ASLR might not have been but let’s see just how many patches Windows versions beyond XP end up getting, hey? As for multiprocessing, the screw up of trying to improve multimedia by creating some sort of beyond-realtime scheduler level were comical at best. Perhaps you don’t remember the embarrassing issues of people not being able to do audio and network at the same time? Drivers? Really? Drivers target the OS they are used with, how can you compare the driver support across versions? I guess you could argue post-XP versions have better 64 bit drivers but that’s simply because MIcrosoft didn’t focus on 64 bit when it came to XP.

My point is that there’s nothing compelling in post-XP windows. Aero is just fancy glitz few people need. UAC is more annoying than helpful to most people (If most people simply disable it, it’s not a move forward). Perhaps the firewall has got better? It could hardly have been worse in XP but there’s plenty of free third-party programs that could sort that out. Basically unless you rate the Windows 8 tablet-on-a-desktop UI, or the job they did making Vista half-decent with 7, I debate that there are markedly important advances post-XP that have made XP redundant.

Philip Robar

None of what you said controverts the fact that under the hood there have been significant internal and structural improvements in every release of Windows. The documentation of this is vast and readily available at sites such as ArsTechinca and Microsoft and is covered in a more end-user oriented way at sites such as CNET and PCmag. Were there errors along the way? Of course, software is implemented by fallible humans—errors and misjudgments are inevitable.

I’m going to assume from your remarks that you don’t know anything about writing device drivers or how they work. Drivers are written for a specific framework or model, not OS. Vista’s preferred model (WDDM) is significantly improved and more stable than those previous.

The fact that hardware manufacturers lagged in providing, or failed to provide updated drivers for Vista doesn’t mean that the driver model isn’t better. It just means that most manufacturers are cheap and/or lazy. Was this a significant problem for users? Yes, but again, that isn’t a fault of the newer, improved model.

The fact that post-XP versions of Windows are more stable is incontrovertible. So is the fact that post-XP versions of Windows don’t need to be reinstalled on a regular basis to recover from a gradual decline to glacial performance.

Non-CS knowledgable or unsophisticated end-users, by definition, see and concentrate on superficial or visual changes and react to those. That’s to be expected. But, to say that aren’t “markedly important advances post-XP” just displays your ignorance. That fact that they’re not important or “compelling” to >you< doesn't mean that they're not there or that they're insignificant to the computing world in general.

Bruce

@pd: You obviously haven’t spent any time looking at the real improvements of a more modern OS. Especially at the enterprise level. DirectAccess, BranchCache to name a few.

pd

Hey Phil. check out the July 2013 Microsoft patches:

Windows XP: 6 critical
Windows Vista: 6 critical
Windows 7: 6 critical
Windows 8: 6 critical

LOL. Yeah, everything post-XP is sooohhh much more secure!

:)

Philip Robar

So we’re supposed to generalize from this one specific set of patches that there have been no improvements in security in Windows Vista, Windows 7 or Windows 8? I guess that I have to assume that your education didn’t include an understanding of basic logical fallacies.

Chris

It is for testing only, and seems to be valid for only 3 months. Additional terms may apply. Small donation required if you want the IOS vm.

Ion P

Nice words about XP as I’m still using it, although I have a licence for W7.

harlan

well now when i explore and try

brownjason

The way you write make it truly effortless to read. And the theme you use, wow. I want to follow up and let you know how great I treasured discovering your web blog today. I will consider it a real honor to operate at my workplace and be able to use the tips provided on your web page and also take part in visitors’ opinions like this. Should a position of guest article author become offered at your end, remember to let me know.

Ellen O

Thanks, Ryan! Your explanation is really clear and easy for me to understand. :-)

Bud

no mention if it working on a Mac???

Bud

of it ***

Michael

When you refer to XP, is this XP Home or XP Pro? Or is there the option to select either Home or Pro? I already have a paid copy of XP Home and I’m still using it; for now. I may be dropping Windows if all goes well with a Linux OS I’m checking out now.

Ryan Dube

Hi Michael. This is MS Windows XP Professional, Version 2002, Service Pack 3.

Michael

Ok then, thanks. Now, I will have to decide if I want to do this … getting VM and Win XP Pro. XP support is supposed to be ending April 2014. And, to top it off, I have no idea (experience = zero) about using VM. Oh well, again, thanks.

Michael

I’m re-posting this just in case it didn’t get added.

When you refer to XP, is this XP Home or Pro? Is there the option to get either XP Home or Pro? I already have XP Home (paid copy) and still using it for now.

Justin Pot

I had no idea this was possible – I’ve been using my old XP disk for this, which is sort of questionable legally (it’s an OEM CD). I’ll need to bookmark this one…

Chase

My favorite version is Windows 8.1 this far. Windows XP has been underwhelming and needs retired. It was good at the beginning but isn’t great. The support for XP is dwindling for manufacturers. I can do more with less time with Windows 8. I 60 Windows XP machines upgraded to Windows 7 just so I didn’t have to deal with this issue next year.

John

I know it’s off topic, but I love the photo at the top of the article of the ancient PC in at least three different ugly, mismatched shades of beige. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

Ryan Dube

Thanks John. I picked it because it brought me back to my childhood. :-)

Hiew Y

I still have my old Win XP running laptop. So this will be a hindsight. but it’s a good option! :)

Ezekiel S

thankyou for sharing this usefull info

Julius

I was going to make a snarky comment about how just wiping the HD and installing XP would be better, but then I actually scrolled down and saw how much work you put into this article and I felt bad. This has enough detail that it will probably be useful to people.

If it makes you feel any better, any browser with sane security and privacy settings works with even fewer webpages than a 12-year-old build of IE with no plugins.

As long as there is hardware that will run XP, XP will remain a popular option, because Microsoft haven’t produced anything that can compete with it. The security is fine with SP2 and a router. I’ve run XP boxes for 2+ and 3+ years, pushed them hard, and never experienced the slowdowns some people claim – then again, I’m the kind of person who automatically distrusts capitalism in any form, never gets infected, and weeds the registry by hand for fun and knowledge. Most of the hardware I have lying around the house will run XP but not 7. So if my main computer dies, my Plans B, C, D, E, F, G, H, and I are all prime candidates for XP. (Plan J is an ancient laptop with Win98 and 192M of RAM…I guess I’d probably go Linux there.) I have strongly considered wiping 7 off this machine and going with XP. This model explicitly supports XP, Vista and 7 and I have already downloaded the relevant drivers. If I have a choice between XP and 7, it’s more or less a toss-up from my point of view. Do I want to install XP and spend the next 3 days turning it into win2k? Or install 7 and spend the next 3 weeks turning it into a broken, cheap knockoff of win2k?

Thomas

That’s awesome.
I run Windows XP on all of my computers for everything I do.

What do you mean that you would “spend the next 3 days turning it into win2k?”
Just curious!

Thomas

Also, you’re one of the only people I’ve ever heard say that all of your computers will get viruses and explode on the day that Microsoft ends Extended Support!
Very refreshing.

Erica

I need guidance, I got as far as bridging my wireless adapter to the VMbox’s adapter which created the network minibridge icon but my host’s internet connection went down and the only way to reconnect that I found was to undue the bridge. I’d really like to find a way to get my VM running XP to connect to the internet for my up coming course work. ThX!

Grant

Im on Windows XP, and im gonna run XP on XP, Its WinXP-ception!

Rosa

I am not a pro.
But I was so happy to find your article, and without any experience whatsoever, I was able to make the VM work, and import XP like you described.
I intend to play an old game on it. I missed it so much.
But how do I install the game in my Virtual Machine with XP?
I can’t figure it out.
Thanks again for some REALLY usefull info. :-)

PKB

Great tuorial! Thanks for sharing, the network config stiff does really helped me!

hitesh

hai sir you have in youtube how to install every thing from beginning

Ryan

Excellent Article. Thank you.

J Brown

Thank you, very helpful. One quick note to anyone getting blue screens on boot, go to settings -> system -> acceleration and uncheck vt-x/AMD-v

David Jordan

Thanks for the article. I’ve downloaded Virtual and XP on my Windows 7 Home Premium and, of course, it doesn’t work. Is there any way round this or am I doomed not to run Poser8 on it?
Ta.