Can I run 32-bit software designed for XP on Windows 8?

M March 4, 2015
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I need to be able to run 32 bit drivers and software (Cubase SX) on a brand new Dell machine, 3000 series, running Windows 8.1. It came with the OS already installed – I have no OS recovery discs.

The specs of the machine are as follows:

  • Inspiron 3847
  • 4th Generation Intel(R) Core(TM) i5-4460 Processor (6M Cache, up to 3.4 GHz)
  • 8GB Dual Channel DDR3 1600MHz (4GBx2)
  • 1TB 7200 rpm Hard Drive

I’ve researched online, and these are the options I have found – I’m not particularly IT competent, so please bear with me – which option is the most promising option please?

1. Dual boot.
Create a partition in the HD, disable the secure boot and install XP, keeping Windows 8 in the other part. I’m not interested in using Windows 8 at all to be honest, so I’ll make this part of the drive as small as possible, freeing up more space for XP.

I’ve read that a Windows 8 mobo doesn’t have XP drivers/SATA drivers though – so I’m unable to install XP altogether? But I’ve also read that if I have an XP SP3 installation disc, this will ‘streamline’ the drivers(?) and fix this problem?

2. Virtualization software.
I’ve read that this can create conflicts when running two OS simultaneously – is this the case? And again, would I be able to install XP onto my machine without XP drivers on the mobo or would it be a ‘virtual version’ of XP? – apologies again for my ignorance – I’d never heard of virtualization until yesterday.

3. Running XP off an external drive.
I don’t even know if this is possible? What problems would I encounter if it is? It might be an attractive solution as I would avoid messing about with the PC itself?

4. Wipe Windows 8 completely, install Windows 7 and use the ‘XP mode’?

I like the sound of this *best*, but I’m not sure how reliable XP Mode is?…and I’m not sure if I’m able to wipe Windows 8 completely and install 7 – is this doable if I buy a Windows 7 install disc with license?

5. There appears to be a 32 bit version of Windows 8?!

Would this solve everything or would I end up with a half baked machine? …and would I be able to install my ‘legacy’ software on it?

So! There you go – lots to think about… please note that I work completely offline to security issues aren’t a problem.

  1. M
    March 9, 2015 at 11:22 am

    Despite all of your amazing help with this, I've decided to ditch working around it completely and upgrade my software to 64-bit.
    It will mean that we won't eat for a year, but hey - Steinberg will be able to afford a nice holiday!

    Thanks again.

    • ha14
      March 9, 2015 at 3:44 pm

      ok, so perhaps it is the best solution, you can stick with the new cubase version for more years (windows 10 and So On until one clear shining day.... Microsoft decides THATS ENOUGH windows numbers:) ) , save you future troubles!

  2. M
    March 8, 2015 at 9:38 pm

    Thanks so much ha14.

  3. M
    March 6, 2015 at 8:52 pm

    ha14 - once again - thank you so much for your reply - but it's simply too advanced for me - I think I'd get myself into a right pickle!
    ...really stuck now - not sure what to do....

    I've read that Windows 8 is compatible with drivers written for Vista, so maybe I should install Vista in my partition?

  4. M
    March 5, 2015 at 11:11 pm

    Sorry Jan F.
    Re-reading your answer, do you mean I would need to buy an older XP compatible graphics card?
    I still have the old one from my Dell Inspiron 9150....

  5. M
    March 5, 2015 at 10:33 pm

    Dear All - I can't thank you enough for your feedback.

    Bruce - since posting, I had indeed read about latency if using the VM route, so scrapped that idea.
    Regarding your solution, can I just ask the following - (please excuse my ignorance!)

    1. Is it easy to install another hard drive - is there anything I need to know? - is there a specific kind of hard drive I need to get? I've added RAM to a machine so it's not too daunting..
    2. How do I remove 'all networking components from XP' - what am I looking for and does this matter if I'm working entirely offline anyway?
    3. How do I 'fix the boot components for Windows 8.1'?

    Oron J - I am considering a much needed upgrade, but there are issues here as well:
    1. I'd be unable to open my old files, although there appears to be something called 'Bitbridge' that may solve this if I go down this route.
    2. Most of my recordings use the brilliant Roland Edirol Orchestral, which is 32 bit and discontinued for some reason, but again - there's a possibility of opening it with Bitbridge, but this is a gamble, for the amount of money I'm looking to spend...

    Can I ask - what exactly do you mean when you say 'maintaining an XP system' - if I'm working entirely offline - what problems am I likely to encounter?

    Jan F
    1. OK - now I'm worried! Is it easy to change the settings of the USB 3.0 ports (whatever they are!) within the BIOS?
    2. My graphics card is a NVIDA GeForce GT705 1GB DDR3 - do you know if this is dedicated?
    3. Are there any other components that wouldn't work?
    4. Basically, is my plan to install XP doomed due to the missing XP drivers?

    1. Is the INF(Chipset) driver something I download and install? Would this be a solution to the problems Jan mentioned?

    Once again - thank you so much for your time in trying to help me work around this.

    • ha14
      March 6, 2015 at 10:35 am

      can be a solution, i dont have windows xp on a USB 3.0 motherboards (also microsoft do not support windows xp any more), to check drivers you can go to this link.
      since both operating system (xp and 8) will share the same motherboard going to BIOS and changing USB3.0 to USB2.0 perhaps will affect also Windows 8. if this is not a problem then you can do that also.
      they use Intel(R) USB 3.0 Host Controller Switch Driver (iusb3hcs).
      i think Only some motherboards offer an option to disable USB 3.0 in the BIOS setup, i maybe wrong. to do this check in BIOS option called called xHCI mode. On some motherboards It can be set to Smart Auto, Auto, Enabled and Disabled. so Disable turns off USB 3.0 and makes all the ports USB 2.0.
      on some motherboards there is HS Port Switchable

      How to obtain Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3)

      What does it mean if Windows isn't supported?

    • Bruce E
      March 8, 2015 at 8:01 am

      Installing a new hard drive is simple. Mount the drive into the case and connect the power and data cables. You would need a SATA drive for this machine as it likely does not have any IDE ports.

      To remove networking components from XP, go to Control Panel -> Network Connections. Right-click on the Local Area Connection (default name) and select Properties. For each of the components used by the connection, uninstall it. Click on the Configure button for the adapter and select the option to disable it. Removing it will have the system trying to reinstall the drivers for it every time the machine is booted so simply disabling the adapter is more effective. This is the same method used to isolate machines in a corporate environment where I formerly worked so even if an employee plugged in a network cable, the machine still couldn't communicate with the network.

      Another boot-related issue that I forgot to mention earlier. With a new machine, it is likely that it is booting up using UEFI. XP (32-bit) does not support UEFI booting, so the machine will need to be reconfigured to boot in Legacy (or BIOS) mode. It also cannot read, write, or boot from GPT hard disks.

      Considering these issues and if you only want to use the machine as a DAW without any other potential uses, you would be better served just setting it up with XP only. By removing all multi-boot options, everything becomes simpler.
      1. Change BIOS settings so Secure Boot is off, Legacy BIOS is on, USB is all set to 2.0 so all even the USB 3.0 ports will only work with up to v2.0 devices.
      2. Repartition the hard drive to use MBR instead of GPT.
      3. Install XP on the machine and apply updates via Windows Update. Yeah, it's going to complain and say that the OS is no longer being updated, but you still want all of the available patches applied to it.
      4. Install Cubase and all applicable updates.
      5. Remove networking components as described above.

      An additional hard drive would only be required in this case if you needed the additional space it provides rather than just keeping your audio data away from the dual-OS drive. There is no more need to fix the boot files for Windows 8.1.

      The video issue Jan brought up may need to be addressed. NVIDIA does not have any Windows drivers for the 705 card. Most of their supported cards DO have drivers for XP.

    • ha14
      March 8, 2015 at 9:30 pm

      why not just remove the hard drive containing Windows 8.1, add a new hard drive then install Windows xp and then work with cubase. Then when needed just to replug windows 8.1 hard drive?

  6. Jan F.
    March 4, 2015 at 5:52 pm

    Most of the things I could think of have already been explained in detail. One or two things I do want to pitch in:

    Only the retail versions of Windows are licenses for both, 64-bit as well as 32-bit.
    Since your operating system came with the computer it most certainly is a OEM license and only valid for the exact version and edition it shipped with. The license would not work with the 32-bit version of Windows 8.

    Only the Pro version of Windows 8(.1) is eligible for a downgrade.
    If your system shipped with the standard Windows 8 license you will require a valid Windows 7 license in order to downgrade.

    There are no 4th generation Intel Chipset drivers for Windows XP.
    If you do get it running there would most likely be some components or things that simply won't work within Windows XP or would require certain work-arounds e.g. USB 3.0 ports won't work unless you set them to run as 2.0 ports within the BIOS.
    Since you didn't mention it in the specification you'd also require a dedicated graphics card because the Integrated Graphics chip won't work duo to the missing drivers.

    • ha14
      March 4, 2015 at 9:16 pm

      perhaps Intel INF(Chipset) driver will rename the serial port so that the USB 3.0 port function as USB 2.0.

  7. Oron J
    March 4, 2015 at 4:18 pm

    Bruce summarises the pros & cons pretty well. I'd like to suggest that you consider a different route - upgrading Cubase! On the down side, it will cost you money, anywhere from around $100 for the "Elements" version and up to $600 for the full-whack "Pro" version. On the other hand, the effort of installing and maintaining a Windows XP system - no longer supported by Microsoft - should be taken into account. Additionally, depending on your needs, perhaps you can use a different package such as Audacity, which is free (or you can study the list of alternatives at

  8. ha14
    March 4, 2015 at 7:31 am

    There appears to be a 32 bit version of Windows 8?! well if the 32-bit software designed for XP on Windows 8? is compatible then yes it can solve the problem.
    Make older programs compatible with this version of Windows

    since xp maintenance/updates no longer is supported maybe better to make the virtual solution and restrict access to windows 8, . Do not enable read/write shared folders between your Windows guest virtual machine and the Windows 8.

    Running XP off an external drive.: Windows 8 perhaps do not support that, you have to be carefull since during boot windows re-initialize USB drives so will loose the connection?

    Windows In Your Pocket,1113.html

    • Bruce E
      March 4, 2015 at 2:04 pm

      The virtual solution will likely cause more problems with DAW software that solve, hence my dual-boot configuration suggestion above. You are working through two kernels and virtualized hardware. This will result in latency problems you simply cannot get around. Then you have the possibility that the virtualized ports used for the audio input may not work at all.

    • ha14
      March 4, 2015 at 4:00 pm

      yes dual boot operating system can be the right choice, i was just referring to microsoft decision not to support Windows xp updates any more so greater cautions needed and with enhanced security, indeed some audio problems can appear in virtual mode perhaps depending on the virtual software. Better security measurements must be taken for Windows XP, even if in Windows XP mode a good antimalware will be needed. Perhaps also to consider Linux

  9. Bruce E
    March 4, 2015 at 6:59 am

    First off, Dell is required to give you the means to create recovery discs if they do not ship the media with the computer. There WILL be a program on the system that will allow you to do this. If Dell does not package their own, you can use the one built into Windows 8.1. Just go to the Start screen and type 'Recovery' and you should see an option for 'Create a recovery drive'. You will need several blank DVDs or a 16 GB or bigger flash drive. Make sure you do this before making any other changes to the system.

    Dual-booting is probably your best option although it will not be the easiest one to set up. The benefits of dual-booting are that the operating system is running on metal, will be using your internal hard drive, and the 32-bit drivers for Cubase will be assured of working correctly.

    Running in a virtual machine (Windows 7's XP Mode is also a virtual machine) means that you have Windows XP running inside of Windows 8 (or Windows 7 if you choose that option) which will increase the amount of latency you see in your recordings. You are not really running two operating systems simultaneously. One operating system ends up running as an application inside of another operating system. When you consider that you would then be running Cubase inside of XP inside of Windows 7 or 8, should be able to see how latency will become a big issue.

    Running XP off an external drive is still dual-booting the machine. The only difference is that if it is a USB drive, you have to contend with the latency involved there as well. An eSATA drive would not be as much of a problem. But you are still dual-booting the machine and now need to be concerned about having the drive available any time the system boots, especially if you are defaulting to the XP operating system.

    Running 32-bit drivers on an 64-bit OS sometimes works and sometimes doesn't. Putting a 32-bit version of Windows 8.1 on the system may allow the entire thing to work for you. Only 2 people have voted on Microsoft's compatibility list regarding Cubase SX 3.x. One says it works as is and the other says it doesn't work at all. It is possible that one of them was using a 32-bit version of Windows 8.1 when they tried this while the other was using a 64-bit version, but we have no way of positively knowing.

    If I was going about this, I would go with dual-booting using the internal drive. Actually, I would go a step further and add a second hard drive to the system. I would reduce the size of the existing Windows 8.1 partition to make room for the Windows XP/Cubase SX installation quite possibly splitting the amount of drive space equally between both operating systems. After installing Windows XP and applying all updates available for it, then installing Cubase SX and all of its updates, I would then remove all networking components from the XP installation. Since XP is no longer receiving updates, I want to protect it as much as possible. Then I would go in and fix the boot components for Windows 8.1 that the XP installation would have trashed so the Windows 8.1 bootloader is used.

    By doing this, you would have your Windows 8.1 installation that you can still use for accessing the internet safely, office productivity apps and all of the usual stuff. When you need you DAW, you just boot into XP and you are ready to go. The purpose of the second hard drive is for all of the data files for Cubase. Don't store any of that stuff on Windows XP's C: drive.

    • Kathy Padgett
      March 9, 2015 at 1:43 pm

      Although XP no longer has Windows support, XP Pro is still the primary OS for many major retailers, etc. Consider changing XP to XP Pro for continued support.

    • Bruce E
      March 9, 2015 at 3:22 pm

      @Kathy: The only support remaining for XP is for large companies and enterprises. It is a Custom Support Agreement and requires one of their top tier support packages in the first place such as Premium Support. So you would already need to be paying them for the Premium Support (and possibly a VLA), then tack on the costs of the CSA. This is definitely not something for the average consumer unless you have a couple hundred thousand to just toss around.

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