MS Windows XP SP3 Lives on… As a Virtual Machine

MS Windows XP SP3 Lives on… As a Virtual Machine

There you have it-I said the “W” word—Windows. I guess I should probably elaborate a little more about what I am raving on about. Allow me to explain.

As Microsoft begins to wind down support for Windows XP SP3, with less than 12 months of support left, there is actually still market share for XP. Admittedly, there is no revenue in it for Microsoft, but XP SP3 still remains in high usage among Linux enthusiasts.

Thanks to Oracle VM VirtualBox, setting up a virtual machine on your Linux system has never been easier. XP is the perfect candidate for running a full-blown operating system in a virtual machine environment, such as VirtualBox.

Why Windows XP?

Windows XP SP3 sits right in a sweet spot. It’s not too old to be still be usable, yet it remains much slimmer than more recent iterations of Windows OS; Vista, 7 and 8. Thankfully, whatever your reason is for running XP in a virtual machine, there’s still enough software support around for most popular packages. Even printer manufacturers are still supporting XP SP3 with their drivers. Heck, I have even been witness to running a XP virtual machine on a netbook with low-specifications. I can admit, it still run just fine.

XP can run on very minimal resources. I remember my first ever experience with Windows XP was with an old Intel Celeron running 128MB of SD-RAM. Compared to today’s systems with large amounts of RAM, XP runs very well on even 128-256MB of virtual allocated RAM. Try running a more modern Windows OS on this amount of RAM. Even most mainstream Linux systems require more RAM than XP to run in a virtual environment. Hence why Windows XP SP3 is still the perfect choice for an operating system in virtual environments.

Installation and setup of XP is kept simple. And with the added benefit of full-support with the Guest Additions package being equally as easy to setup inside. Once configured, extra VM’s can be deployed by simply cloning the original setup and leaving your original as a base template for when things go pear shaped or you simply require another VM deployed for testing.

Of course, it’s not all bloom. With running an old operating system such as Windows XP SP3, you have an environment which is not as secure as more updated and modern operating systems. One could argue once setup correctly and in the right environment, most of the security can be handled by your Linux host. The security issue is a small concern and most certainly not a real reason to avoid running Windows XP SP3 in a virtual machine.

Whether you run a virtual machine for a test system, necessity of a specific software package or printer or simply for educational purposes, you’ll find that XP is the perfect fit to get a virtual machine up and running in no time for Linux users.

Microsoft may be slowly killing off Windows XP SP3 through dropping support, but I suspect Wit will live a long and healthy life in the form of virtual machines on Linux enthusiasts boxes.


Let us know if you run Windows XP SP3 in a virtual environment and why. Comment below.

  • Miquel Mayol i Tur

    With Xen or Qemu and VGA Passthorugh even better and faster than with Vbox

  • nwlinux

    I use SP3 on VirtualBox strictly with Outlook. I operate an on-premise Exchange server and need to manage all of the Journal mail. XP is light on system resources and perfect for this job – base system Ubuntu 10.04.

  • escojo un nombre?

    I have the same XP SP3 running in VirtualBox for the last 4 years, has change physical machines 3 times.

    Why I have it? In the past because Peachtree worked on and off on Wine or CrossOver, then for a few old timers games, then to explain people over chat how to configure stuff on their own XPs and for some devices that could only communicate using a Windows, now one of my kids uses a web game that is hard to get it running without the correct JAVA in Linux, so this way was easy.

    In the end it will just sit there in a corner of the RAID array until such time as there is no need for it

  • OldNuc

    I run XP SP-2 with VirtualBox on Debian sid to run some old windows propritary software. Works just fine. I have shutdown the unnecessacary XP services and restore functions to lighten it up considerably.

  • Gaius Maximus

    Like most, I use XP/SP3 in VirtualBox on all my machines because of the rare package that just doesn’t work well, if at all, in Wine. But I’ve found another reason along the way.

    As a remote programmer, my various clients employ a wide variety of connectivity schemes, some of which are less than ‘enterprise stable’. XP was crashing unrecoverably every 3-9 months, forcing me through a tedious reinstallation and reconfiguration process because M$ long ago gutted their files and settings transfer wizard, and what was left rarely got everything right. And, of course, sometimes, XP itself would encounter some sort of problem that just demanded a complete reinstall and reconfigure, because whatever the problem was, it was in the settings backup, too. But, now, whenever Windows trips up, I just copy the original image back over the operating image, and I’m back in business in a matter of minutes instead of hours, and all my settings, history, etc., are all back where they were without days of hunting down license numbers, passwords, etc.