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Use VirtualBox virtual PC to run Windows XP

We show one reader how to keep running Windows XP on his Windows 7 PC, even after Microsoft stops supporting XP.

QUESTION My desktop computer runs on Windows 7 64-bit, which has caused me very few problems with existing peripherals and software. However, I was unable to sync my elderly Palm Tungsten E2 PDA with windows 7 to enable me to print a hard copy. I resolved the problem by installing Oracle VirtualBox and installing Windows XP within it.

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Now as April 2014 looms ever larger over the horizon [the date that Microsoft is set to stop supporting XP], I'm left wondering where do I go from here? I've explored the option of a smartphone, but this doesn't meet my needs. I've tried Ubuntu, too, but the software I need to use won't install on this Linux system. If I continue to use Windows XP within VirtualBox, but find a way to have no internet connection at all within VirtualBox, will that prevent me putting my computer as a whole at risk?

We don't have a Palm Tungsten E2 to test, but according to the Palm website, you can download a newer version of Palm Desktop, version 6.2, which some users have reported works with Windows 7.

Assuming that this option doesn't work for you, you can indeed set up a VirtualBox virtual PC without an internet connection. Don't expect the arrival of April 2014 to cause your XP system to spontaneously delete your files, infest your computer with viruses and wire the contents of your bank account to Nigeria. You'll probably be quite safe for some time to come, especially as you're only using XP as a way to print out from your Palm PDA. If you're not downloading software or doing any e-commerce from XP, there'll be little damage that could be done.

We recommend taking a snapshot from within VirtualBox, so your XP system can be returned to precisely the state it is in now, should something go wrong. This would have the same effect as erasing your hard drive and reloading it with an image backup containing all your installed software. Any malware would therefore be erased each time you restore the snapshot.

For added security, you could edit the settings for your virtual XP PC and disable the virtual network adaptor. Open Oracle VM VirtualBox Manager and, with the Virtual PC powered off, right-click on the icon for your virtual PC and select Settings.

Click on 'Network' in the left-hand column and then, in the right-hand pane, untick the box next to 'Enable Network Adapter.' Repeat this for any additional virtual network adaptors you may have configured.

This will also disable any network sharing between your virtual XP PC and your Windows 7 PC. If you wish to retain this functionality, you can keep the network enabled, but change the type to 'Host-only networking'.