How to Set up a Windows XP Emulator for Windows 10

Enjoy XP's classic looks all over again

What to Know

  • Boot up in VirtualBox. Select New > enter name and location for virtual machine. Select XP version and enter memory amount.
  • Select Create a virtual hard drive now > Dynamically allocated > Next. Choose the virtual hard drive size and select Create.
  • Choose Start and insert the XP startup disc (or locate the disc image). Press Start to install Windows XP.

This article explains how to set up a Windows XP emulator for Windows 10.

How to Run a Windows XP Emulator for Windows 10

Windows XP might have reached the end-of-life (EOL) stage in its cycle, but that doesn't mean the operating system doesn't still have its uses. There is a way you can have the best of both worlds and run a Windows XP emulator on Windows 10.

The best way to emulate Windows XP in Windows 10 is to use a virtual machine. It lets you run a virtualized computer inside your existing Windows 10 install. In this case, it means running a version of Windows XP on the same system but siloed away from the Windows 10 operating system and files.

There are many great virtual machines you can use, but we'll be using Oracle VM's VirtualBox for this guide. Download the latest version from its official website and install it.

You'll need a CD/DVD of Windows XP or an ISO disk image to emulate Windows XP. Make sure you have it on hand before beginning.

  1. Boot up VirtualBox and select New in the top menu bar. Give your virtual machine a name—it can be anything, but setting something memorable would be a good idea, especially if you plan to create multiple virtual machines in the future.  

  2. Choose where you want to install the virtual machine, choose the Windows XP version you plan to install, then select Next.

    Virtual box XP
  3. Choose how much memory you want to allocate for the Windows XP virtual machine, then select Next.

    Virtual Box XP Install
  4. Select Create a virtual hard disk now, unless you have already set one up. In that case, select Create > Next.

  5.  Select Dynamically allocated, then select Next.

    Virtual box XP
  6. Choose the size of your virtual hard drive. 10GB is enough if you only plan to install a couple of basic applications, but if you want to play big games on it, adjust to what you think you'll need, then select Create.

  7. Select Start in the top menu. A small window will appear and ask you for the XP startup disk. Insert it in your optical drive if you have one, otherwise use the file selector to find your XP disc image, then select Start.

  8. The window should then transition to the Windows XP install process. Follow it as if you're installing it like a regular app.

    Virtual Box XP emulator
  9. If all goes to plan, you should have a Windows XP install you can use whenever you like. To close it down, shut down the install or close the XP window, and it will offer to shut it down for you. When you want to use it again, just select Start as you did to install it, and the XP emulator will boot up.

Why Use a Windows XP Emulator?

Microsoft has designated Windows XP as EOL for all but a select few customers. It means there haven't been any significant security patches for Windows XP in years, and software support is close to a decade out of date. That also means modern drivers won't work with it, a lot of modern PC hardware won't run it, and you'll run into all sorts of problems trying to run modern applications using it.

The biggest concern, though, is malware. Windows XP is far less secure than Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 10, and with no security precautions made for it in recent years, it's less safe than ever. As such, emulating Windows XP is a much safer way to use it because if you become infected with malware, you can wipe the install and start again without risking the rest of your system.

  • Can I run Windows XP in Windows 10 without using VirtualBox?

    It is possible to set up a virtual machine to run Windows XP without downloading third-party software by using Hyper-V, which comes included with Windows 10. However, it's only packed in with the 64bit versions of Windows 10 Education, Enterprise, and Home.

  • How do I emulate Windows XP in Windows 7?

    Most versions of Windows 7 support Windows Virtual Machine, which can be used to run a virtual instance of Windows XP Service Pack 3.

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