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Help File: Windows 7's XP Mode; surge protector life spans

By Rob Pegoraro
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 28, 2010

Q: I want to run Windows XP programs on my new PC. Is Windows 7 Professional's XP mode the best way to assure that?

A: It's certainly one of the more expensive ways -- and you might not need it at all because most XP programs run fine in Win 7.

You can check the status of individual programs at But even applications listed as requiring an upgrade might operate normally in Microsoft's new operating system under its "compatibility mode" (type "troubleshoot" in the Control Panel's search box to get to Win 7's Program Compatibility Troubleshooter).

If, however, you have old applications that have been abandoned by their developers and won't run under 7 under any condition, then you might have to resort to XP Mode.

This feature ( is available only with Microsoft's more expensive Professional and Ultimate editions of 7. To use it, you download and install two files that will leave you with a separate copy of XP that runs inside its own window. (You don't need to have your own XP disc.)

Running two copies of Windows on the same system will require more disk space (which a new computer usually has plenty of) and memory (which it should but might not).

The surge protectors I use for the computer, TV, stereo, DVD player and so on are all at least 10 to 15 years old. Should I replace them?

Most newer surge protectors have a light to indicate if the device can still do its job (APC, for instance, usually labels this indicator "Protection Working"). But if yours doesn't have that sort of tell-tale LED, there's no easy way to tell. Your surge protector might function only as a power strip after taking enough punches for your electronics.

So after that many years, I would assume the surge protector has lost its effectiveness and should be replaced.

Rob Pegoraro attempts to untangle computing conundrums and errant electronics each week. Send questions to The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or Visit his Faster Forward blog.

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