Using Windows 7 XP Mode with Cisco VPN

It”s pretty well known that there is no 64 bit version of the popular Cisco VPN client. In order to work around this problem, I”ve always kept a 32 bit virtual machine on hand and installed the client there. It can be a pain, particularly when you want to use dual monitors, but it has its advantages too. For example, depending on the VPN configuration, local network access is lost when the remote network is connected. Using a VM avoids that.

When I first heard about XP Mode, I was interested in how it might help get around this problem. I finally got around to testing it out today, and I like what I see.

For those that don”t know, XP Mode is a special VM that tightly integrated with Windows 7. With it, you can run applications that are incompatible with recent versions of Windows right from your Windows 7 desktop. In reality, they”re running in an XP engine, and the UI is “bubbled up” into Windows 7. The experience is pretty seamless.

Essentially,any applications running in XPMode are running in the same XP virtual machine. Therefore they can take advantage of any networking services installed. All that is necessary to get the Cisco VPN running is to install it onto the XP Mode virtual machine. Once installed,and connected, the virtual network is available to all applications running within the virtual machine.

Although it”s difficult to tell from the marketing noise, neither Windows Virtual PC (the latest version of Virtual PC is for some reason versionless) or XP Mode are included with the RTM of Windows 7. Once acquired, they install as an update, and exist as a feature. The new Virtual PC should import prior VMs just fine, but I found a few hiccups including one non-importable image.

How do you get up and running?

  1. Install Windows 7
  2. Download Windows Virtual PC and XP Mode Release Candidates from http://www.microsoft.com/windows/virtual-pc/download.aspx
  3. Uninstall prior Versions of Virtual PC
  4. Install Virtual PC
  5. Install XP Mode
  6. Start up your XP Mode machine and install the Cisco client. Import any profiles necessary
  7. Install any applications desired
  8. Shut down the XP Mode machine (pretty non-intuitive, eh?). To shut down the Virtual mode machine, you need to press Ctl-Alt-End. The normal start menu approach only allows you to log off.
  9. You will now see all of the applications, including the Cisco client installed under the Windows Virtual PC menu item in your start menu. Fire up the Cisco client, connect, and run any of the other applications that require VPN access. One caveat – in my build, the initial application start needs to be done twice.

That should do. Enjoy.

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Warning Messages when Upgrading to Windows Server 2008 R2

There are a few warning messages that can “sort of” be ignored when upgrading to Server 2008 R2. The compatibility checker is quite good at stopping you if you absolutely shouldn”t continue, but there are also some warnings that might seem puzzling.

If your server has the Hyper-V role enabled, the compatibility checker will tell you to remove the role. You really don”t want to do that, because you”ll lose an awful lot of configuration. What it SHOULD tell you is to make sure that all of your virtual machines are in an off state, because the saved state is incompatible with the new Hyper-V. If this is the case, you can safely ignore this warning and click next.

If you have SharePoint Server on the machine, the advisor will tell you to remove it. Again, this isn”t something that you”re going to want to do. What the advisor should REALLY be telling you is that All versions of SharePoint prior to 2007 with Service Pack 2 are incompatible with Server 2008 R2. If this is the case, or you”re simply unsure, stop the upgrade, and go apply Service Pack 2. Then (and only then) can you safely ignore the message, and continue the upgrade.

One last potential gotcha – after upgrading,your server will need to be reactivated. The upgrade process doesn”t tell you that.

The upgrade process appears to work rather well – so far I haven”t yet encountered any problems.