Windows 7 “XP Mode” finally useful

I’m partly writing this for my own benefit, as I know I’ll forget this at some point and need to re-set it…

OK, so Windows 7 is what Vista should have been, blah blah… I actually quite liked Vista Ultimate x64 but I’ve gained some speed and UI niceties by changing to W7 Ultimate x64. In both, I’ve been using a modified driver for my Nikon CoolScan 5000 which Nikon does not support because the company refuses to release a 64-bit driver for their film scanners. They have effectively given up on film scanning now (the 9000 is the only one currently available but it’s too expensive and probably won’t be around for much longer either) which is a pain because their scanners are good and there’s not a lot else to choose from these days. 32-bit Windows: no problem. 64-bit: forget it? Not quite.

So I figured out how to use a driver on x64 which would drive the 5000 (I love the internet) and it does work. Usually it works well but I’m finding it occasionally crashes, especially if I’m using the post-processing options such as GEM.

One big selling point of Win7 Ultimate (and Business/Enterprise) is their “XP Mode”. This is basically a registered copy of XP SP3 running as a virtual machine under Win7. It allows the connection of USB devices and, even though the VM is running on Win7 x64 in my case, the XP within is 32-bit. Great – I can run the supported scanner driver under XP 32-bit under Win7 64-bit! Damn – the VM is limited to 16-bit colour and, therefore, looks crap.

So I gave up on XP Mode and put up with the occasional crashes until a few days ago, when I came across this:

http://www.mydigitallife.info/2009/12/16/how-to-increase-color-depth-and-quality-of-windows-xp-accessed-via-remote-desktop-or-terminal-services/

I knew I could increase the colour depth if I disabled the integration facilities but that would mean no connection of USB devices to the VM, which would be pretty pointless. This link shows how to get around the 16-bit colour limitation to give 24-bit colour whilst retaining integration. It turns out that XP Mode uses the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) and this is limited by default to 16-bit colour – presumably in the interests of connection performance. But I’m not connecting to another physical machine here. This link shows that a simple Group Policy edit (GPEdit.msc) to Terminal Services to set the maximum colour depth to 24-bit should do the trick and it certainly does. Suddenly, XP Mode is useful and I can scan within it now with everything looking as it should.