Using Visual Studio .NET 2003 on Windows 7

Album Cover: Graduation

"Y'all pop the trunk, I pop the hood (Ferrari)."
Kanye West / Good Life

Posted on May 26, 2009 2:43 PM in Computers
Warning: This blog entry was written two or more years ago. Therefore, it may contain broken links, out-dated or misleading content, or information that is just plain wrong. Please read on with caution.

The week before last, I finally bit the bullet and decided to replace my embarrassingly slow work computer. Along with the new hardware, I decided I'd make the jump to Windows 7 since I've been having relatively good luck with the new operating system on my work laptop and my main home computer.

After I installed all the essential software (e.g. a web browser, an IM client, etc.), I started getting to the very work-specific software like Outlook, bug tracking software and IDEs/compilers. At my work, we still rely on Visual Studio .NET 2003 to compile the bulk of our code. We've got several components that rely on Visual Studio 2005 and even Visual Studio 2008, but because the majority of our code is compiled with the oldest of the three, there's really no getting around having it installed in order to do real development.

Unfortunately, it wasn't until I was well through the software installation process when I discovered the hard way that support for Visual Studio .NET 2003 was dropped in the Windows Vista time frame. It was at that point that I started debating whether or not I should reluctantly make the downgrade back to Windows XP.

Fortunately, before I decided on taking that last resort approach, I saw a window of opportunity in the new, separately-downloadable feature of Windows 7, Windows Virtual PC. If you've got the hardware to support virtualization, not only does the feature allow you to run a virtual operating system from within Windows 7, but it allows you to take advantage of a free, virtual copy of Windows XP via Windows XP Mode (or XPM). As I said before, the feature is pretty darn cool.

Not only is the feature cool, but in this specific case, it actually ends up being pretty darn practical, too. From within XPM, which has easy access to file shares available in the hosting Windows 7 environment, I was able to install applications that couldn't run in Windows 7. This is where Visual Studio .NET 2003 comes in.

You would think that it would be easy to install Visual Studio .NET 2003 in the virtual Windows XP environment, but you'd be wrong, at least for the Enterprise edition I was attempting to install. One of its prerequisites is the Microsoft FrontPage 2000 Extensions package (which seems a bit ludicrous in itself, but I won't go there). Unfortunately, installing this package actually requires access to the original Windows XP installation CD. But since I was running XPM which installed as a sort of application and definitely not via an actual installation disc, I was, needless to say, stumped.

With a little research, I was able to find that the problem is a known issue and actually affects anyone attempting to add or remove Windows components via the Control Panel. Fortunately for me, I didn't need to wait around for the Windows Virtual PC team to release a new build with a fix, but only because I had immediate access to an .iso image of a Windows XP SP3 installation CD.

Windows XP Mode can be set up to consider any .iso file as a virtual disc in its disc drive. On the main Virtual Windows XP window, I selected Tools, Settings from the menu. In those settings, I selected the DVD Drive section from the left pane. Then, in the right pane, I selected the "Open an ISO image" option and pointed to my .iso file, before hitting OK. If I didn't have an .iso file readily available, I could have also used a physical installation CD on my Windows 7 machine and referred to it similarly in the XPM settings.

After making the virtual drive available to my virtual OS, I was able to successfully install the Microsoft FrontPage 2000 Extensions package. Once that was installed, I finally met the prerequisites for installing Visual Studio .NET 2003 and was then able to install the rest of the application without a hitch.


k1k1 on June 16, 2009 at 9:36 AM:

Good work.


david on August 10, 2009 at 5:08 PM:

Perfect, saved me some time, thanks.


Mike on September 19, 2009 at 9:53 PM:

How does XMP fare for performance with .NET 2003? With other VMs I've noticed a significant increase in compile time.


Bernie Zimmermann on September 19, 2009 at 11:19 PM:

Mike, there is most likely a difference, but to be honest, I don't really notice one.


DT_LSB on September 30, 2009 at 2:15 AM:

Please help~

It was my nightmare when I found out that the Virtualization is not supported by my hardware! I cant run the XPM after I have installed it in my machine...Is there any other options other than downgrade to Vista?


Alan Heywood on October 13, 2009 at 11:15 PM:

This appears to be fixed now. I was able to install Frontpage Extensions in XP mode without being prompted for the installation CD.


Bernie Zimmermann on October 14, 2009 at 8:41 PM:

That is good to know. Thanks for the follow-up, Alan.


pgrunau on October 16, 2009 at 2:51 PM:

When installing VS2003 on XP mode, I had problems with FP 2000 Extensions as well - they simply failed on the install (no prompt for anything).

I ultimately worked around it by running Setup directly with the following option, which skips the check for pre-reqs:

D:Setupsetup.exe /NO_BSLN_CHECK

Since I didn't want FP 2000 anyway, this worked well for me.

Also, note that Setup only can be run from the command line using a Drive letter, not a UNC path.


Xavier Domingo i Albin on October 23, 2009 at 3:06 AM:

In my case, I installed directly on Windows XP Mode without any problems. I am running Windows 7 Ultimate, the first official release obtained from Microsoft Action Pack.

Many thanks for your information, best regards,


Gert on October 26, 2009 at 4:02 AM:


Has anyone had problems with running VS2003 in XPMode? If I try to compile a program, it seems that I have to stay in the VS window and move my mouse to get the compiling to run. As soon as I stop moving the mouse, the compiling stops. Kind of annoying :)

Any help on this issue is welcome.


Simon on November 03, 2009 at 2:53 AM:

I managed to install VS.NET on Windows 7 without problem. It failed if I tried to install it as a domain user, but logged in as a local user it installed fine. Gave me all the 'known compatibility' warnings, but then it did that with Vista as well. Seems to be running stable.


Engraver on November 16, 2009 at 10:48 AM:

Thanks for solving this problem!


Ron on December 27, 2009 at 8:02 AM:

I've installed IIS and .Net framework 1.1 and FPSE in XP Mode/Virtual PC on a Win 7 Pro laptop. When I try to install Visual Studio Arch 2003 the product key boxes are greyed out. If I continue with setup, halfway through it reports it wants 'VS.Net 2003 - English DVD'. Please, please any help..........


Rob on January 15, 2010 at 7:49 AM:

I will be using your solution of XP virtualization myself. But I want to gripe that no mention is made of the Vista/Win 7 incompatibility until AFTER you've gone through the lenghty install process. How ridiculous is that? And then, once it's installed and unusable ... god help you uninstall it. Can't do it from control panel... I finally got it off the Win 7 box by fighting with the setup program which is of course, in itself, incompatible with Win 7. This was a MOST ridiculous process.... Thanks for the article, though.


Abdul Rauf on July 25, 2010 at 12:17 AM:

Thanks for sharing this nice info, thanks again.


Sergiu Cosciug on August 25, 2010 at 12:23 AM:

Great article. Works fine with VS 2003.... but WON'T WORK if you want to programm Smart Device applications with VS 2003. It shows the following error message: " Emulator for windows ce will not run within another copy of
Emulator for windows ce"


Kelly B on November 08, 2010 at 1:41 PM:

HI everyone ,
i have a better way < all you have to do is copy cd (prerequisites ) to your desk top and run it from there ....!!!>>> that easy and trust me on this ...!!.. it worked .

good Luck .


Felipe MJ on January 23, 2011 at 3:27 AM:

good tip, but what spoke to Kelly B is correct here have tested and installed by CD-prerequisites ran ok


fifta on April 18, 2011 at 6:45 PM:

hi, i have just installed microsoft vs2003 in xp mode for my win7 ultimate. problem is when i tried to edit my code (c++ file), the error msg "The requested operation cannot be performed on a file with a user-mapped section open" popped up when i tried to save it. have u encountered similar problem? thanks


nodmonkey on September 09, 2011 at 2:03 AM:

I have the same issue as fifta, above, with "The requested operation cannot be performed on a file with a user-mapped section open". Anybody out there have a solution?


Jim Cameron on November 16, 2011 at 3:23 AM:

Thank you for posting this. I'm just having to go through an upgrade at the moment as was dreading the thought of installing VS2003 in Win7.


Francine on December 07, 2011 at 11:46 AM:

thanks for your comments, really saved a life, now im not even think about using visual studio 2003, which is so much work to do, however i got to get a real solution since my device SDK claims for visual studio superior to .net and as i see that is gonna be rough, which is same old doo doo for me so greetings you all and thanks in advance for saving a computer :P


UserName on January 16, 2013 at 2:34 AM:

This website is greatN_X_D_S.


james carr on January 18, 2013 at 6:04 AM:

Don't install VS 2012 on ANY OS
if you need backward compatibilty with .net 4.0.

The binaries for .net 4.0 get REPLACED by the binaries for .net 4.5 which eliminates compatibility.


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