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Windows 7 Survival Guide: From 32- To 64-Bit

Your old hardware isn't doomed. Here's how to migrate 32-bit printers and scanners onto your 64-bit version of the Windows 7 operating system.

A printer with no 64-bit drivers, installed and running under 32-bit XP Mode.
(click for image gallery)

XP Virtualization: Does It Help?
When Windows 7 was near release, one of the planned features that turned heads was native 32-bit Windows XP support. Microsoft accomplished this by placing an entire, fully licensed copy of XP running in a virtual machine. This way, any program that absolutely had to run in XP could be installed there and would run at near-native speeds.

The big downside with such an approach is that it requires the program to run in what amounts to a self-contained window with little interaction with the host machine. Fortunately, Microsoft came up with an elegant extension to this behavior: "seamless mode." Applications installed in the VM can be run directly on your desktop, and work almost exactly like their real-computer counterparts.

The thing about XP Mode is that it's geared more for emulating applications, rather than supporting devices. You can still run 32-bit device drivers through XP Mode, but there's no direct interface to the device -- you have to use an application of some kind. For a scanner, you'd use a program to acquire an image from the scanner; for a printer, you'd need a program to perform a print action.

Fortunately, once you have an application you can use to talk to the device, this whole process becomes much easier to deal with. Right-click on the emulation application's icon in the Taskbar and you'll see a menu choice named Manage USB Devices. From there you can attack whichever USB devices are used by the program in question and make use of them through the emulated program.

Note that there are still a few behaviors that won't work. Example: You can't drag and drop files to the integrated app, but you can browse the host machine, which will show up as an attached network drive.

Printers are something of a best/worst case scenario, in that you might be able to work around the problem right away -- or be stuck with having to jump through any number of hoops.

If the printer in question understands generic PostScript or HP's PCL, chances are very good you can simply install a generic 64-bit driver that speaks to those protocols. HP, in fact, offers just such a thing.

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