Microsoft has announced that XP Mode, the Windows 7 add-on that will allow users with the proper hardware to run a virtual version of Windows XP within Windows 7, has entered Release Candidate status.

There are several new features in XP Mode RC. XP Mode programs will now offer users a jumplist of most recently opened files with that program. This brings one of Windows 7's more useful productivity features into play with older programs that wouldn't otherwise have it. So, not only will you be able to directly start your most recently used XP Mode programs from the Windows 7 taskbar, but you'll be able to launch specific files from the Windows 7 taskbar, too. You can now use USB devices in XP Mode without having to make it full-screen, directly from the Windows 7 taskbar.

Drive sharing between XP Mode and Windows 7 can be disabled, and a new tutorial has been created on how to use XP Mode that users will first get access to from the XP Mode installation screen. In the XP Mode beta, users couldn't customize where to store differencing disk files. These relate to the virtualization aspects of running XP in Windows 7.

Microsoft's Brandon LeBlanc recommends in the blog post announcing the XP Mode RC that users install antivirus and anti-malware protections in XP Mode in addition to whatever protective steps users have taken in the native Windows 7 environment. He also cautions that XP Mode is designed for running productivity applications that won't be upgraded to Windows 7, implying that Microsoft doesn't expect the average consumer to get much mileage out of the feature.

Users who are still interested in testing out the Windows 7 RC can still do so through August.