How To: Downgrade From Vista to XP

Posted July 24, 2008 12:31 pm by with 23 comments

Windows Vista may have improved in the last year, but there is no doubt that the latest Microsoft operating system suffers from the initial problems with it’s launch. And, for many, those problems persist. For one reason or the other, Windows Vista still manages to annoy many. Some like it. Others wish they could go back to XP.

The process of downgrading to Windows XP from Windows Vista does take some work, but it is doable. The best way to downgrade is to format and start over. This will mean your system runs as smoothly as it can run when the process is complete. If you do not want to reformat, it is still possible to downgrade but the process is not as clean. The main problem is that Windows will not allow you to install an older version over top a newer version. You have to fool it into proceeding.

Downgrade Without Reformatting

Obviously, the most convenient way to downgrade is to do so without reformatting. In order to do that, you need to have a real retail CD of Windows XP. If all you have is a recovery disk that came with your computer, you’re not going to be able to do it this way. You will need to reformat.

To downgrade, use the following as a guide:

  1. Do a full backup of your current, Vista system. If something happens, you can always revert to the backup.
  2. Boot your computer off the Windows XP disc. Just pop the CD into the CD-ROM and reboot. If, for some reason, your computer boots without looking for the CD drive, you need to go into your system BIOS and change the boot order so that it checks for the CD drive during the boot process.
  3. When the computer asks to press the space bar to boot from the CD, do so.
  4. When Windows XP Setup starts up, press “R” to enter the recovery.
  5. If it asks you to choose a Windows installation, press a number and hit Enter. The likely number will be 1.
  6. If you get asked for an Administrator password, enter when asked. If you do not know it, you will need to abort and go back into Windows Vista to get your password.
  7. At the command prompt, we’re going to use the “fixboot” command. We’ll use the following commands in sequence to prep for XP:
  8. fixboot
    fixmbr
    cd \
    ren windows winvista
    exit

  9. When done, reboot the machine again using your Windows XP CD. This time, you can proceed normally with a normal XP setup.

When setup is complete, what you’re going to have is a separate installation of Windows XP. You’re still going to need to re-install your applications and manually move all your data. You will see Vista’s documents on the hard drive. Just move them over to the location you want them to be.

As you can see, there is still work involved with this method. There is no way to downgrade to XP and not have to re-install your applications. The only way to pull that off is if you originally upgraded from XP and you had Windows save a restore point before upgrading to Vista. In that instance, you have something to fall back to.

Downgrade With Reformatting

If you have a recovery disk for your computer that came originally with XP, you can use that to restore your system to it’s original state. Before using it, make sure you back up all of your documents. The easiest way to do this is to use an external hard drive and simply copy all your files to it. Do not worry about copying application files because you’re going to need to reinstall all your applications anyway. Once your data is backed up, run your recovery disk. The procedure will vary depending on the system manufacturer, but the end result is that it is going to wipe your hard drive clean and reinstall everything back to the state your computer was in when you first bought it.

Consider Your Reasons

When you downgrade to XP, you need to realize that you are essentially downgrading to a now discontinued operating system. You’re going back in time here. So, you need to make sure it is indeed the right move for you.

If you are downgrading because you simply find the entire Vista experience annoying, then that might be a good enough reason. Vista runs better on modern machines, that’s for sure.

If, however, you are downgrading because some of your apps don’t work, you might want to consider other options. You can run XP side-by-side with Vista. This will allow you to use the newest Microsoft operating system but still use those old apps that require XP. You can either dual boot to XP or you can set up XP in a virtual machine.

23 responses to How To: Downgrade From Vista to XP

  1. Rob July 24th, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    One thing that is making it difficult for Vista users to downgrade to XP is that some XP install disks don’t always have the SATA drivers. What happens is you boot to your OS disk and prepare to install but because of the lack of SATA drivers, you can’t see/find the hard drive you’re trying to install to. One thing that can be done to work around this is to use a program like nLite to slipstream the drivers into a custom installation disk that includes the drivers on it already. http://www.nliteos.com/guide/

        Reply

  2. Chuck July 25th, 2008 at 9:44 am

    Good note to end on in that article.

    Will downgrading in the way you suggest still leave a lot of read-only Vista garbage behind on the disk, or can you just trash it as you go?

    Real timely article, I’d say :)

        Reply

  3. marc July 28th, 2008 at 7:16 pm

    Be careful downgrading an OEM machine. The manufacturer may not have driver support for XP. It can be done, but often requires mucho searching around for drivers.

        Reply

  4. Doug July 29th, 2008 at 1:36 am

    I’m a Microsoft certified tech, so windows makes my living. I have done over 300 downgrades in my area. Not one was a real problem. All were done via clean install. No one wanted any parts of Vista to be left behind. The laptops sometimes need a little more attention, but other than that…..

        Reply

    • Gary September 13th, 2008 at 10:59 pm

      Will my laptop run faster if i downgrade to xp, will my battery last longer and finally can I do it if i have a tablet laptop…dont care if the tablet doesnt work,

      thanks

          Reply

    • Sharrette January 8th, 2009 at 10:39 pm

      I bought a new HP Compaq desktop with Vista pre-installed. The Vista was bad for me. So I bought a new XP Home Edition and did a clean re-install because I didn’t like Vista enough to use it long enough to have any crucial data or apps that I wanted to keep.
      Now I get NO internet connection with the new XP OS installation !!!
      NO PORTS show up in Device Manager. Not even under “Show Hidden”.
      Of course HP won’t give me the time of day, saying I voided my warranty by doing the downgrade. Microsoft refuses to help me too. Any suggestions? Anyone?

          Reply

    • Eric February 5th, 2009 at 2:24 am

      Thats nice you made more than 300 downgrade in your area. So you mean when you downgrade from Vista to XP you dont encounter any problem like they say, that XP needs SATA driver in order to detect the harddrive inside the laptop? Please advice me because i am about to downgrade my latest HP laptop Vista to XP i just bought 3 days ago, i still preferred using XP. Thanks.

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    • simone June 30th, 2009 at 2:20 pm

      i want to do this because vista didn’t install my dvd drive or network adapter but dunno how to do it without the dvd rom? any clues? when i went to change the booting device in the setup there was only the hdd and network adapter there which i thought was strange!! I installed vista yesterday with the dvd so it i know it works??? stumped!

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  5. Beleto September 15th, 2008 at 11:34 am

    i think they made vista to sell more copies of xp

        Reply

    • Vivid February 6th, 2009 at 8:15 pm

      very funny but probably more true than you would think. Microsoft isnt the most dumb company,(contrair to popular belief) and even though im sure Vista was a true attempt to compete with OS X, they rushed a little, which would make people who are just getting to know XP a little cautious. when you take a person out of his comfort zone, he is bound to switch back to that which he is more familiar with. and if he doesnt have a XP disk from his old computer then he will have to purchase one. on the other hand, someone who’s never seen XP and has only tried Vista will like vista more than XP due to no know how much greener the grass is on the other side. Man, I’m getting psycological in here. lol.

          Reply

  6. Is Windows Vista Really a Failure? | PCMech October 7th, 2008 at 9:23 am

    [...] they bundle it with new PC sales. However, a respectable percentage of those new PCs end up bring downgraded to XP. So, that Vista sale is a mute [...]

        Reply

  7. the TRUTH » Is Windows Vista Really a Failure? December 6th, 2008 at 10:35 pm

    [...] they bundle it with new PC sales. However, a respectable percentage of those new PCs end up bring downgraded to XP. So, that Vista sale is a mute [...]

        Reply

  8. Barry January 26th, 2009 at 11:58 am

    i still cannot access my hdd, trying to downgrade to xp from vista, even with using recovery console, heeeeeeeeelp!

        Reply

  9. Balaji February 12th, 2009 at 3:18 am

    I bought a new HP Compaq desktop with Vista pre-installed. The Vista was bad for me. Now I get NO internet connection with the new XP OS installation !!!

    How to downgrade vista to xp into my machine.

    thanks in advance.

        Reply

    • Romeo October 13th, 2009 at 8:06 pm

      Hi there,
      I did downgrade from my Acer desktop to XP and no problemo…But you need to select to boot from CD rom first…(with XP cd)…Then follow the screen to the partition page….You should have 2 or 3 partitions in the HDD…the samllest one is for system files…You need to delete the partition that have Vista installed in it then create new partition (just read and follow the instruction on the blue screen)….do it again for th smallest partition…Now install the XP into the new partition….After it completed then do not format the rest of the new created partitions (open my computer and right click on the partition then select format..it will be done in a few seconds)…
      The most importan thing is : write down all the manufactures parts that you will need drivers so later you will not forget…Also if you have XP pro SP3 will be the best because it is not so far from Vista basic..

          Reply

  10. Light March 27th, 2009 at 8:14 am

    Hello, I NEED URGENT HELP.
    i want to downgrade my PANASONIC CF-Y7 From vista to xp, please adivse me step by step from scratch
    Thanks
    Light

        Reply

  11. Tomok March 30th, 2009 at 9:41 am

    Had vista home for 6 weeks and totally frustrated by it. Forever giving permission to do simple tasks even as the only user/administrator. Loading of software takes absolutely ages whereas in XP done within minutes. Crashed a lot my games. Screwed my new graphic card up and refused to update my drivers for it.
    So have read above (and other similar acticles on the web)I decided to back track from Vista to XP. It took less than 2 hours to be up and running. Since then I would say a day where you need to re-install your software. Do remember though you do need your original XP disk and licence number.
    But all in all a very well pleasing exercise.
    The difficult bit was deciding to go ahead with it – once I did no turning back.

        Reply

  12. Joe Sitter May 26th, 2009 at 11:47 pm

    Oh My gosh, Vista is terrible junk!!!

    The way I see it is: Vista is the George W. Bush Presidency of Operating Systems….and it’s high time that someone just admits it and dose the right thing so we can all enjoy life.

    I have a IBM Lenovo T60 that came preloaded with Vista Premium Home and of course, it was lousy. I found that a few years ago, Lenovo had gotten wise and made a CD that you can buy for $45 that will automatically replace Vista with XP Pro and put your computer into a like-new state with an XP Pro preload that is exactly as it would have been from the factory. of course you wont have any of your user files saved but you will have a great computer. I purchased my T60 “new” from a dealer on eBay so its’ warranty period had expired however, Lenovo Customer Service was very nice to me saying they normally don’t sell the disk to those with out of warranty machines. My T60 was made in 2003 but never before used I assume because of the Vista preload.

    If you have a Lenove laptop I would recommend that you downgrade your OS this way. Sheesh! Can you imagine calling it a “downgrade”? That would be like calling Barrack Obama a downgrade from W. XP Pro is a very good OS. It’ll be pretty hard for Micro Soft to make something better than XP.

    Joe.

        Reply

  13. Paul Farrell July 7th, 2009 at 4:24 pm

    hi thanks for the info. I have tried to do this but now find that in device manager I am getting told that several driver files are missing and can’t be found.these include the wireless internet access,mass storage controller,pci and pci bridge and sound & video controllers.Am I stuffed now or can this be fixed??? Thanks

        Reply

  14. Frank Stermetz October 28th, 2009 at 8:36 am

    I’m trying to downgrade to xp. I’ve formated the hard drive, I run the xp disk and I get a stop blue screen rite before it gets to the recovery screen. How can I get it to go thru ???

        Reply

  15. ConservativeVistaXP March 4th, 2010 at 5:58 am

    Joe Sitter – bad enuf I got to listen to bho everyday on every channel blaming bush this and that more than a year later while trying to push socialist agenda.

    If you cannot keep the gw/bho crap off a board where we try to get away from the lies and deceit from all politicians, aides, czars, or whatever… then dont post your dumbass comments.

        Reply

  16. Taylsa August 13th, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    I've tried this and for me it hasn't worked. I get a blue screen saying that a problem has been detected and windows has been shut down so I never get to the recovery screen. I hate Vista (and Microsoft for that matter) and really need to get back to XP. Can anyone help?

        Reply

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