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.