Vista to XP Downgrade

Category: Vista

Windows Vista was launched with much fanfare and was touted as the operating system for a new generation with a slick graphical interface and many new features. But the reaction to Vista has been mostly lukewarm, and many customers are looking for a way to downgrade from Vista to Windows XP.

downgrade vista to xp

Problems with Windows Vista

One of the common problems users are experiencing with Windows Vista is that the operating system may not be compatible with their existing hardware, especially printers, scanners, and certain video cards. And some vendors still lag in providing updated software drivers that will enable those devices to function with Vista.

Some users complain that overall performance is worse than with XP; that Vista is buggy, and will freeze or crash often - even while running Microsoft software such as Windows Media Player, Internet Explorer and MS Word. Others complain that programs which worked find on XP don't work well (or at all) with Windows Vista. And there are complaints about new Vista features like DRM (Digital Rights Management) and User Account Control that seem to restrict the freedom of the users.

Because of all these reasons, many users are looking to downgrade from Windows Vista to Windows XP. Here are some tips to take some of the pain out of that process.

Downgrade From Vista to XP

If you remember back to when you installed Windows XP, Microsoft provided users with a fairly simple option to return to Windows 98 if something went wrong, or if you didn't like it. So if you're considering Vista, be forewarned that Microsoft has NOT provided a way to simply roll back to Windows XP from Windows Vista.

But the good news is that you CAN revert from Vista to XP, and in most cases, you won't need to shell out any money for another XP license. In response to high demand, Microsoft has changed the Vista licensing terms so that PC vendors are able to provide downgrade rights from Vista Business or Vista Ultimate to Windows XP Professional.

Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and Lenovo are among the vendors offering an XP Pro recovery disc to customers who want to convert a Vista machine to XP Pro. Fujitsu goes even further, including an XP disc in the box with new Vista laptops and tablet PCs. So check with your PC vendor, to see if they will provide a Vista-to-XP recovery disk at low or no cost.

But what if you bought a no-name PC or the manufacturer won't ship you the XP recovery disk? If you happen to have an install CD for Windows XP Professional or XP Tablet Edition, you may be in luck. CNET reported in late September that Microsoft informed them that Vista Business/Ultimate owners can call the customer support center, give their Vista serial number and get an activation code for Windows XP Professional or Tablet Edition.

No XP Soup For You!

Note that this option does NOT apply to the unwashed masses who have purchased computers with Vista Home Basic or Vista Home Premium edition. Microsoft does not permit vendors to ship the XP recovery disk to customers who have these lower-end versions of Vista. But if you do have an XP install disk (either XP Home or XP Professional), you can still opt to wipe Vista from your hard drive and install a fresh copy of XP.

How to Downgrade Vista to XP

Downgrading from Windows Vista to Windows XP is almost like installing Windows XP for the first time. You should take all the normal precautions like backing up all your important files and record important passwords in a different place, preferably on a CD. When you downgrade from Windows Vista to XP, note that Windows Vista will be completely removed from your system.

(Note: There is a way to have both Vista and XP in a dual boot configuration, but that's an option for more advanced users. See Dual Booting Vista and XP for more info on that.)

Before you begin the XP installation, make sure that the necessary XP hardware drivers are available, or included on the XP disk provided by your PC vendor. If in doubt, check the vendor's website or poke around with your favorite search engine to see if others have attempted the XP install on the same hardware. You may be able to install XP without all the needed drivers, but some hardware may not work afterwards.

Also, make sure that you have a genuine Windows XP CD before you begin the downgrade. Be sure to read the section earlier in this article to see if you qualify for a low/no cost XP recovery disk from your PC vendor. If not, perhaps you have an XP disc that came with another computer. If you've upgraded an existing computer from XP to Vista, the best choice would be the XP install/recovery disc that came with that computer. One some PC's the vendor doesn't ship a CD, but the recovery CD can be created from disk images on the hard drive. If all else fails, you can always buy a copy of Windows XP on Ebay. Just be sure it's a legal, licensed copy.

Follow these steps to install Windows XP on your Vista machine:

  • Insert your Windows XP install/recovery CD and restart your computer.
  • Install Windows XP normally, providing either the product key that came with the disk, or the one you got from Microsoft customer support. If the installer warns you that another copy of Windows is already installed, don't worry. Remember, this install will wipe out your existing Vista installation.
  • Activate your copy of Windows XP when it prompts you to do so. If you run into the "already activated" problem, you can use the option to activate by phone.
  • If you own Vista Business or Vista Ultimate, explain to the rep that you want to use your Downgrade Rights to install XP Pro.
  • If you own Vista Home Basic/Premium, or you are installing XP Home Edition, don't mention ANYTHING about Vista. Just give the rep your XP product key (not the Vista key), explain that you are installing XP on a new hard drive, and tell them you need to activate.

Have you successfully downgraded from Vista to XP? Share your experience. Got questions or comments about downgrading from Vista to XP? Post them below.

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Most recent comments on "Vista to XP Downgrade"

(See all 100 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Craig Golby
11 Aug 2009

Something very bizarre has happenned. Laptop running quite satisfactorily in Vista last night was shut down at about midnight. Booted up this evening and it came up in XP.

I don't believe for one minute that we didnt do something, but I have no idea what. Its the wifes laptop, she hasnt installed anything, wouldnt know how and I dont give her those permissions, but that doesnt mean that she didnt select something on boot up. It has brought forward network connections, but has lost email profiles and files etc. Any ideas what happenned and how I can get back to Vista ??

EDITOR'S NOTE: Do you have a dual boot setup? Maybe she just hit the wrong button during startup. If that's not the case, then this may help:

Posted by:

Nish Rana
10 Sep 2009

If you guys are getting the blue screen when trying to install xp. do the following.

Go into the system bios (f2 at startup on dell machines)

change the sata mode so that it is not AHCI but the other option (i forget what it is right now.)

Hey presto, it works!

Posted by:

11 Sep 2009

i just bought hp mini atom with xp windowns
then i installed win vista but its going slow to open the programes
so thats y i want to load xp again but many problems appairs
the main issue that ( restart ur computer before its damage the hard drive )
so plz help me

Posted by:

05 Oct 2009

Hi, I bought a second hand Alienware Aurora M9700 laptop with vista home premium already on it. Wanted to install xp pro on a new 250gb hardrive. Before doing this contacted alienware support they said I need to change some bios settings but would not tell me what as they did not support second hand systems.told me instead to phone dell presto support for install help. so I went to their site and found you have to pay for the advice. does any body know if they are telling me the truth have never had to change bios settings before to install xp.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Why not just try it?

Posted by:

09 Oct 2009

Hi ED,
Did try it it seemed to install fine until I came to update the drivers.
then got installshield wizard error 6003
with please try the following
close any running programs
empty temporary folder
check internet connection.

I've never seen this before.
I also tried to run a diagnostic program to tell me what was on my system but all it did was open a black window for a split second and then nothing but this worked fine on my desktop.

any ideas.

Posted by:

18 Oct 2009

can i install windows XP in my leptop this support only vista. plz tell me how can i install xp.

Notebook model: Compaq Presario CQ60 Notebook PC
Processor type: Intel(R) Pentium(R) Dual CPU T3200 @ 2.00GHz
Total Memory: 2048 MB
Factory Installed OS: Non-Vista

Posted by:

02 Dec 2009

Thanks Nish for the advice on changing the sata mode from AHCI. I could not get XP to boot up and making that one change fixed my problem. You da man!

Posted by:

Cat Cooter
11 Feb 2010

I havce Vista on a Dell inspiron 1525 and hate it. Nothing but issues. (biggest is with Active X) IF I even can downgrade to XP what will that do to: my ITunes? I have all my music stored on an external seagate drivce and can unplug it but will it still work right? We can also copy everything off my computer and save it to a harddrive to reinstall, pictures etc. Will this work? FInal problem. I have a Seagate 1.5 TB external. It was working fine. I downloaded many anime full series on it and used it for back up then it quit doing the back ups. Next it said there was new software. After we installed the new software it totally screwed up my computer. It took my husband hours to get it working again, but the Seagate cannot be used. I think we need drivers? Is it possible to fix this or am I just screwed, and will trying to downgrade to xp make things worse? I'm most concerned at this point about getting my big external running again. Thanks

EDITOR'S NOTE: I don't think moving to XP is going to solve any of your problems. It's tricky even for tech savvy folks. At this point, I would check the Seagate website to get the latest Vista drivers for your device.

Posted by:

12 Apr 2010

I've been trying to download a XP Pro driver for a Acer M1100. the video card is a ATI Radeon X1200 this PC had Vista I keep getting a (error)
lenth of directory path exceeds 88 charactors?
shorten to specified limit? and this is a driver I downloaded from Acers web sight. it is a on-board video card I made sure the bios was set to onboard. any help would be great!

Posted by:

20 Apr 2010

I'm trying to downgrade(upgrade)a dell from vista home basic to xp pro. The xp disk is original and is from another computer . that computer is running vista from my broken laptop so there currently are no computers using this xp disk right now.
The computer I'm trying to put xp on is a dell that a friend gave me. His wife insisted that I wipe the hard drive right away but they didn't know where the original factory disks where. I figured it was no big deal and I would just over write everthing using the xp disk. I got as far as the part where they ask for the product key, typed it in but no matter how many times I checked and double checked it would not except the number. I call MS tech support they passed me around from one hard to understand operator to another for about an hour I finally hung up on my 5th operator while she was in the middle of telling me some irelevancie that I had all ready heard from 3 prior operators. I've been looking around to see if anyone eles has had the same prob so far they havn't. I saw in several differant places instructions that involve choosing the f2 start up going to drives, then sata options and pick one of the two choises. The problem with that is for some reason those options arn't on mine(The bios is 1.0.15). All there is is the cmos features,advanced bios features boot dev.confige,chipset, int.periph. and power mngmt. So far in everthing I've read not one person seemed to have trouble finding these options and in all of the downgrade trouble I've read about so far none of the people where able to get as far as the product key part. So now I'm confused and stuck with as nicer computer I can't use until my buddy brings the disk but, there's no telling when that'll happen. Thanks in advance Ry

Posted by:

05 Jun 2010

I am installing windows XP pro on an Acer Aspire T690 desktop and I cannot find the ethernet drivers. The ones I have, there is no setup option. How do I install ethernet drivers

Posted by:

matthew mccusker
17 Aug 2010

can you please help me i am trying to change from windows vista to my recently acquired windows xp cd but i get the message the program is blocked due to compatibility issues, it says i am trying to replace a newer version of windows with an older one which is what i want to do but it wont let me install this copy of windows xp how do i overcome this can you please let me know

Posted by:

Social Observer
29 Aug 2010

I've attempted to downgrade from vista to xp. Upon completion of loading xp install disk, I get No disk found or available message, and can go no further. Since doing that my pc (ACER ASPIRE)reboots automatically, and vista is still the OPS. I've also looked at disk m'gmt to format C: drive, but I'm not allowed to, only the recovery drive is formattable.How do I perform this downgrade??

Posted by:

19 Sep 2010

I have licenced vista business key , but I want to install xp in my pc . How to install and How to activate my key ?

Posted by:

Jason Martin
27 Feb 2011

AM trying to downgrade VISTA Home Basic to XP Pro SP2 from a Compaq laptop but it keeps giving the blue screen, "A problem has been detected and windows has been shut down to prevent damage to your computer". Please I desperately need some tech advice on that.

Posted by:

20 Mar 2011

I've tried reinstalling XP but receive a message that I cannot revert back. My laptop came pre-installed with Vista. I HATE Vista. Nothing seems to let me reinstall XP after requesting a HD wipe.

Posted by:

31 Mar 2011

No use at all, I start to load Windows XP Pro, after
that,machine said no Hard Disk find ..... Press F3
to terminate...
Crazy !

Posted by:

31 May 2011

I just put XP Pro on my Inspiron 1720. Went fairly easy. BEFORE i reverted. I went online and got the xp drivers for the devices listed in my device manager. Dell has them all available at their website.
I did, however, use a new hard drive. I took out the original one and put it in a portable USB case. That way I can transfer files as needed - IF needed. It also keeps my original in tact along with the recover partition and software. It was about 40 bucks for a faster and better WD drive at
Yes, you have to go into your BIOS and change it to the ATA for the hard drive and also turn off the Flash Cache. You need to turn off the Flash first than switch to ATA.
It also helps if you download the Service pack 2 seperately for XP before you do it. Most programs and Virus protection will need SP2. I run NIS 2011 and it works great.
The reason I switch was the ever present "Blue Screen of Death". I got sick of it. I found out in all this that I pretty sure my original hard drive is bad. Now I have 250 and 320 gb Western Digital Drives in it. Than I have the original and another in cases I bought for a few bucks from They work great for laptop drives. The are StarTech Info Safe 2.5 USB 2.0 enclosures. They are quick to install drive and work flawlessly. Comes with a double USB for power and info transfer. You need to plug both USB cables in. AWESOME.
So, to set up your computer, just do some research on it. If you have a 1720 type in your search bar "XP Drivers for Inspiron 1720" You should find some reputable sites to get them, regardless of the manufacturer.
The main ones to worry about are your LAN connection (wired) and your display. As long as you can get online afterwards, you can let xp search the net for the drivers. Chances are, it will find them. It did for me on the ones I was missing.


Posted by:

23 Oct 2011

I have downgraded from vista to xp professional successfully on a HP 9205us machine. After installation I am having trouble booting the machine. It WILL boot after about 10 or so tries. Then it operates just fine with a lot of speed for hours. Any thoughts?

Posted by:

09 Apr 2012

I set up xp sp2 on my HP compaq CQ60. But i have problem with sound driver. Can you help me ?

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