How to UPGRADE From Vista to Windows XP on an Acer Laptop

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Introduction: How to UPGRADE From Vista to Windows XP on an Acer Laptop

My wife recently bought me an Acer Extensa 5620 for Christmas. It's a great little unit with a lot of potential, but the one big flaw was the operating system: it came with Windows Vista. The fast hardware was crippled by the bloated, clumsy OS. I was therefore forced to figure out exactly how to get XP on it, so wrote up a guide to help others. It should apply to different Acer notebooks, and likely has info useful to other brands as well.

It's not as simple at it used to be. Today's laptops are 'meant' for Vista, so trying to install XP often isn't easy. In the case of my 5620, the hard drive wasn't even detected until I researched and changed Bios settings (known as the AHCI issue). I'm SO much happier after ditching Vista, though- when I first got it, a 1GHz Pentium III with XP could have run circles around it!

Step 1: Preparation

Don't immediately wipe Vista! It's actually useful for another hour or so. Use Acer's backup software (mine had an Acer floating toolbar with this) to do two things-

First, a Full Backup of your system. Trust me, if you ever have to send your Acer in for servicing, it better have Vista on it or your warranty could be voided. Plus, someday when you sell it, uninformed people think it's a plus point ;)

Secondly, why bother downloading random drivers you hope are the right ones? Acer makes it easy with its Driver and Application backup CD creator. A little known fact is that these drivers appear to be both the complete Vista AND XP set. Once you're done, you'll have burned three DVD's, and be ready for some XP goodness! If you've already wiped it, or just want the latest available, grab them from [ftp://ftp.support.acer-euro.com/notebook/ here]. I did both, just in case, throwing the newest onto a 256MB USB drive. Thirdly, look in Device Manager to see what AHCI Disk Controller you have! Write this down. On the Best Buy Acer Extensa 5620-6830, it's the 'Intel 82801HEM/HBM SATA AHCI.' Other models may be slightly different. This info is important later, and it can be difficult to find out without some annoying trial and error.

Step 2: Make the Bios Compatible

Reboot. Hit F2 to access the BIOS, and change the setting on the second page from AHCI to IDE (If you don't have this option, boot back into Vista and update your Bios, downloaded from the link above). On the Boot tab, change it so your DVD drive is first. Save changes and exit. Don't worry, we'll switch it back, but it's MUCH more of a PITA to leave it on when we install XP... unless you have a USB floppy drive sitting around, or like building slipstreamed XP disk ISO's!

Step 3: XP Installation

Pop in your XP CD and install like normal. My Acer had three partitions (10MB, 90GB, and 90GB); I killed them all and created a single one. The Recovery CD's we made -should- put everything back as it was, if we ever need it. After formatting my 200GB drive it's 186GB. Being on really new hardware it won't autodetect everything, but Don't Panic. We have all the drivers we need, thanks to our forethought in making that disc / thumb drive / whatever.

Step 4: Driver Setup

Once we're at the desktop, change your resolution to 800x600, then start installing drivers (some setup program buttons are cut off in the default 640x480). You probably want to start with the chipset driver, then the video drivers, sound, etc. On the Extensa 5620, even after installing the drivers you will likely have no sound at first and end up with a 'PCI Device' that is unknown; just right-click it and choose Update Driver. Let it automatically find it (it's the HD audio), and your sound should work after the next reboot. I rebooted every time it wanted to, then installed the next driver. This way they don't clash or get misconfigured. The webcam driver (both original and latest on the FTP) appears to install and work fine, but makes your system permanently hang when shutting down. Until we get a better driver, I just disable it to avoid having to hard crash every time. In theory, you can just enable it whenever you need to use it.

Step 5: Fixing AHCI

Everything working OK now? No exclamation marks or unknown hardware? Great! Now let's conquer the AHCI issue. On the driver CD, browse (don't auto-run) to the Drivers\ directory. Copy the AHCI folder to your C: drive, so now it's c:\AHCI\. Open the command line (Start -> Run -> cmd), and enter "c:\AHCI\setup.exe -a -pc:\" (without the quotes). This will pop up the setup utility. Click through it- it's not actually installing, but extracting the drivers for us to use. You'll find them afterwards in C:\Driver.

Now we manually install the driver into XP: Go to Device Manager, under IDE ATA/ATAPI controllers you should see something like: ICH8M SATA Controller. Right-Click on that and select Update Driver. Choose No to connecting to Windows Update to search, then hit Next. Select Install from a list or specific location (Advanced), hit Next, then select "Don't search. I will choose the driver to install." Hit Next again, then select Have Disk. Browse to your Drivers folder (C:\Driver), highlight the iastor.inf file, and hit Open. Select OK, then choose your AHCI driver (what we wrote down earlier, remember?). You'll likely have to uncheck the 'show compatible hardware' option to see the AHCI options. Again, on the Extensa 5620-6830, it's the Intel 82801HEM/HBM SATA AHCI Storage Controller- YMMV (Your Motherboard May Vary). Click next, ignore the warning that installing the device driver is not recommended, click Yes, Finish, then Yes to restart your computer.

Step 6: Finishing & Troubleshooting / Tips

When your computer reboots, hit F2 again to enter the BIOS. I changed my boot order back to HD first (shaves a whole 2-3 seconds off bootup time), but that's up to you. Change from IDE mode back to AHCI, save changes and exit. Once you boot to Windows, your computer will find and finish installing the "new" hardware, then likely ask to restart again.... but hooray! No more Vista!

Troubleshooting: If you still get a blue screen upon booting up, you may not have selected the correct AHCI driver. Reverting the Bios setting to IDE should get you back into XP to try again. If not, use F8 to go into Safe Mode and reinstall the controller driver there.

Tips: I ran into an issue where my favorite OpenGL screensavers won't run over 1fps on the 5620. After finding out that this is why (Intel disables OGL hardware acceleration on screensavers), I then found a workaround: rename screensavers to *.sCr instead of all lowercase. You may have to reboot, but then they should all work smooth again. This affects all X3100 users, or anyone with Intel GPU's.

Step 7: You're Done!

Congratulations, you now have a decent operating system on your spiffy new hardware! And it runs so much better. Remember, if you don't actually have Bluetooth on your laptop (Acer puts in a switch, but sells it lacking the module) then DON'T install the driver! It can cause issues.

The screenshot below is my Acer's desktop now. The next Instructable I post will explain how I got it to look like Vista, and some other tweaks you can do to speed up this or any other computer. Hope you found this helpful :)

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    321 Comments

    Ah, this is a really old article(?), so perhaps it doesn't matter now.

    I've got an Acer Extensa 5420, and I found out the hard way, by simply cloning to a larger hard drive, that it's very easy to break access to the PQSERVICE partition to restore my laptop to factory default settings. Obviously changes or corrupting the C: or PQSERVICE partition will break access via Alt+F10 or eRcovery, but so can hiding or reformatting the D: DATA partition, since eRecovery establishes a "relationship" with D: during initial setup, which it seems can only be modified manually afterward, perhaps requiring both the registry and BCDEdit. It's possible to suggest that I'm wrong, but I've spent many, many days using the original hard drive and two cloned drives trying to determine why the clones lose access to the recovery partition.

    Also, I did indeed make recovery DVD's using eRecovery, and tried to restore access to PQSERVICE by using them, but they failed every time. The DVD's restored the C: partition, but not access to the recovery partition. Considering the recovery partition utilizes a "switch" or "input code" (Alt+F10) for access, and the partition is hidden using the partition ID=27, it's possible that eRecovery discs will not include the recovery partition. So far cloning using the 2009 Seagate or WD version of Acronis True Image both somehow managed to break access to the recovery partition. EaseUS ToDo Backup Free also failed to restore after performing file or sector by sector backups, but that was because it somehow misinterpreted the allocated space of all the partitions to slightly larger than the factory hard drive. The problem might be the utility Acer used to create the partitions, how they were accessed at the time, and/or the BIOS in conjunction with the physical specifications. EaseUS Drive Clone/Copy cannot technically clone from large to small hard drives, and it has an "unwritten" strict technical methodology which must be followed, but it better revealed the problem with restoration. If you decrease the size of partition D: DATA, you can clone from large to small, or create backups which will be more successful at restoring. This suggests that slightly "shrinking" volume D: DATA, before using a third-party drive imaging/backup solution will significantly improve chances for successful recovery later. In both Vista, Windows 7, and it would seem Windows 8, you can expand volume D: DATA after a successful restore using disk management.

    All of this is simply to suggest that while eRecovery should restore volume C: ACER, it won't necessarily restore PQSERVICE or volume D: DATA. In testing I placed files in both volumes C and D, and after restoring using the discs, the files I placed in volume D were still present, and I could not access the "built-in" recovery. So, considering warranty and factory installed hard drive size, it might be better to simply replace the originally installed hard drive with a larger or faster hard drive, keeping the older drive in case of needed factory repair. Otherwise, I recommend that before you "wipe" the hard drive of all partitions, or install any OS which can break Acer's MBR offset for recovery, test your backup discs using a different borrowed or bought hard drive. If the test drive is smaller, but more than half the size of the original, like a 120GB to a 160GB or a 60GB to an 80GB, simply "shrink" volume D: DATA before creating the backup. You won't need to create another set of recovery disks if successful because you can always "expand" volume D: DATA after completing the recovery.

    Then again, maybe my laptop just doesn't like me and is making my life difficult, which makes my comment a moot point.

    I have the the same laptop as the maker of this instructable and i c ant find a working driver for hardware acel for the screen
    Hope some can help if so email me at powdertoybeta@gmail.com

    where can i find this driver and app back up cd creator??

    i am having trouble changing the boot order in bios. it is simply that the plus and minus keys do not work to change the boot order. i can however, use the x to disable the hdd while i want the dvd to boot up and then turn it off later. this works but it is not very elegant! perhaps i need to install some keyboard driver?

    3 replies

    its easy! f5 bottom f6 top

    Did you see my earlier note that it is the F5/F6 keys that are used to change the boot order?

    No, i missed it. i managed it anyhow. Many thanks for this whole set up instructable. It has been really helpful. Couldn't have done it without.

    using xp embedded can use tap.exe that saves all trouble.I like xp embedded!

    Oddly enough, though i know Vista is terrible, mine isn't that bad. Updates go well, and it's much faster than it should be. It may be do to meticulous cleaning of its files, and things. I wish i could get Ubentu or XP, but any big download gives my parents heart attacks.

    the next logical update to Windows XP is Ubuntu

    VERY useful 'ibble. To me Vista is an OS upgrade, performace downgrade and XP is an OS downgrade, performance upgrade.

    I've been asked by so many people to replace vista with XP on their laptops its rediculous. For anyone saying Vista is better than XP this is my experience:

    Vista......................
    1. Had to reinstall Vista on 19 occasions after automatic updates screwed it up.
    2. Took 4 hours and 30mins to backup 80GB to another hardrive.
    3. Can't install any software updates for my phone.
    4. Slow to boot. around 5mins from boot to desktop.
    5. Takes ages to detect and connect to my other 2 XP and 1 Win 2000 PCs on my home network.
    6. stupid file search. it can't find files i know exist.

    After XP Upgrade.............................
    1. Only reinstalled XP once (power failure during update).
    2. Took 2 hours 10mins to backup 120GB.
    3. Installed all updates on my phone.and even upgraded its OS.
    4. boots faster. 2mins from boot to desktop.
    5. VERY BIG increase in speed.
    6. Connects to my home network and other PCs in seconds
    7. More reliable drivers.
    8. All my hardware works as it should and not when the OS says so.
    9. I can actually find files using Windows Explorer's search bar.

    So if you want to go vista to xp i highly recommend it.

    This i just my opinion.

    2 replies

    That's pretty much the universal opinion, even Microsoft's- hence, Windows 7 :)

    Hi CharredPC... first of all... thank you very much for your upgrade to XP from Vista instructions... very helpful for my extensa 5620.

    I have since "upgraded" to Windows 7 on extensa 5620 but unfortunately ran into the "replace battery" issue so now get 10 minutes on battery vs 2+ hours when used xp.

    Been trying to find solution but all options that I have tried so far [disable acpi, drain battery in bios screen, etc.] have not worked.

    When check under device manager I do have yellow exclamation point for something labelled ACPI. Is there a driver for ACPI for Windows 7 that you used and if yes, from where? Can not find on acer us or euro site.

    Got similar problem on another acer after upgraded to windows 7 but had battery replaced under warranty and switched back to xp.

    Appreciate any help.

    Thanks!!

    Shouldn't it be, "How to DOWNGRADE from Vista to Windows XP??"

    6 replies

    Depends on your hardware, doesn't it? Vista needs at least 2Gig RAM - I UPGRADED my system from XP to Vista - Never looked back - VERY STABLE!

    thats probably the case. I've never tried vista myself, all these complaints about it are probably people with barely over 2gig ram.

    That in itself is my complaint. There is simply no reason to require over 2 GB of RAM and a CPU made within the last 12 months just to have your system run smoothly. It's ridiculous. Stop the consumer sheep mentality. Think. Look at it this way:

    If I told you that when you bought a new car it would have a V8 engine instead a of a four-cylinder, a 25 gallon gas tank instead of 12, twice the amperage from the alternator and upgraded all-season radials... you'd be pleased, right? Okay, now let's say you buy it and have all that, but the new car performs exactly the same as your last one- or worse. When you go complain to the dealership, they shrug and say you should've bought the twelve-cylinder model to see any improvement. Does that make sense to you? Because that's the position you're defending here; that's what you're defiantly calling an upgrade.

    Both cars in my example get you from point A to point B, just like XP and Vista accomplish the exact same tasks. If you want to nitpick about feature differences- fine. Can't live without the eye candy? Another guide I've posted explains how to make XP virtually a clone of Vista. Like the new search feature, 'bread crumb' explorer link, sidebar and widgets? Same guide, all free. Everything runs smooth even on this outdated old work computer I'm on with "only" 1GB of RAM. Look at that, I just saved $500+! This may surprise you, but some people would rather tinker for an hour or so instead of pointlessly dropping half a grand to reduce performance.

    Lastly, to each their own. You're as much of a Vista zealot as we are XP advocates. I posted this Acer guide knowing many people think the way I do, and could use some guidance. Some people throw money and hardware at a software problem- other people just solve the software problem, which is what we're doing here. If you love Vista and are happy with it, that's great. Honestly, I'm glad it worked for you. I guess some people can accept driving a new BMW that runs like a Honda Civic. We'll just be over here, turning or new machines into Ferrari's ;)

    obviously you dont play any computer games and don't require a high-power PC.

    "don't require a high-power PC" ... much like 90% of the world. And we do play games. Last I checked, a new videocard was cheaper than a whole new computer; not to mention the better frame rates / lower overhead within XP :)