Introduction: Upgrading Your New Laptop From Vista to XP

Picture of Upgrading Your New Laptop From Vista to XP

After installing XP on my new Vista laptop I was absolutely astounded by the speed and performance when running XP over Vista. For proper speed, performance and utility, XP has the solution for you.


This instructible is outdated. I recommend buying Windows 7, its an excellent replacement to Vista.

IMPORTANT There is a fantastic resource at on making Windows XP Slipstream disks or Drivers for Vista and windows 7. They have complete packages of drivers for Audio, Video, Chipsets, Network, WiFi, and most of all Hard Disk Controller Drivers. They even have a utility called Driver Pack Base which will load the packages into your XP installation files. Then you just use the program nLite to burn the new XP CD. The process is a little tricky but once you succeed it makes loading XP much easier and faster. On many of my installs I have almost ALL of the drivers installed when I get to windows

This Instructable will give you a head start on upgrading your new Vista laptop back to Windows XP. (Desktops can come too)

For this project you will need a PC running Vista, an internet connection (I bet you've got this ; ) and one copy of Windows XP with service pack 2 if possible.

If there is anything I have left out or any additional information you can provide please let me know.

Step 1: Step One - Back-up

Picture of Step One - Back-up

You will have to remove your Vista partition to install XP. Any data on it will be removed permanently! You can perform a dual boot. However if you do, I assume you know what your doing and don't need this guide.

Before starting anything, back-up your data! I know you haven't done this, so now is a good time to do so. This means any files you have created. Word docs, Excel files, iTunes music, MP3s, home movies, and saved games. You can transfer them over your network to a share folder or use a couple of CD-Rs.

Step 2: Step Two DRIVERS.

Picture of Step Two DRIVERS.

The main hurdle in installing XP on a Vista ready system are the system drivers. Drivers tell the operating system how to use the hardware in your system. If your are not familiar with drivers, you may want to get a computer savvy friend to help with this install.

There are drivers on the internet for almost all hardware for Windows XP, its just a matter of finding the right ones.

Before popping the Windows XP CD in the drive and installing, you will want to go to the device manager and write down all the names and model numbers for your hardware.
Be specific.. Make sure to record Hard drive controller(SATA), Video, Sound, USB, Network, Wireless and any devices that may be specific to your system.

Step 3: More Drivers and the SATA Hurdle

Picture of More Drivers and the SATA Hurdle

Now that you have your list of hardware, you will need to go online and see what issues other people are facing when installing XP on your system. You will want to Google your PC model number ( Do A Google Search: Gateway ML3109 XP Drivers) This is only an example. It may take some time, but you will find people talking about your system and the solutions they have found. These solutions can be invaluable and can save a lot of time and frustration. When you are satisfied that you have all the drivers and information that you need, download them all and burn them to a CD-R or use a pen drive. Your USB bus may not work after the install so use the pen drive as a back-up.

I lucked out with my system, there was a guide for all the drivers I would need to run XP. Two hours later I was up and running.

Drivers for Gateway ML3109

Many people find that newer laptops are using SATA instead of older IDE hard disks. These new hard drive controllers may not be compatible with older versions of Windows XP. In this case it's a good idea to use a copy of XP with service pack 2 included. You may be able to use a USB floppy drive or a pen drive to transfer the SATA drivers during the XP setup.(When it says press F6 to install a third party SCSI or RAID driver...) This will depend on whether or not your BIOS supports this. Look online and contact your manufacturer to see if you will encounter this issue.

IMPORTANT The Driver Pack Slipstream Disk almost removes this problem completely. Just select the option to install the Mass Storage (Hard Disk Controller) Drivers in the text mode setup. The have an excellent Tutorial on there website.

Some laptops will install XP fine then crash when you try to boot up the first time (mine did). It may be possible to press F8 on boot up, go into safe mode and then install service pack 2 from a CD that you made on another computer. Each system will be a little different, try to purchase the newest copy of Windows XP possible. They are still being sold on the internet at places like for about $90. Neweggs WinXP
(Windows XP 64bit edition is not recommended due to driver issues)

You can download Service Pack 2 here:
windows XP SP2 redistributable

Step 4: Leave Yourself an Out.

Picture of Leave Yourself an Out.

This is a very important step. Make sure you have an original copy of Vista, recovery disks or a recovery partition. If XP fails to install and there is no good solution, you can always reinstall Vista. I DO NOT trust recovery partitions. Hard drives can fail, or it may be difficult to start the recovery process.

If you do not have a Vista recovery CD/DVD you will need to contact your computer manufacture and request a copy of the system disks or an OEM Vista CD. Some manufacturers have a program to help users move back to XP, others do not, you'll just have to ask. Many PC manufacturers will not help you install XP on the system and it may even void the warranty. Look at your warranty and talk to your PC manufacturer and look online to find out more.

Step 5: Fire Up XP

Picture of Fire Up XP
Now we are ready to install XP. Lets check to make sure that we have covered everything.
  • All personal files are backed-up to another system and/or CD/Rs.
  • Checked online to find out solutions and what drivers are needed
  • Made a driver CD, pen drive, and/or have a second computer with internet access.
  • Have a Vista CD ready in case it hits the fan.
  • Have a newer legal copy of Windows XP hopefully including SP2
Now your ready to boot it up. Pop the CD in the tray and boot Windows XP. You'll have to press a key to boot from CD, or set your BIOS to boot from CD on startup. Press Delete or one of the F keys to enter BIOS setup. If you need help in the BIOS please contact your manufacturer, a computer savvy friend, or look your BIOS up online. There's plenty of helpful how2s.

Step 6: Partition and Install

Picture of Partition and Install

NOTE: This step will destroy all of your data! Make sure all of your files are backed-up. '
If you want to go back and back-up your data take the CD out of the drive and reboot the computer. Nothing has been changed before this step.

You will have to remove the Windows Vista partition in order to install windows XP. If you see another good sized partition (couple of gigs) near the primary partition this is most likely your recovery partition. You can choose whether or not you want to keep this. Since I have my Vista CD's, I was good to go and remove it along with the Vista partition. Choose D=Delete on the old Vista partition. Then hit C to create a new partition. You will want to format it with NTFS and the quick option to save time. Once the format is complete, the normal windows XP setup will commence. Just input the default settings and you're good to go.

Step 7: Back to Window's XP

Picture of Back to Window's XP

Now that the setup has completed you'll need to install the drivers that you downloaded from the internet. The device manager is your friend here. It will tell you about all the system devices and what drivers it couldn't find.

If you have created a Slip stream CD or DVD from then much of the drivers may be installed all depending on what driver packs you installed.

If the system failed to boot and gave you a Blue screen of death, you can try to boot into safe mode using the F8 key and uninstalling and/ or reinstalling any failed drivers or installing service pack 2 if your copy of windows didn't include it. You can download Service Pack 2 here:
windows XP SP2 redistributable

Step 8: Your Done!

Picture of Your Done!

Hopefully everything has gone well, And you are sitting with a fresh clean install of Windows XP. If not, try searching the internet for your specific problem. Remember you are not the only one who is doing this. Chances are there is a good solution out there. If all else fails, you can always reinstall using your Vista CD or recovery discs.

Before connecting to the Internet and checking your E-mail, you'll want to secure your windows installation by installing an anti virus and anti-spyware software. I recommend...
AVG Free Anti-virus
SpyBot Search & Destroy
All of these programs work great together. is a good Office Suite
VLC Media Player Great Media Player


Kira3 (author)2016-03-13

You can activate windows xp easily if you are willing to spend a little money buying a cheap product key, this site: offers very cheap product keys, you can go to have a look.

Williz (author)2007-10-21

You mean Downgrade.

ReCreate (author)Williz2009-03-26


PCfreak (author)ReCreate2010-11-01


cody777 (author)PCfreak2012-01-06

if you moving from vista to xp, its an upgrade, that's how much vista sucks

PCfreak (author)cody7772013-02-18

no cody its a downgrade if your moving from vista to xp its a downgrade
vista was released after xp its just like i dont like windows 8 and i like windows 7 im downgrading to win 7......

M4industries (author)ReCreate2009-09-11


ReCreate (author)M4industries2009-09-11

Digging up old comments? Heh...

M4industries (author)ReCreate2009-09-11

Once I responded to a 4-year-old comment on the Indy Mogul Forums.

ReCreate (author)M4industries2009-09-11

indy mogul forums?

M4industries (author)ReCreate2009-09-11

Its a DIY filmmaking site. My 2nd most visited site per day. Just Google BFX Indy Mogul, or on instructables, take a look at my slideshow of me meeting the host.

ReCreate (author)M4industries2009-09-11


fauge7 (author)ReCreate2011-01-02


ReCreate (author)fauge72011-01-02


fauge7 (author)ReCreate2011-01-02

its a 2 year old comment lol

!Andrew_Modder! (author)Williz2007-10-21

no its an upgrade for speed and awesomeness lol. idk

ya upgrade because vista sucks and xp is still far superior

Foaly7 (author)de-evolution2009-09-25

Hey, Vista is cool, just slow. You can customize XP to look like Vista, and then you get cool looks and speed.

zuba (author)Foaly72009-12-02

Ubuntu and Windows 7 own.

Foaly7 (author)zuba2009-12-03

Sorry to break it to you, old chap, but Windows 7 more than likely sucks real bad, Ubuntu is cool, though. Dual boot XP & Ubuntu.

Madrias357 (author)Foaly72010-05-03

As someone currently using 7, and a beta-tester of 7, it doesn't suck.  Very smooth, powerful, and doesn't eat resources like a child munching candy.

That said, I dual boot Windows 7 and Ubuntu.  Why?  For fun.

Foaly7 (author)Madrias3572010-05-04

Yeah, a friend recently got a Windows 7 computer. It is pretty sweet, sorta like Vista on roids. I was making my comment by experience with Vista. Vista is really only good for graphics, sometimes.

Madrias357 (author)Foaly72010-05-09

Agreed.  Vista sucks, but 7 takes XP's stability and raw power and combines it with the classy look of Vista, then tosses in a few goodies as well.

Let's face it, with my system (far from top-of-the-line), I'm able to run Windows 7 without any issues.  4GB of RAM, a 2.4 Core 2 Duo (mine's lightly OC'd to 2.7), and a GTS 250 video card make 7 look, run, and respond well to any situation.

And then you've got a great little compatibility mode for those programs that just refuse to run correctly. 

I, for one, have also learned to use both XP and Vista drivers to make any hardware work, too.

NimaDoodleZ (author)Madrias3572011-07-19

You're kidding right?
Windows 7 sucks up sooo many resources...
I have 1GB of RAM on Windows XP, 3.6GHz single core... and it runs even the newest games. Go Xp, Go XP, Go XP! *does the dance*
Plus, I've never had luck getting windows 7 to run a great sum of the awesome emulators out there, and it lacks serious compatibility with older programs. Sucks when you want to pass down those Jumpstart kids' games to next generations...
....and.... Win7 compatibility mode WORKS for you?!

Maybe it's just my luck with 7. :/

robert1971 (author)NimaDoodleZ2012-10-10

you know it xp for ever and win/ 7 and 8 both will die like vista did they made a os that will not die xp clones and works on new software haha its alive

Madrias357 (author)NimaDoodleZ2011-07-23

I'm having good luck with 7. That said, I still have one machine that runs Windows XP: My 2002 laptop with a Pentium 4 HT @ 3.0GHz, 2 GB of DDR memory. It seems to work best on there (yes, it did actually accept and run 7, just a little clunky) so I guess it really depends on the computer you're working on whether XP or 7 works best.

Yeah, I've had great luck with compatibility mode, and 95% of my old programs still work, and for the 5% of those that didn't, I found replacements for. My old Microsoft Office got replaced with OpenOffice, which does everything MS-Office did.

About the only thing I miss from XP is the bloody space cadet pinball. Haven't gotten around to ripping it over.

Also, it might be dependant on which version of 7 you're working with. I'm using Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit (and don't worry, not one compatibility issue between x86 and x64! Not like Windows XP 64-bit...), so things might be just a little different. It works nicely enough that I can forgive the odd quirk of trying (still) to remember it's now Programs and Features, not Add/Remove anymore.

robert1971 (author)Foaly72012-10-10

lol ubuntu is cool butt hard to install things im to dumb for that butt by far linux does win they had wht they do now 15 years ago on open source lol and why win/7 works so good is case they drop xp files inside it for it to work right xp steel rule,s for windows butt linux stomps microsoft and mac at the same time lol, and i heard the same vista like prob wil happen on win/8 no 3rd party software is ready for it and they say they will not get it ready for that os look like mac beats window,s for the ipad part lol

zuba (author)Foaly72009-12-03

I don't really have that much of an opinion on operating systems. They are all good, just in different ways.

Foaly7 (author)zuba2009-12-03

Good point there. Vista & Mac have better graphics, XP is fastest, 7 is probably more secure, & Ubuntu is best in price. (FREE!). I consider XP the best, because if you know where to go for software, it can do anything the other systems can. And almost better.

Williz (author)!Andrew_Modder!2007-10-22

No Its a downgrade to crapness...Vista is much better so long as you know how to optimize it and have the right harware...

TheRealDutchOwner (author)Williz2012-01-31

Vista on 500 TB + 1 TB DDR300 memory Graphics card, 6TB DRR500 RAM and a 3000GHZ 256-Core 512-Bits PC wouldn't even handle Vista, IT SUCKS.

elel302 (author)Williz2009-09-12

Vista = Low capability, RAM eater, annoying UAC, you can't play old games :(, no 16bit support.
When Microsoft released Vista sales for Mac went higher.
I upgraded from Vista to XP! WOO!

vidfreakfido13 (author)Williz2007-11-16

Actually most computers run much cleaner and much quicker with Xp and Hey If you're obssesed with Vista's looks just get Style XP

VIPER2475 (author)Williz2007-10-22

Vista runs poorly at best on medium to low class laptops. That what this guide is mainly for. Yes, when I had Vista loaded I went through several Vista optimization guides and it barely had any effect.

!Andrew_Modder! (author)Williz2007-10-22

well ya vista is better in some ways and worse in some ways (also for what you do on your pc, like game, video edit,etc) and ya you definatly need better hardware to run it smoothly, but still XP runs faster.

techboy411 (author)2012-08-20

You DownGrading cuz vista is higher than xp so you go down a notch

PCfreak (author)2010-10-15

well for starters its not really an upgrade its more like a downgrade

if your switching from vista to xp its a down grade not an upgrade

Madrias357 (author)2010-06-19

Only thing Vista was good for was upgrading to Windows 7 Home Premium.

jimfaker (author)Madrias3572010-08-24

Oh, come on. You know that's not true. It was also good for upgrading to Windows 7 Ultimate.

Madrias357 (author)jimfaker2010-08-25

Let me rephrase it a little: Vista was only good for upgrading to Windows 7.

Foaly7 (author)2009-09-25

Wait, couldn't you just dual boot Vista with a second option of XP and then delete the Vista partition?

junits15 (author)Foaly72010-05-28

 then you loose your MBR and you wont be able to boot anything :)

BobS (author)2007-10-22

My solution was to buy a harddisk almost identical to the one which came with the Vista laptop, for about E80. I replaced it, and installed XP. The Vista harddisk is now stored, perhaps I will switch when servicepacks have improved.

BlessedWrath (author)BobS2007-11-27

Is it possible to purchase an external hard drive, switch the BIOS to boot from it, and use it to run XP, without changing the internal? If so, would this be an acceptable means of testing the computer for XP compatibility, without risking the main drive's Vista install?

VIPER2475 (author)BlessedWrath2007-11-27

Maybe, but its not a good way to operate your system. The USB 2.0 interface will be slower when compared to the SATA interface it would be replacing. If you want to try getting another hard drive, simply, remove the internal drive and replace it with one thats similar. Then install XP on to it. Then you have two working installs to chose from, if they both work properly. Good luck

BlessedWrath (author)VIPER24752007-11-28

The idea here is not to void my warranty, and opening up the case is 100% certain to do just that. If it'll work any other way, I'd like to try that first.

BobS (author)BlessedWrath2007-11-29

But replacing the HD is just turning a screw and carefully taking the HD out! Would anyone notice?? (or is there some 'hidden seal'?)

BlessedWrath (author)BobS2007-11-29

When you're talking about a $30 cheapie, there's no concern. When you're talking about a $1000 peice of equipment, there is no CHANCE that I'm going to do anything to void that warranty. Because, you know, .0004 nanoseconds after I do, it will explode.

volto (author)BlessedWrath2009-09-14

In most cases, hard drives are a user serviceable part, it will not void the warranty.

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