How to Downgrade Windows Vista to Windows XP

»»»How to Downgrade Windows Vista to Windows XP
Windows Vista sucks? Or simply don’t like Windows Vista? If you’re thinking to downgrade your Windows Vista system to run on Windows XP, it’s not as easy as you think. There is no direct path to downgrade from Windows Vista to Windows XP. You can’t simply insert the Windows XP installation CD media into the CD-ROM drive and hope to ‘upgrade’ and replace the Windows Vista with Windows XP usual install routine because Vista won’t allow it to be overwritten. Windows XP will treat Windows Vista as ‘superior’ operating system and refuse to install over it.

There’re actually few options available instead of completely uninstall Windows Vista as listed below. But if you decide to downgrade from Windows Vista to install Windows XP, there is also a simple guideline that you can observe to ensure that the migration goes smoothly.

Option 1 – Dual Boot

It’s by far the easier and best method to run Windows XP instead of Windows Vista if you have another partition or hard disk. Simply boot up any Windows XP setup media and install Windows XP into different partition or hard drive than the Windows Vista installation. Once completed, you can choose to boot up either Windows XP or Windows Vista, and has the best of both world.

Option 2 – Virtual Machine

Install VMware Server or Virtual PC 2007 (both free) or any other virtualization software, and then install Windows XP into the virtual machine environment. You will get Windows XP which runs inside Windows Vista, with minor compromise on speed, performance and have to go through Windows Vista first on every bootup.

Option 3 – Format the Hard Drive, Wipe Off Windows Vista and Install Windows XP

For those who totally fed up with Windows Vista and just want Windows XP, or prefer a clean installation of OS has only this option to rely on. To downgrade to Windows XP from Windows Vista, you have to basically delete the whole hard disk that installed with Windows Vista, and start anew with Windows XP. Here’s a simple guide and procedures that you can try to follow to switch to Windows XP. However, each system configuration is different, so you may have to adapt the steps to suit your own need.

  1. Download all drivers for your system for Windows XP from the manufacturer’s website. Copy the drivers files to a USB flash driver or external hard drive or burn them to CD/DVD.
  2. Find a Windows XP installation CD. You can also use Volume Licensing (VL) CD, retail (FPP) disc, or system builder hologram CD provided by Microsoft.
  3. You will also need a XP product key even if you legally can downgrade from Windows Vista Ultimate or Business edition. The Windows Vista serial number won’t works with XP.
  4. Backup to USB flash disk, external portable hard disk or CD/DVD every data files and any other things such as documents, downloads, pictures, movies, programs and etc that you need and want to keep. You can also create a second partition with disk management utilities such as Acronis Director or Partition Magic, and then move the data files to the new partition.
  5. Ensure that also you have CD or DVD setup media for the software applications that you want to install and use after wiping off your system from Vista.
  6. If your OEM doesn’t provide you with recovery CD/DVD discs and Windows setup media discs (it’s because they’re stored in the hard disk in hidden location), you may want to burn a copy of recovery CD to CD/DVD first before you proceed, just in case the hidden partition is lost and you want to recover your computer to original state. (How-to Guide: IBM/Lenovo ThinkPad recovery CD)
  7. If the system has SATA (Serial ATA) hard drive, locate the driver for SATA controller and put it in USB flash drive, diskette or CD first. If you have PATA (normal IDE) hard disk, simply go to BIOS CMOS to disable SATA or Native SATA mode if you don’t want to install Windows XP on SATA hard drive. Else, you can also create an Windows XP install disc with the SATA drivers integrated by using tool such as nLite.
  8. In the BIOS, also set the CD or DVD optical drive as the first boot device in the boot sequence.
  9. Put in the Windows XP installation CD into CDROM drive and boot up the computer by using the CD. You probably need to press a key when prompted with “Press Any Key to Boot from CD…”.
  10. If you’re using SATA hard disk with driver on external media (not integrated into Windows XP setup disk), remember to press F6 when you see the message at the status base: “Press F6 if you need to install a third party SCSI or RAID driver…” during the very initial stage of setup to load the SATA driver so that the SATA hard disk can be recognized.
  11. Run through the setup wizard at per normal. However, when prompting for where to install Windows Vista, delete (by pressing D and then confirmation), create and format the Windows Vista disk drive or partition (if you have multiple partition). And then choose to install on that just formatted partition or hard drive.

    IMPORTANT: If you choose the wrong hard disk or partition with data to delete, you will lose your essential data.

    Note: If the setup does not allow you to delete or format the Windows Vista partition or drive, you will need to find a third party software that can recognize and read NTFS filesystem to clear the drive or partition first.

  12. Enter any product key for Windows XP. Windows Vista product key will not work.
  13. If you own a legitimate Windows Vista edition that allows for downgrade (See Windows Vista downgrade rights), call Microsoft after performing the clean install of Windows XP Pro to activate the Windows XP installation. Notify Microsoft that you’re downgrading from Windows Vista and require to activate Windows XP Professional or other version allowed newly installed. You won’t get a new Windows XP product key though. You will have to read out the long Installation ID plus your original Vista serial key, and Microsoft will provide an activation ID that will make the XP usable.
  14. Install the drivers for your system devices.
  15. Reinstall any software programs that you want to use.
  16. Move back the data files and documents.

By | 2016-12-09T08:39:53+00:00 December 9th, 2016|Categories: Windows|Tags: , |21 Comments

About the Author:

LK is a technology writer for Tech Journey with background of system and network administrator. He has be documenting his experiences in digital and technology world for over 15 years.Connect with LK through Tech Journey on Facebook, Twitter or Google+.
  • Verndog

    I think you got the topic reversed…

    It should read:

    How to Upgrade from Windows Vista to XP !

  • whatever

    windows vista is incompatible with most software that came before it (including antivirus software). it crashes randomly, like when i'm opening an internet broser. (firefox must be making vista jealous). and to top it all off, it uses more processer cycles than it needs to, so playing (new) video games is out.

    Also, up yours microsoft. microsoft virtual PC 2007 doesn't work with my version of vista, so i have to buy MORE useless software just to get my old useless software to work! thanks, but no thanks.

  • Unfornatelly, my note has a sata hd and hasn't a floppy drive; when I press F6 to launch the sata drivers, the system return a error because he can't find the USB Flash driver!!!

    Anybody can help me?


  • Phoup

    When i install XP on another partition, i got an error when it will start the OS

    is the following error

    "Error loading Operation System"

    someone can help me pls?

    i cant use my pc!

  • Phoup, this error occurs probably your pc has a sata hard disk!

    Please, follow the instructions above to install a software from the manufacturer mother board, ok?

  • Shiraz

    Bloody VIsta is a crap. haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa


    I downgrade my Vista to XP and i disable my Sata in bios as well. btw i have hp pavilion notebook dv6000, xp installed fine but when i try to open my other drive (D:) it says you drive is not formated.

    what the hell 🙁 even when i try to open my usb HD it gives me the same message again 'this drive is not formated. what did i do wrong? i aslo play little with partition thing but i m not sure or remmeber exactly what i did.

    Please help

  • Shiraz, you need to follow the steps written in this forum : first installing nLite with the manufacturer mother-boarding driver's to SATA drivers. You can find this drivers in: hp forum

  • Shiraz

    Thanks Wanderson, I can live with Vista now. I only need to know how can i restore my USb HD and Partiion drive.

    My NTFS drive is converted into RAW and XP neither Vista recongnizing this drive. it can only be formated.

    Is there any chance to retrive data from RAW drive OR HD?

  • mastier

    use ur brainz and google…

    I recommend testdisk (undeletes partitions) and photorec (retrieves data from formatted partition). Though it works in commandline it's no so hard, wizard-like.

  • Scott Ager

    Thanks a mil. I was at my wits end trying to

    install my retail XP on a new Fujitsu A6120 with no downgrade rights, no floppy drive, and an AHcI eSATA drive. Your mention of n-Lite jogged my memory so I created an XP Install disk (unattended as well) with the GM965 Intel chipset and SaTA driver AND SP3! all in one package. Then I sat back back with a beer and watched years of Microsoft work on Vista magically disappear. Woohoo!


  • hooman

    where can i download the driver of my tablet (asus) ? i downgrade it?

  • Agis

    Great thank you

  • Zack

    wowwwww you guys are stupid…

    you don't need to dual boot

    you don't need to format…

    backup your files

    Boot from your xp disc

    Hit R to go to the recovery console

    type the commands in this order




    ren windows winvista


    then setup normally only downside is you ahve to manually transfer your documents and setting from C:Users to C:Documents and Settings

  • vista is worst, i now have windows 7, love it.

  • suraj…

    i have understood that but the problem is that my dvd drive in laptop is not working…

    i have a external drive but vista does not detect it on starting i have kept external boot on and USB one the first priority in bios

    plz help me ………

  • thoe

    phew! it was a real hassle. i had tried for a whole month but the answer was to slipstream sata drivers with xp sp1,2,or 3. it just worked after several switches between xp bootable cds. use Nlite

  • thoe

    it really worked for me

  • Guido DePimp

    I downgraded to XP after vista fried three hard drives on a brand new laptop. Really pissed me off that the laptop would run so hot all the time. Finally got the replacement warranty hard drive in the mail and instantly installed xp pro on it. NO PROBLEMS!!! Everything installed and ran fine. Way better than vista!!!

  • EJ

    When im downgrade my vista to Xp every time i open my laptop it keep scanning my Ide 0 before the Xp open. Please help

  • Robert

    sum1..pls help.. i want to downgrade my laptop from vista premium 32bit (original OS) to xp pro.. so i boot from the cd upon start up..and proceed according to the instructions..but somehow it cant detect my HD so the intallation cant proceed.. i have never encountered the this problem with my previous laptop which was originally intalled with windows xp.. can sumbody please help..?

  • jay

    I’ve done the switch 100% but have no sound …no wifi and no video someone said my drivers need xp drivers however all sites want money and this is all new to me can anyone email me help? ?