How to Downgrade from Vista to XP Without Reformatting

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  1. profile image51
    ibanga007posted 15 years ago

    Of the two approaches to downgrading Windows, the first is more convenient, as it doesn't require you to wipe your hard drive. You will need a genuine Windows XP installation CD; if all you have is a recovery disc, use the "Start from Scratch" process that follows.

    Before you proceed, make sure you have several gigabytes of free space on your boot drive (usually Csmile. Take a moment to back up your entire hard drive; if you have Vista Business or Ultimate, you can do so with the Complete PC Backup and Restore tool, making it easy to get back into Windows should this process hit a snag.

    Start by booting to your XP disc: Just insert the disc into your drive and turn on your PC, then press the spacebar when it says Press any key to boot from CD... If you don't see this message, you'll have to enter your PC's BIOS setup screen and change the boot options so that your CD drive appears above your hard drive in the boot sequence list. Consult your PC's manual for details. (If you can't boot from your CD, you can download free XP Setup boot disk files by searching for Q310994 at

    When XP Setup starts, press R on the first page to open the Recovery Console. If you are asked to choose a Windows installation, type a number (usually 1) and press Enter.

    In some cases, you may be asked for the Administrator password at this point. If you don't know it, you'll have to boot back into Windows Vista, open the Start menu, type lusrmgr.msc, and press Enter. Open the C:\Users folder, double-click on the Administrator account, and turn off the Account is disabled option. Open the Start menu again, type Control userpasswords2 into the Search box, and press Enter. Next, click the Reset Password button, choose a new password, and start over.

    Now. at the Recovery Console command prompt, type the following commands to prep your hard disk for XP:
    cd \
    ren windows winvista

    When your PC restarts, boot onto your XP CD once again, and then proceed with setup normally.

    When setup is finished, you'll have to move everything manually. This includes your documents, the contents of your desktop, and any other personal data that you'll need from Vista's now-defunct C:\Users folder into XP's C:\Documents and Settings folder. You'll also need to reinstall all your applications and device drivers, and eventually delete the abandoned C:\Winvista folder.

    Without a true XP Setup disc, you won't have the luxury of the Recovery Console. Your other option is to use your PC's recovery disc, applicable, of course, only if your PC originally shipped with Windows XP.

    Before you begin, you'll need to back up any files you want to keep. Unfortunately, you can't use any of Vista's built-in backup software for this, because XP doesn't include any tools that can read Vista backups—understandable but a shame. Your best bet is to copy your data onto an external hard disk manually (via a USB or eSATA connection) so that you can easily get it back once XP is up and running. Make sure you back up the entire C:\Users folder, which will catch your Documents directory, anything on your desktop, and application data such as stored e-mail.

    Recovery procedures vary widely, so consult your PC's manual for details. Typically, the recovery software wipes the hard drive clean and then places a preinstalled copy of Windows onto the drive, complete with all the drivers and demo software that you got with your PC when it was new. When it's done, hook up your backup drive and copy your files back into position.

    All that work ultimately leaves you with a PC running what is essentially an out-of-date operating system. XP is history now, just as Windows 98 was seven years ago when XP arrived. New products are being tuned for Vista, and it won't be long before legacy XP support disappears. But what if you have some essential application or device that simply won't work with Vista, yet you don't want to downgrade?

    One approach is to install XP alongside Vista, using a dual-boot configuration. You'll need a second hard drive, or a second partition on your primary drive, on which to install XP. Begin by booting off an XP Setup disc as explained earlier, and then install the operating system on that second drive. When that's done, don't panic when Vista won't start; all you need to do is to reinstall Vista's boot manager. Just boot off your Vista Setup disc, click Next on the first page, and then, on the Install Windows page, click Repair your computer. Thereafter, you'll be prompted to choose between XP and Vista each time you turn on your PC.

    The other option, and a good one if performance isn't too important to you, is to use a virtual machine, such as Microsoft Virtual PC (free from or VMware Workstation (30-day trial at to run XP in a window from within Vista. To set it up in Virtual PC, click New, and then use the New Virtual Machine Wizard to create a virtual machine (below). When prompted, choose Windows XP as the platform and specify at least 512MB of RAM. Complete the wizard, and click Start to open the new virtual machine. Insert your Windows XP Setup CD, and from the CD menu, select Use Physical Drive D:. Now you'll be able to install XP as though drive D: were a separate computer. When you're done, you'll have a functional virtual XP PC that you can start from your Vista desktop any time you need it; you can even copy and paste between both platforms and share files over its virtual network interface. For more of the nitty-gritty on running a virtual machine, see our recent Solutions story "Windows in a Window".

  2. koncling profile image38
    konclingposted 15 years ago

    It's work for me too....
    thanks for your tips....
    I love my XP.....

  3. profile image50
    andyc7454posted 15 years ago

    need help for changing admin password on vista , i did follow procedure but when going in recovery vista somehow has not changed admin password

    1. Junkster profile image61
      Junksterposted 15 years agoin reply to this

      I'd recommend getting Winternals ERD commander, you can bypass password protected accounts and copy files to another folder with this. 

      Another thing I had to do recently was reinstalling XP on to another drive after I had some sort of MBR fault.  When I finally got into the new install of XP I found I couldn't ge tmost of my files form the other drive, because the user files from my old install were blocked due to another OS being in contorl of them.  And stupidly I had kept a lot of stuff in the My Pictures, My Videos and My Music folders in the My Documents of that user profile.

      One way I found you could get them back is to backup the folder to a backu file somewhere, then extract it all (or restore) to another location and you can get all your files back.

  4. The Blog Father profile image60
    The Blog Fatherposted 15 years ago

    hey thanks alot iv been looking for this info for ages !!! i cant stand vista

  5. AEvans profile image69
    AEvansposted 15 years ago

    I love my xp too!! Vista had to many problems although I at the beginning was impressed with the features eventually I hope they will fix all of the problems and maybe and only maybe I will then move back to Vista. You can also log onto and they should have any other additional information you may need for free. Welcome back the world of XP!!

  6. Junkster profile image61
    Junksterposted 15 years ago

    As a matter of interest has anyone actually tried Vista, specifically since the SP1 update earlier in the year?

    By all accounts I've heard it's been pretty problem free since that, despite people still knocking it without trying it.

    It's the worst myth that many non-computer literate people rattle on about when I fix PCs, complaining about "the Vista" without using it.

    I know it's got it's problems but it isn't that bad, and I've used it on and off for months.

  7. Stacie L profile image89
    Stacie Lposted 15 years ago

    I am picking up my new computer tomorrow and yes, it has the dreaded Vista sp1 platform.
    I love my XP and I'm trying to have an open mind.
    I'll report my findings next week.hmm

  8. WHoArtNow profile image83
    WHoArtNowposted 15 years ago

    I'm on Vista SP2 home premium on my laptop, and for all the haters or undecided out there. It's actually quite good! Just make sure you turn off the Aero pack to free up some ram. Search in hubpages for some vista tweeks and it'll fly. Have only had 1 BSOD (blue screen of death) an that was entirely my fault.

    My desktop is running Windows 7 though. If you can wait for that, then please for the love of god do, it's amazing, better than Mac OS 10. So fast and smooth, yes there's some glitchs, but it's in beta and the updates they've issued have worked on a lot of them.

    Oh and by the way, the original poster was spamming the forums with this, so his "mate" (in this case andyc7454) could come in and ask a question, and normally the OP would come back on and post a link to some crappy site which gives you loads of "free" stuff where they actually charge you a fortune or steal your credit details. These days though, these posts get flagged as spam before the link can get posted.

    1. Junkster profile image61
      Junksterposted 15 years agoin reply to this

      I'm so tempted to put Win7 on my main PC after the abundance of praise even a fair bit of jealousy from Mac owners!

      It's a bold step to take though with the time limit thing but the way I see it if it gets to August and I am finding the OS agreeable then I'd pay (unlike most) to keep it.  Then again there's likely to be a Release Candidate before something like that happens.  Although I'm pretty sure the development nightmares have been played out through Vista, it seems like 7 will be out much quicker than the XP->Vista stage.

      Has anyone who's made the jump to windows seven had much problems with things like drivers and devices?  I noticed that Nvidia are offering Win 7 drivers on their site, also how does 7 work with PC games? I've started using my Steam account more recently and have been gaming on my PC more, like Far Cry 2 and Bioshock.  I'd love to hear people#s views

  9. nobama is better profile image55
    nobama is betterposted 14 years ago

    this upgrade, like all upgrades, ought be performed on a cleanly formatted drive

    1. profile image0
      Hack Retisposted 14 years agoin reply to this

      Agreed. Windows doesn't like to work on any hard drive, especially a messy one.

      Also, did anyone catch the "lusrmgr.msc" bit?

      Haha! lusr.

  10. sibaja_software profile image58
    sibaja_softwareposted 14 years ago

    I feel your pain, Vista was a real dissapointment.  XP was more stable.  Actually my Windows 2000 Pro still runs like a champ.

    Windows 7 seems promising, I wrote a hub
    Lowest Prices on Windows 7 that talks more about it.


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