Windows Vista was touted by Microsoft at release as the greatest Operating System in the history of mankind. Yet despite its hundreds of new features and allegedly superior security, adoption rates aren’t nearly what Microsoft would hope for. In fact, customers seem to prefer XP to the point that some manufacturers have even been pressured into offering it on new systems again. This situation has even been parodied in a recent Mac commercial, in which a PR flack states that customers are “upgrading to a more familiar experience” by switching back to XP.
I recently purchased a Dell Inspiron 531 desktop computer, which came with Vista as the only option. After trying to make use of the computer with my normal operating habits for a week, I decided to make the switch back to XP. In truth, it wasn’t simply an upgrade to a “more familiar experience” it was an upgrade to a more usable machine that provided a better level of performance with the same hardware.
Unfortunately, for systems which come from the factory with Vista as the only available OS, the manufacturers do not often provide driver support for XP. Many buyers of preconfigured systems want to make the switch to XP, but this if often made difficult by the unknown hardware configurations and the mystery of finding XP drivers for such PCs. I’m going to tell you how I upgraded my machine from Vista to XP, and provide some guidelines for doing the same on almost any hardware configuration.
Laying the Groundwork
The first step in our journey from Vista to XP is research. In order to have the machine run properly with XP installed, it is necessary to identify the hardware accurately. You’ll use several tools to accomplish this: a utility built into Windows, a piece of free software, and your brain.
Our first utility is called “driverquery” and it’s built into Windows. You will want to save the results of this for future use. Begin by pressing the Windows Key and ‘R’ at the same time to bring up the ‘Run’ dialog box in Windows. Into this box, type cmd and press the ‘OK‘ button to launch a command window.
The ‘Run’ dialog box.
The command window appears as a DOS-style C:\ prompt, and it allows a variety of system commands to be used outside of Vista’s point-and-click interface. At this prompt, type in driverquery > C:\Users\(your username)\drivers.txt where (your username) is the name with which you are logged into Vista. This will save a list of all of the drivers that Vista is using to a text file in your user directory. You can now type exit at the command prompt and the window will close. You’ll use this file for reference later.
Running driverquery in the Command window.
Sending the output to a text file displays nothing in the Command window.
The drivers.txt file appears in your output directory.
The next utility is the excellent “System Information for Windows” which you will use to identify some of the major components of the computer. Download the standalone version of this program from the website and run it from your download location. Vista will prompt you with a security warning, to which you will have to click ‘Allow‘ in order for SIW to run.