When a Dell computer operating system has been modified outside of the factory, it will no longer be supported by Dell. In that case, contact the operating system manufacturer. Dell remains available to troubleshoot problems on a fee basis.
Changing the operating system from Windows Vista to Windows XP, a process called "downgrading," involves the following main steps (click the steps to expand for more information on the topic):
- Determine driver availability for Windows XP
If downgrading a Dell computer with Windows Vista installed at the factory, make sure drivers are available at Drivers and Downloads.
Also, for any components installed after you purchased the computer, make sure drivers are available for those by contacting the manufacturer. Many manufacturers provide driver information on their Web sites.
- Consider software compatibility
Many software applications work on either Windows Vista or Windows XP, but not necessarily both. Contact the manufacturer of the software application. Many manufacturers provide operating system compatibility information on their Web sites.
Find out if the software is Windows XP-compatible using one of the following methods:
- Read the system requirements on the package to see which operating systems the software will work with.
- Find the system requirements on the Web site to learn what operating systems are compatible with the software.
- Acquire the Windows XP operating system media and license
Before downgrading the Windows Vista operating system, you must acquire an authorized version of the Windows XP operating system. Be sure to get the full operating system, not an upgrade. A full install is required.
Downgrading to Windows XP requires using the Windows Vista installation disc. Use a copy made from backup, or acquire another copy.
- Back up the hard drive
It is recommended that you back up all user data prior to proceeding with the operating system installation to avoid any possible loss of data.
Replacing the operating system will result in the complete erasure of all data on the hard drive. Be sure to back up the hard drive in its entirety.
The most common locations for user data include: e-mail folders, address books in Outlook®, My Documents folder, Desktop, Favorites, Web browser bookmarks, and any other data that you find useful.
For more information about backing up data, refer to the following Microsoft Knowledge Base articles:
- Remove most external devices
In order to complete a clean install, be sure to remove any unnecessary external devices. Removing unneeded devices will help to minimize the opportunity for any unexpected events.
The following is a list of devices that should not be removed:
The following are examples of devices that need to be detached:
- Portable handheld devices
- Other external devices
- Perform a clean installation
When the computer is prepared for the downgrade, the following steps walk you through the process of partitioning, installing, and setting up the Windows XP operating system:
This process may take 30 minutes to 90 minutes. During this process, your system restarts once but should otherwise not be turned off or restarted.
- Ensure all of the Windows XP installation discs and information are present.
- Install the Windows XP disc.
- Press and hold CTRL+ALT+DEL at the same time to restart the computer.
- When the computer restarts and the Dell splash screen appears, press F12.
- In the Boot menu, use the Up and Down arrows to select either CD or DVD, and then press Enter to continue.
- If prompted, press any key to continue. If you do not press a key, the computer starts from the hard drive. In that case, wait until Windows has completed started up, and then begin again.
- At the Windows XP setup window, select To set up Windows XP now, press Enter, and then press Enter.
- Press F8 to accept the terms and conditions specified in the license agreement.
By default, un-partitioned space is highlighted. If any other partitions appear that were not previously created by you, they may include a PC Restore partition or a Media Direct partition.
- In the Windows Setup Partition screen, press Enter to partition the hard drive. On this screen, review the listed partitions. Usually, the original operating system partition is labeled (OS) and is also the largest partition.
- Use the Up and Down arrows on your keyboard to highlight the OS partition and press D to delete the partition.
- When the Confirmation screen appears, review the warnings and press Enter to continue. You will now be returned to the previous screen.
- Use the Up and Down arrows to highlight the un-partitioned space and press Enter to set up Windows XP. The Windows XP Setup appears with the following information highlighted: Format the partition using the NTFS system.
- Press Enter to continue. On the next screen, a progress bar shows the format process. When the format is complete, the setup files are copied to the hard drive.
The following message appears: Please wait while setup copies files to the Windows installation folders. This might take several minutes.
Then follows Setup is copying files…. The status bar displays the percentage complete. When complete, the computer reboots and the set up wizard appears.
- When the Regional and Language Options window appears, change as needed, then click Next.
- When the Personalize Your Software window appears, enter a name and organization if wanted, then click Next.
- When the Product Key window appears, enter the product key, then click Next.
- When the Computer Name and Administrator Password window appears, enter a password if wanted, then click Next.
When you enter the password, be sure the caps lock is off; passwords are case sensitive.
- When the Date and Time Setting window appears, change as needed, then click Next. Windows is installed, a progress bar indicates approximately how much of the task is complete.
- The computer reboots.
The Windows XP operating system is fully installed.