I bought a Gateway Laptop for my daughter, who is going overseas to study and
do some type of research through her university. The laptop came with Windows
Vista which is totally unfamiliar to her. My daughter’s desktop came with
Windows XP Professional 4 years ago, and it’s still going and she loves it.
Can I switch from Windows Vista to Windows XP Pro? Am I going to have
problems with drivers, signatures, or certifications?
The most likely answer is that no, you shouldn’t have any problems. But the
real answer is more like “it depends”.
Let’s look at the process, and the things that success will depend on.
Become a Patron of Ask Leo! and go ad-free!
My first recommendation is actually to consider sticking with Windows Vista.
80% of the most common complaints with Vista can be removed by turning off
user access control. That’ll disable one of Vista’s security features, but
it’ll be just as secure as XP was.
Other than that and some UI fluff and rearranging, Vista really is just an
incremental change on top of XP. There’s not really that much to learn for most
But I certainly get that one person’s “not much to learn” can be someone
else’s “no way do I want to deal with all that”.
sticking with Windows Vista.”
I would first contact your computer manufacturer and see if they offer
Windows XP for your daughter’s laptop. If they can provide it, then the chances
of success are very high, since it’ll naturally come with all the manufacturer
specific drivers that you might need.
If that’s not an option, then your next best alternative is to purchase a
retail copy of Windows XP from any of the vendors still selling it (Amazon, for example). This will get you a
working copy of Windows XP for the laptop.
The problem, if you want to call it that, is that any manufacturer-specific
drivers and software will not be included. So, for example, if Gateway includes
Gateway-specific drivers for Gateway-specific hardware you won’t have those.
Chances are your hardware will still operate, but some of the non-standard
features may not be enabled.
The good news here is that those drivers are typically still available from
the manufacturer. You’ll need to check with them when you discover what’s
missing. The bad news, of course, is that you have to go through this and do
the research after you’ve installed Windows XP and find out what isn’t working
quite the way you expected.
But chances are good that the things missing might not be things you’d even
notice. It all depends on your computer, and what you’re used to doing with
Switching from Vista to XP is considered a downgrade. That means
that the Windows XP setup program will see that you have a newer version of
Windows already on your machine. As a result it will refuse to overwrite
There are two approaches, neither of them ideal:
If Windows XP Setup allows you to, install Windows XP “along side” Windows
Vista. That is, Vista is not removed and XP is installed separately. You might
even end up with dual-boot to allow you to choose at boot time which one you
Unfortunately, you’ll still have to reinstall all your applications.
Applications that were installed on Vista, even though Vista remains, will not
be “installed” and setup properly for your new Windows XP installation. Even
worse, switching between XP and Vista, if you choose to do so, may get
confusing as configuration changes will need to be made in both places.
My recommendation is that you instead backup, reformat and reinstall from
scratch. This will remove everything from your system hard disk, including
Vista, all applications and data. Then you can reinstall Windows XP cleanly
from scratch, reinstall all your applications (which we saw we’d have to do
anyway), and restore any data you might need from other disks or your
Reverting from Vista to XP is no small task. By and large it should work,
and work well, but depending on the support of your computer’s vendor, there
may be niggling little issues that remain after the “downgrade”.
That’s why my honest recommendation, particularly for a machine with Vista
pre-installed, is to simply bite the bullet and give Vista a chance.