Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

If you can find a copy of XP, and if you can find drivers for the new hardware it's possible that it may work okay.

I would like to purchase one of the now very nominally priced Windows 8 Notebooks without a touch screen or a desktop, uninstall Windows 8, and then do a fresh install of Windows XP. Can this be done or does one have to remove the hard drive and install XP from a clean hard drive?

You don't have to remove the hard drive. There's no need for that. If you manage to install Windows XP on the machine, one of the things that you will do when you install it is overwrite everything on the hard drive. But I'll get to that in a minute.

There are several problems that you may end up running into if you elect to go down this path.

Windows XP is not available or supported

First is simply finding a copy of Windows XP. You won't find it on the shelves anymore and it's going to be difficult to get a new copy legally that you can in fact use for this purpose.

After XP has been installed, the other problem that you may run into is support for the hardware on these newer machines. Some of the hardware may require drivers that do not exist for Windows XP.

Now so far it hasn't been a huge problem, but it is a problem with newer machines. I expect it to get worse over time. Manufacturers are simply no longer supporting Windows XP, so they're not bothering to provide drivers for the hardware in those new machines.

The other issue of course is that XP support is ending in a little more than a year. You're not going to be able to get security updates past that point. Even if you do manage to install it successfully and use it after that point, your machine will become slowly more and more vulnerable to malware that is discovered after that point.

What should I do?

What I would really like to do is have you review an article that I wrote not long ago called "There's just no need to hate Windows 8." The issue is that Windows 8 is a fine operating system.

I really don't recommend you go down the path that you're going down. Windows 8 does not require a touch screen. It will work just fine without one. In fact it's working just fine on my machine here at home that has no touch screen using only a mouse and a keyboard like a traditional desktop or a laptop would. I honestly believe Windows 8 is something that you don't need to uninstall, you don't need to remove; it is perfectly viable as an operating system on a new machine. I recommend that.

If you go down this path, I want you to do one thing for me first. Humor me if you will. Before you install Windows XP from scratch, take a system image backup of the Windows 8 system. In other words, do a system image backup using your favorite backup program. I recommend Macrium Reflect. Take a complete image of that machine; save that somewhere.

I predict that at some point in the future, you're going to want to go to Windows 8 for one reason or another. By saving a system image today, that gives you the ability to revert to the Windows 8 installation that your machine actually came with.

After you've taken that system image then install your Windows XP if you've managed to find a copy. Make sure that it formats or erases the entire hard drive and installs Windows XP from scratch and then see how it goes. It's possible that it may work okay. It's just not something I recommend and not something I recommend for the long term.

Article C6408 - April 21, 2013 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?


April 21, 2013 3:03 PM

If your system comes with more than 4GB of RAM, you will not be able to address it all if you install XP.

Ken B
April 22, 2013 9:26 AM

There are a couple of other choices:

First, if your computer supports it, you can install "XP Mode", which is Microsoft's "official" way of running XP within Windows 7 (and, I assume, 8).

Second, though this may be "too techie" for many people, is to install a "virtual machine" on your system. I have used Oracle's "VirtualBox" to run numerous operating systems on my system. (There are other VMs out there, but this is the one I'm using.)

Yes, this requires that you find a legal XP install, but you would need that no matter what method you use. (Microsoft's "XP Mode" includes a legal copy.)

I happen to like choice 2, because it lets me run multiple systems on a single box. (Of course, I'm a geek, so I like having things like MS-DOS 6, Windows 3.1, Windows XP, and several flavors of Linux available at the click of a mouse.)

I'm a fan of approach #2 as well, though as you say it is a bit techie. Unfortunately I don't believe XP Mode is available in Windows 8. (Though I would assume it's preserved if you do an upgrade install of Windows 8 on top of Windows 7.)

Ken B
April 22, 2013 10:17 AM

I probably should have looked further regarding XP Mode and Windows 8:

With the end of extended support for Windows XP in April 2014, Microsoft has decided not to develop Windows XP Mode for Windows 8. If you’re a Windows 7 customer who uses Windows XP Mode and are planning a move to Windows 8, this article may be helpful to you.

When you upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 8, Windows XP Mode is installed on your machine, however Windows Virtual PC is not present anymore. This issue occurs because Windows Virtual PC is not supported on Windows 8. To retrieve data from the Windows XP Mode virtual machine, perform the steps listed in the More Information section.

April 23, 2013 11:32 AM

Even if you can get a legal copy of XP, most any computer less than 5 years old will have SATA drives and XP doesn't support them. You'll need to patch your installation media (google "slipstream")

Mark J
April 23, 2013 12:12 PM

I have a netbook with a SATA drive and it came with XP. Maybe some older versions of XP don't support SATA, but there are many XP systems running with SATA drives.

April 24, 2013 4:50 PM

Yes, XP runs on SATA drives, but older installation media did not have the required drivers, often causing a BSOD early into the installation. These days I find XP SP3 installation media installs fine on SATA drives.

Regarding XP in general, it's a dinosaur, let's bury it.

May 4, 2013 4:53 AM

Since nobody told me about the SATA drivers last year, when I installed XP on a used SATA hard drive I did it anyway. I was never asked for hard drive drivers or anything. It installed, just like the PATA version, no difference, just slightly faster, due to the interface. I thought only SCSI drives needed drivers and plug in USB drives. You cannot run an OS through a portable drive, it is too slow.

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