Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.
Windows Vista comes preinstalled on most new computers these days. You can typically revert to Windows XP if you like, but not without a little pain.
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.
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 common usage.
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".
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 it.
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 it.
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 want.
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 backup.
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.
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