Upgrade Downgrade: Laptop Edition
October 10, 2011 1:13 PM   Subscribe

Getting a brand new Core i7 laptop. How sensible is it to downgrade it to XP?

I'm replacing a workhorse laptop I bought in 2005 that, because I bought it with longevity in mind, is still doing well.

But it's really time for a replacement. So the new one is going to follow the same model.

All of that said, I want to know what kinds of big advantages I'll get from sticking with Windows 7 vs. downgrading to XP. The new machine is pretty speedy 2.0 Ghz, with 8MB of RAM and 7200 rpm HDs with about 1TB of space.

Does it make any sense to flip to XP? I'm also concerned about mounting XP and not being able to use components on the laptop because of a lack of drivers for them... So what do I need to know here?
posted by yellowcandy to Computers & Internet (32 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
if you downgrade to XP, half your RAM will be unusable by the system (unless you're using the 64bit version of WinXP). here's a link with info (and more links).
posted by radiosilents at 1:17 PM on October 10, 2011

It really doesn't make much sense. Lack of drivers is a very real danger, and 7 is... well, it's fine. It's not Vista. I'm a card-carrying member of the Vista Hater Club, and I use OS X and Ubuntu when I can - but I still fine Win7 perfectly acceptable. There is no advantage to downgrading, and many disadvantages, certain and potential.
posted by Tomorrowful at 1:17 PM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Could you expand on your reasoning for wanting to use XP?
posted by contraption at 1:17 PM on October 10, 2011

(i'm assuming you meant 8GB of RAM and not actually 8MB)
posted by radiosilents at 1:17 PM on October 10, 2011

W7 is waaaaay better than XP, so I have no idea why you would want to downgrade. Plus, finding drivers for W7 is waaaay easier than it ever was with XP. I haven't had any problems yet.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:18 PM on October 10, 2011

I would stick to Windows 7. If you get the "pro" (not sure about the nomenclature here) you will also get the Windows XP emulator which has worked well for me with legacy stuff which might not run on Windows 7.

Windows 7 is not Vista - it is a real upgrade to XP.
posted by NoDef at 1:18 PM on October 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

"Downgrade" is the key word here. XP is just a huge pile of suck compared to Windows 7. You might see snappy performance now, but in a few months it will be dragging. Unless you have some legacy software that won't run in Windows 7, just stick with it. You can run it in "classic mode" which makes it look mostly like XP.

Seriously, though. XP is a pile of smelly garbage that you'll be glad to be rid of.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 1:19 PM on October 10, 2011

The main advantage from using Windows 7 for me was: it's much better suited to use WiFi. Windows remembers the passwords and network settings from previous visits. And since I sometimes use four or five different networks a day, never have to lose any time logging in, is a huge plus.
posted by ijsbrand at 1:19 PM on October 10, 2011

Can't really recommend the downgrade. Windows 7 is a lot saner than Vista was, and going to XP will probably be more trouble than it's worth. You've got plenty of RAM (I assume that's meant to be 8GB rather than 8MB), so performance shouldn't be a big issue.

As you note, you may hit a lot of driver issues on XP because the hardware's designed for Windows 7.

If you're concerned about compatibility, Windows 7 is generally very good with XP compatibility, but you can also (if you've got Win7 Professional or Ultimate editions) download "Windows XP mode" from Microsoft, which is just a licensed copy of XP running in a VirtualPC virtual machine.

If you're not qualified for XP mode, then you've got the option of running a copy of XP in VMware.

Basically, lots more grief than it's worth. You'll probably be happier with Win 7. (And this is coming from a hardcore Unix/Linux/OSX guy.)
posted by McCoy Pauley at 1:20 PM on October 10, 2011

I hope you mean 8 GB of RAM. The maximum amount of RAM that applications could use on a 32-bit copy of Windows XP would actually only be 3 GB (2 GB unless you set the /3GB parameter).
posted by grouse at 1:21 PM on October 10, 2011

I just went through this a week ago with an i5 (see my previous question). Don't downgrade. What component is so precious that you would consider downgrading rather than replacing the component?
posted by desjardins at 1:21 PM on October 10, 2011

What specifically do you have that doesn't work with Win7?
posted by k8t at 1:23 PM on October 10, 2011

To reiterate: Windows 7 is not Vista. desjardins' question covers how to handle any pre-installed crap; unless you have a very specific software compatibility issue, downgrading the core OS is a bad idea.
posted by holgate at 1:24 PM on October 10, 2011

Yes, everyone, sorry. It's 8GB of RAM.
posted by yellowcandy at 1:25 PM on October 10, 2011

Unless you have a specific software package that is necessary for your career/personal enjoyment/continued survival that absolutely must use XP, and you know for a fact it will not work under Windows 7, stick with Windows 7.

Microsoft supports OSes for an amazing number of years due to corporate needs and their slavery to backward compatibility. Windows XP was released for wide use in 2002. Bluetooth, WiFi, and a host of other technologies work so much less effectively under it because XP just wasn't built with them in mind.
posted by mikeh at 1:25 PM on October 10, 2011

Two things:

1. Support for Windows XP officially ends in 2013. That means no more critical updates.
2. If you plan to surf the internet on XP, keep in mind it gets infected very easily even if you're running the latest and greatest A/V.

If you run into compatibility issues, consider using XP mode as a workaround, but not XP as your main OS. It's old, abused, and will not perform as well over time. (as many have said above).
posted by samsara at 1:38 PM on October 10, 2011

+1 for staying with Windows 7. It is so much better than XP or Vista.
posted by dyno04 at 1:42 PM on October 10, 2011

So I was super skeptical of upgrading from winXP, which worked well for me.

Then they switched us over to Win7 at work. Win7 is winXP but better. I have absolutely no complaints about Win7. You'll spend a month or so getting use to doing things a little bit differently, and then you'll love it.
posted by royalsong at 1:46 PM on October 10, 2011

I was reeeally hesitant about the Win7 thing, but I'm pretty happy with it. The taskbar's got some differences I'm not so sure about, but the start menu search is quite nice and the stability has been very good, and most of the visual stuff I didn't like was simple to turn off.
posted by gracedissolved at 2:25 PM on October 10, 2011

Why on earth do you think XP might be better than Windows 7?
posted by jsturgill at 2:25 PM on October 10, 2011

Yeah, W7 is the point where Microsoft finally put out a version of Windows that I could actually stand to use for day-to-day computer stuff. I can't see any upsides whatsoever (apart from masochism) to installing XP instead.
posted by pharm at 2:31 PM on October 10, 2011

XP is ugly, often slow, acquires cruft over time and is still a security nightmare. Windows 7 is better in every possible way.
posted by cnc at 3:14 PM on October 10, 2011

I bought my previous laptop when I did (about 5 years ago) because I wanted to get one with XP, before Vista became standard. I'm really conservative about computers.

But that one died, and the replacement had, of course, Win 7. I was getting already to hate it, and see how much like XP I could make it. Much to my surprise, I like Win 7. I did have to spend some time learning the new paradigm for the taskbar, and to realize that the search box in the Start menu was the key to almost everything, but I'm one of those guys now saying that Microsoft finally got an OS right.

(Oh yeah, the search function still sucks. Get "Search Everything", same as XP.)
posted by benito.strauss at 3:18 PM on October 10, 2011

Among other things, XP is a security nightmare compared to 7.

But you have your answer by unanimous consensus already. Wait until you try an OS designed in the current century!
posted by spitbull at 4:26 PM on October 10, 2011

Good lord people talk a lot of nonsense about Windows.

Win XP is good, but outdated. Vista is fine now it's been patched up and the drivers have caught up. Windows 7 is the best of the bunch.

Really, you can't go wrong with any of them, but there's absolutely no reason to downgrade.
posted by Sebmojo at 5:45 PM on October 10, 2011

Win7 is better than XP. It's worth taking the time to learn it (and figure out how to de-crunk it by turning off a lot of the UAC stuff).

If you need to run XP for certain apps, Virtual XP works 'ok' (it's a free download from Microsoft) but you might need to tweak it a little. I've heard that VMWare runs better than Virtual XP.
posted by porpoise at 9:25 PM on October 10, 2011

UAC is a fantastic addition and I wouldn't turn it off.
posted by grouse at 9:38 PM on October 10, 2011

There's really not much choice at this point but to go with Windows 7. But in changing over you may a lot of WTF moments when you see the change-for-the-sake-of-change in lots of UI features, often for the worse. If you have older printers/scanners/other external hardware, you may find that Win7 drivers either work worse than their XP counterparts or are not available at all. Win7's UAC is good, at least better than Vista's, but you will still find stupidities like needing to select 'run as administrator' even if your account is an administrator, to effect changes to the machine.

I'm mystified by those who say Win7 is so much better. XP was pretty straightforward. Win7 is less so, for no apparently good reason. UAC is good but still has problems. Aero Glass? Thats just LOL.
posted by DarkForest at 11:01 PM on October 10, 2011

Chiming in: I stayed on XP until 7 came out since I didn't like what I saw from Vista. Unless you have a very specific need like some software you want to run MUST be run in XP because you can't get it running in 7 and you can't live without it, I would just stick with 7. It's rather good.

As for drivers, I had a run-in with this scenario recently where a friend purchased a Windows 7 based net-top to replace an aging office computer and actually did run into a scenario where Windows 7 64-bit would not run a piece of software that is basically the core of her business (the software will NOT run on a 64-bit OS, period). I first tried throwing 32-bit Windows 7 on it, but most of the hardware had no 32-bit drivers at all for 7, and then I went down to XP and hunted for literally hours to find drivers that would work for enough of the hardware to make the thing usable. At the end of the day, audio's borked, graphics are running in 16 bit color and there's a half dozen (!) marks in the hardware manager but it works well enough to get the job done. Bottom line is that if I had a magic time machine I would have gone back before she dropped the money on a net-top and guided her to buy some generic whitebox parts that specifically had XP drivers on them. Seeing as the laptop you're purchasing ships with 7 I wouldn't expect some of the hardware to have XP drivers from the manufacturer and that will be a world of pain.

So my vote is stick with 7. It just takes a bit to get used to it and then you'll wonder why you stuck around on XP all this time. Just like 98se to Windows XP.
posted by barc0001 at 11:14 PM on October 10, 2011


There are several things I like about 7 over XP. It is more stable definitely, memory management is better, once you get used to the UI I find it faster to get around in, some of the more advanced stuff like multimonitor support is easier to configure than in Win XP, the libraries feature in Explorer makes a lot of sense once you get used to it, it doesn't seem to bork mounting flash drives as much as my XP workstation did, and UAC is a huge help for the average user to stop something unexpected from installing itself. Plus I really like the taskbar for pinning stuff to and organizing what's open, especially when I have 20 terminals and a dozen textfiles open, way faster to get where I want to be than under XP.
posted by barc0001 at 11:22 PM on October 10, 2011

more stable definitely

I have not seen any difference. Both are stable in my experience unless there's some virus problem.

memory management is better

I'm wondering how you know this. What is the net difference in the user experience? Win7 certainly requires more memory than XP.

I find it faster to get around in

I find I have to dig deeper into the control panel to find the controls I actually want. I have to go through a couple of levels to configure the screen saver, for example. I like the search feature of the start menu, but sometimes I actually want to view/browse my set of installed programs, and the new start menu does not really support this well.

doesn't seem to bork mounting flash drives as much as my XP workstation

I never saw this happen in either system. But what I have noticed is that when I eject the flash drive, XP would turn off the flash drive light as a signal it was ready to remove. I liked that. Win7 does not have this feature.

UAC is a huge help for the average user

Agreed. I just don't think it's quite there yet. Too often it will fail silently, denying a program access but not notifying the user, unless the program is 'run as administrator'. And as administrator of my machine, I want to be able to view any file/directory on the system. In XP it was easy. Win7 makes it harder. While I agree that most users should not do that, there should be sensible account settings for average users vs administrators.

libraries feature in Explorer makes a lot of sense

I like the libraries feature OK, though I really prefer a straight forward view onto the filesystem. I don't mind the stuff they've added. But the stuff they've broken, or moved around for no real reason, or taken away is annoying.
posted by DarkForest at 12:13 AM on October 11, 2011

The one thing in 7 that has completely changed the way I work is Libraries, that alone is worth it to me.
posted by Mick at 9:24 AM on October 11, 2011

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