Ram with a View
February 12, 2008 12:43 PM   Subscribe

Going to try "downgrade" my new laptop from Vista to XP. Most painless method? Software to identify all drivers or other methods?

The providor (Packard Bell) doesn't offer downgrade disks it would appear, and while the support page for the unit describes most (all?) the drivers they have for Vista, I am thinking there might be a simpler alternative? I googled for driver identifier software but what didn't seem dodgy seemed to be pay. I am terrified of missing something and not knowing what the yellow question mark refers to. For the actual install I am gathering that booting with the XP disk in is the business?
All hand-holding appreciated, and sorry for the lame title.
posted by Iteki to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Holy cow, I had no idea Packard Bell was still around.

I would be wary of this. If the manufacturer doesn't provide XP drivers, you're likely not going to find drivers for some critical components. Laptop drivers can be crazy like that--they are usually proprietary.
posted by fusinski at 1:04 PM on February 12, 2008

1) Download all XP drivers from the web site to a USB flash drive.

2) Boot from XP CD and install XP.

3) Install drivers from flash drive.

If drivers for your computer's hardware are available from Windows update, some of them may get installed automatically. However, that probably won't be the case with Packard Bell.

For those thinking, "Didn't Packard Bell go out of business years ago?", they still sell computers in Europe.
posted by qvtqht at 1:06 PM on February 12, 2008

P.S. Vista drivers probably won't work with XP.

If you want to give it a try, don't format your hard drive during the XP install, but just install to a different directory, for example C:\WINXP instead of C:\WINDOWS. If it doesn't work out, you can revert to Vista. If it works fine, feel free to wipe the hard drive and do a clean install.
posted by qvtqht at 1:08 PM on February 12, 2008

Response by poster: Sorry for unclearness. The drivers on the product site are all Vista. I am assuming I will have to track down the XP versions myself from the manafacturer. I am mainly wondering if there is a software that will correctly identify all my components that are going to need drivers after the XP install (other than what might come bundled in XP). It's end-of-model hardware so I suspect there are XP drivers out there. FTR Packard Bell is still around in euroville, 75% owned by Acer.
posted by Iteki at 1:41 PM on February 12, 2008

Wait, its unclear whether packard bell offers you XP drivers because if they dont you might be out of luck. Some hardware in laptops dont even have drivers released to the public for XP when they are sold for Vista OEM equipment.

There's no such thing as a downgrade. You must wipe that disk and install XP from scratch. That means backing up everything. qvtqht's suggestion is good too but the XP loader will not let you boot into vista I believe.

I imagine the best scenario for you is either to stick with Vista until Service Pack 1 is released in March (it fixes many issues) or learn how to partition a drive and attempt to make a dual booting laptop.
posted by damn dirty ape at 1:55 PM on February 12, 2008

If you have SATA on your system, and you don't have a floppy drive to store the drivers on, you probably will need to slipstream the drivers onto a new XP CD. If you do this, I recommend using nLite.
posted by grouse at 2:44 PM on February 12, 2008

Best answer: XP SP2 disc contains some sata drivers. You also may be able to go into the BIOS and tell it to not use SATA but to use a 'legacy' protocol, I believe thats what HP calls it. Then it will treat the disk as an EIDE disk and windows should work without sata.

FWIW, Microsoft will soon be releasing SP3. It will have a few more drivers than the SP2 disc. If you find that Vista with SP1 isnt your cup of tea, Id wait for SP3 to come out and get my hands on a retail sp3 disc or make a disc with sp3 slipstreamed. Regardless, none of this is easy for most users. If youve never put windows on before then youre really going to see that it doesnt 'just work.' And without those XP drivers it will never 'just work.'

Lastly, do not use an XP SP1 or XP (no service pack) disc for install. Your dual-core processor will work at a snails pace and I'd be surprised if it even booted.
posted by damn dirty ape at 2:57 PM on February 12, 2008

Packard Bell does still exist, it's just a brand of Gateway now.

I recently went through this with a Fujitsu laptop that came with Vista onto which I wanted to install Windows Server 2003. nLite is definitely what you want; Driverpacks.net may also be useful. My Server 2003 didn't even have SP1 (it was pretty old) so I had to slipstream SP2 as well. By the time I got the service pack and all the drivers I needed onto the CD, I needed an 80 minute CD to hold everything, but it did basically work.

Even if you get the OS installed, you may not be able to find drivers for all the hardware. I managed to get everything but the wireless networking working on the Fujitsu. Which is OK for my needs -- it's being used as a server, hence the server OS -- but it might be some other device(s) on your machine.
posted by kindall at 3:22 PM on February 12, 2008

I have a newish laptop and I share your disenchantment with Vista. And yet — however attractive downgrading to XP may feel at the moment — the potential difficulties involved have caused me to pause and consider the alternatives. One is waiting for Vista SP1, to see what improvements that may bring. The other is a book just published, Windows Vista Annoyances, by David A. Karp (O'Reilly, $35) 600 pages of advice for how to confront what annoys you and defeat it. I bought the book and it's helping me make Vista a lot more like XP. (I rejoiced when I was able to turn off the deranged need for three sequential dialog boxes just to move or rename a file: Control Panel, Security Center, User Access Control, off. I might be a little less secure, but I'm definitely a lot happier.)
posted by exphysicist345 at 5:43 PM on February 12, 2008

Best answer: I've been pretty successful at downgrading Vista laptops even when the manufacturers don't supply a full complement of XP drivers.

Download Astra32. It will give you full specs on all your hardware. Often you'll be able to track down drivers from other manufacturer's sites that use the same chips.
posted by sockpup at 7:12 PM on February 12, 2008

Google around for your model number and "XP drivers", "XP howto", and any other useful search terms you can think of. I did that when I downgraded my Dell and found a couple of message board postings that listed all of the drivers I needed, linked to them, and had some helpful tips on installation.
posted by indyz at 8:46 PM on February 12, 2008

By the way, it would help if you posted the exact model number of your computer.

It's possible that they sell (or used to sell) the same computer with XP under a different model number, and that's how you can find the drivers.
posted by qvtqht at 9:39 AM on February 15, 2008

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