Farewell Vista, Hello XP
After exploring Windows Vista for about
Vista's new navigation features had slowly grown on me, though I hadn't tried to work daily with the OS.
For example, I love being able to shut down with one click; I like the junk filtering in Windows Mail (Vista's upgraded version of Outlook Express); and I appreciate the way I can easily
Annoyances Drive Me Backwards
Unfortunately, small time-wasting annoyances in Vista cropped up almost immediately. Auto-complete of e-mail addresses in Windows Mail works only with the 29 most recently used contacts (I have well over a thousand), and overall the program is slow. The Search Indexer had an irritating tendency to start when I watched an HD DVD, and
As irksome as these things were, I considered them livable. It was only when I discovered that my sound card's drivers for ASIO (a high-performance audio standard for recording musical instruments and vocals) didn't work well under Vista that the balance tipped irretrievably towards "downgrading" to XP.
The beta ASIO drivers may have been spotty, it may have been a system configuration problem, it may have been me--Vista is actually reputed to be much better for Pro audio--but I decided that it was time to revert to good old stable XP with its mature driver support.
How About Dual Booting?
I considered leaving Vista installed, installing XP, and then dual-booting using a boot manager that hides the OS not in use. But the failure of Acronis's Boot Manager and of OSLBoot (included with the OEM version of Vista) frustrated me.
I then tried installing XP on another, visible partition and using the Vista boot manager, but with XP installed on the D: drive, I had problems with nVidia drivers. I finally succeeded with Avanquest's System Commander 9 boot manager, but by that time I'd concluded that I really didn't want Vista around anymore and decided to overwrite it. Here's how I did it. (You may also want to view our video, "How to Reinstall Windows XP"--but remember, its focus is on a clean reinstall of your existing XP rather than on reverting to XP from Vista.)
The first step to reverting to XP is to save your Vista data, the subtleties of which I'll get into later. After backing up the pertinent data, I used Acronis's True Image to make a backup of the entire Vista partition in case I forgot to copy something. This little fail-safe procedure has saved my tukus on more than one occasion.
Next, move your program data (your documents, images, and other files) to a safe location--that is,
What about applications? Alas, the tricks I describe below can't be used for migrating apps from Vista to XP. That step you
When you're ready to do it (not yet!), moving program data to Windows XP is easy enough. Instead of XP's My Documents, Vista stores data in a User folder
There is data hidden in your User folders that you may or may not need (the default e-mail repository, for example,
Close the dialog box, and you'll see a folder called AppData;
Don't install XP yet! You're nearly there, but a few more details
The Mail Mess
In my case, transferring the data I'd accrued using Vista's native apps back to my XP apps was the real problem. I'd used Vista nonstop for 60 days, and I retain all my e-mail correspondence with vendors to cover my, err, let's say posterior. Just copy it back?
Where Outlook Express stored messages in database files and contact information in the single-file Windows Address Book, Vista and Mail store every e-mail and contact as a separate file--a more versatile approach but also considerably less efficient and inadvertently responsible for the auto-complete bug I mentioned up front. In addition, it makes Windows Mail very slow compared
Vista Mail's address export function worked fine for the contacts. Before reinstalling XP I exported to both vCards and a .csv (Comma Separated Values) file, which is basically a text file with one record per line and each bit of information separated by a comma.
While vCards seemed like a good idea at first, Outlook Express's vCard import function lets you add only one at a time, and if you drag and drop multiple vCards into the program window, you still have to click the Okay button for every card. With about 1000 e-mail addresses to copy, I soured on that path to carpal tunnel in short order.
CSV import was much faster, and with the exception of a couple of odd characters in the First Name field, the Mail and Outlook Express fields matched up perfectly, so I was able to restock the Windows Address Book in XP in about 30 seconds.
Two Ways to Import E-Mail into XP
Finding an easy way to move my e-mail back into XP proved more difficult. Outlook Express's import function won't import Vista Mail's .eml messages wholesale.
You can save Vista Mail's messages to a safe place and then drag them directly into the Outlook Express window.
The above method works, but I have over 250 folders into which I sort e-mail or have archived for particular projects, so I really, really wanted a better way. Since I had Office 2007 with Outlook (any recent version of Office Outlook will do), I
If you're wondering why I don't use Office Outlook for my e-mail, I have
Time for Your XP Install
After all of that prep, installing XP over Vista is, in itself, not too difficult: Boot with your XP installation disc and install XP, overwriting Vista. And just make sure to select the partition that Vista is on and follow the prompts.
As I've said, there's not a lot you can do about migrating your applications back. If you were using two separate PCs, you could use Windows Easy Transfer or a similarly capable commercial product. I didn't consider that option, because
The solution is to reinstall your apps--which
Am I happy I moved back to XP? Very much so. The time I save by using Outlook Express
If you'd like to try Vista before removing XP, or if you're using Vista and would like to take a stroll down memory lane to see just how efficient the older OS is, download VMware Server or Virtual PC 2007 for free and try them in a virtual machine.