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How do I downgrade from Windows Vista to Win XP Pro?

There are a few important points that you must realize before you jump in and buy a brand spanking new copy of Vista, expecting to be able to use your “downgrade rights” to downgrade to XP Pro:

  1. YOU MUST have purchased an OEM version of Windows Vista BUSINESS or Windows Vista ULTIMATE (NOT ANY OF THE HOME EDITIONS) to be able to downgrade. AND IT HAS TO BE THE OEM VERSION (more on that later).
  2. YOU MUST ALREADY HAVE A LICENSED COPY OF WINDOWS XP PRO. This one might not sound fair, but apparently it is.
  3. MICROSOFT IS MEAN ABOUT DOWNGRADES: They will NOT provide you with a Windows XP disc to do your downgrade when you buy Vista — they expect you to already have one.
  4. Microsoft WILL NOT provide to you an XP KEY __and__ a Vista key when you buy Vista.

The idea behind the “downgrade rights” is as follows:

Say you’re a business and you have machines humming along, running Windows XP.

Suddenly, your company makes a couple of bucks and you, as manager, wanna blow them on some brand spankin’ new machines.

So you decide: 50 machines. Intel core 2 duo’s, 4 gigs of ram per each, and a couple of WD 500GB hard disk drives on all. You top that off by cramming in wickedly fast NVIDIA cards, because employees stay late sometimes to play games over the lan at work, you know, to boost company morale and all.

Now, time to decide on the O/S.

You know that Vista stinks right now. But you also know that in time, there will be some essential piece of software that you just have to have that will require you to use Vista.

So you don’t want to go and buy 50 XP licenses when you know the impending doom — the time to upgrade to VISTA — will surely come sometime in the next couple of years.


That’s right sir. You can BUY Vista now, but hold off using it UNTIL you are forced to.

If you have a machine that’s running XP Pro and you want to buy another new machine, then you can buy that new machine with an OEM version of Vista Business or Vista Ultimate, THEN USE THE SAME LICENSE AS THE OLD COMPUTER TO KEEP USING XP PRO ON THE NEW COMPUTER.

So that’s the key: You only get the Vista key, and you have to use an already existing, legitimate XP key to install the downgrade. AND you have to already have the CD. SOME OEM vendors will GIVE you an XP oem cd when you buy a computer with Vista, but you have to ask for it, usually.

If you don’t know what OEM means, OEM means “ORIGINAL EQUIPMENT MANUFACTURER”.

Good def from a “fuel definitions” page (hey, you find good things everywhere!):

OEM: Original Equipment Manufacturer. Provide the original product design and materials for its assembly and manufacture. OEMs are directly responsible for manufacturing and modifying the products, making them commercially available, and providing the warranty.

In short the OEM version is a cheap unpackaged version of Vista and it looks like this. WINDOWS VISTA BUSINESS OEM – NOTICE HOW ITS UGLY:

Windows Vista Business OEM
Click to see on amazon

Vista Business retail
Click to see on amazon

The “retail” edition is what is referred to as the “FPP” – Fully Packaged Product.

Explain to who you’re buying your new computer from that you want the downgrade rights. They should know to give you a proper copy of the OEM.

Unfortunately, some of the reps I have spoken to seem to be in the dark about the details. Be patient and make sure they understand you want to downgrade rights before you make the purchase, and keep at them until they guarantee you that you can get the downgrade rights.

What about the docs MS provides?

If you read the official documents from MS, pdf marketingese type sheet and the downgrade rights chart, they pretty much say what I’ve been saying above, except they’re a lot less clear.

Essentially all that says is “ya can buy vista now and use YOUR OLD COPY OF XP on yer new computa, which is somethin’ we’s usually don’t allow, son. Bacause when ya install XP on a machine, it gets married to that machine. An’ so you’re askin’ that old copy of XP to fornicate with yer new machine, which is usually illegal. But if ya do things right, and buy the right version of our new but struggling O/S, we can make it happen.”

This is a great article that fully explains it as well.

From the article:

So what downgrades does Microsoft allow? Owners of the OEM editions of Vista Business and Vista Ultimate can downgrade to Windows XP Professional, including Tablet PC Edition and x64 Edition. Only the OEM editions qualify for a downgrade, so if you purchased a new PC with either Business or Ultimate preinstalled, you’re in like Flynn.

Those who aren’t: All users of Vista Home Basic and Vista Home Premium, and anyone who upgraded to Vista using a retail edition of any of the operating system’s SKUs. You are, as they say, SOL.


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