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Downgrading from Windows Vista Business / Ultimate Edition to Windows XP Professional

The biggest blunder I believe I had done while purchasing my Llenovo Thinkpad T61 last year was to have it shipped with Vista rather than XP. Because Vista sucks big time!! But there was one wise choice which I had made then unknowingly. I paid a few extra bucks and went in for Vista Business rather than Home Edition. This proved to be a boon because Microsoft offers a valid downgrade from Windows Vista Business / Ultimate Edition to Windows XP Professional. For further details visit

Quoting from a Microsoft source (

"Can I downgrade my OEM version of Windows Vista Business to Windows XP Professional?
Yes. OEM downgrade rights for desktop PC operating systems apply to Windows Vista Business and Windows Vista Ultimate as stated in the License Terms. Please note, OEM downgrade versions of Windows Vista Business and Windows Vista Ultimate are limited to Windows XP Professional (including Windows XP Tablet PC Edition and Windows XP x64 Edition). End users can use the following media for their downgrade: Volume Licensing media (provided the end user has a Volume Licensing agreement), retail (FPP), or system builder hologram CD (provided the software is acquired in accordance with the Microsoft OEM System Builder License). Use of the downgraded operating system is governed by the Windows Vista Business License Terms, and the end user cannot use both the downgrade operating system and Windows Vista Business. There are no downgrade rights granted for Windows Vista Home Basic or Windows Vista Home Premium."

Now coming to the actual procedure there are two ways:

i. Call up Lenovo and ask them to ship you a XP downgrade CD. They will charge you 45-50 USD for the media and shipping. And you can install XP on your thinkpad using that media.

ii. Paying an extra 50 USD for downgrade is really useless, right? So here is the cheaper alternative:

  1. Note the key of the Vista Business/Ultimate Edition you have currently installed.
  2. Get a valid Windows XP Professional media and install windows the way you do it normally.
  3. After installation, log into windows, and go to "Start->Programs->Click here to activate windows" (or something similar to that).
  4. You will be given three options - "Activation over Internet, Activation over phone or Postponing activation for a later date." Select "Activation over phone".
  5. Now you will be given an installation id and an option to select the country where you are living. Upon selecting the appropriate country, you will be presented with the Microsoft customer care number for that country (in India the toll free number for BSNL users is 1600 1111 00).
  6. Now follow the voice response system to get in touch with a customer care representative. In India, the sequence is as follows - 1 (For activation of Microsoft products) followed by 2 (for activation of Windows products) followed by 1 continuously (you will be asked to enter the installation id but just ignore it and keep pressing 1 until it finally says that an invalid installation id has been entered and redirects your call to a customer care rep.)
  7. If you want to you can request the customer care rep. for a new product key. But this is optional. Tell the customer care rep. that you would like to downgrade from Vista to XP. You will be asked for the Vista Key. Then you will be asked for the source of the XP media from which you have installed (I had borrowed the media from my friend who got it when he purchased a PC). This is to make sure that you have got the media from a valid source and not a pirated copy. Once you do this, you will be given a confirmation id which you can enter and your windows XP will be activated.

You are now ready to use Windows XP :)! I also suggest you backup your XP partition immediately after the installation and activation.



I started to feel Vista isn't all that bad !!!

Unfortunately I discovered recently that HP and Lenovo (and other manufacturers probably as well) start to ship their hardware with special Vista Business OEM license stickers. These stickers offer a license key which is not accepted by Windows XP Professional during installation process. I was unable yet to find out why. In earlier days this worked perfectly (just installing XP with the given Vista Business/Ultimate license key from the sticker). But the sticker looks different as well. It is entirely in light-red/pink. I played with several values within setupp.ini as well but no luck - XP does not accept this key.

For HP I worked around this problem by reading their recovery CD key from winnt.sif provided on their recovery CD. But for Lenovo this is not possible as the recovery discs are not normal installation discs and the files are encrypted too.

I also tried installing XP from the recovery CD which Lenovo provides and then extract the key from it. With this key I successfully installed a clean XP without all the Lenovo crap but I was unable to activate it. The phone support does not accept my license number and the activation assistant also does not accept to key printed on the license sticker (Vista Business OEM).

It seems that there is no way to do a proper/clean XP installation using the license key printed on the sticker.

If anybody knows how to work around this issue please let me know.

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