The Smart Way To Rip And Replace Vista With XP

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Many integrators are faced by an unexpected challenge created by Microsoft's latest operating system, Vista. The problem solution providers are finding is that, while Vista comes pre-installed on new systems, many customers don't want it.

That leaves integrators with unenviable task of ripping Vista off of new systems and replacing it with the customer's operating system of choice, in most cases Windows XP. While that process is far from an impossible task, it does come with complications, ranging from expending time, to locating drivers, to sorting out licenses.

What's more, integrators shouldn't attack the rip-and-replace issue without some forethought. Most importantly, there may be a time in the future when the customer wants to switch back to Vista, which could be problematic since the typical rip-and-replace procedure starts by relegating Vista to the netherworld via a drive formatting.

One of the first things an integrator should consider is how to preserve Vista for future use, because the day will come when Vista will be the rule rather than the exception on the corporate desktop.

The starting point should be backing up the PC's "as delivered state." Most of today's PCs and notebooks come bundled with a backup application that creates the factory install disks. The idea behind the technology is that upon completion of the initial setup of the system, a backup application is used to burn a DVD or CD that contains the initial state of the system. That is usually done using some form of imaging software.

Most manufactures offer that capability in lieu of shipping operating system and application CDs or DVDs. The higher-end products out on the market include name-brand backup and restore applications such as PowerQuest Drive Image pro or Symantec Norton Ghost. Lower-end units commonly offer low-end equivalents or no imaging applications whatsoever. Either way, backing up the original state of the system could be, at the very least, a billable service or, better yet, an opportunity to sell some backup software.

For this example Channel Test Center engineers selected the second option of using a third-party add-on product to back up the system. There are two major reasons to choose this path: first, software can later be installed to back up the new system; and second, third-party products offer additional imaging options that can speed the process and eliminate the need to complete the initial Vista setup before performing a backup.

NEXT: Walking Through The Steps, Including Screen ShotsEngineers selected True Image 9.1 Workstation from Acronis to accomplish the backup task. The product can be booted from and run directly from the installation CD and can create an emergency recovery DVD or an external USB hard drive that contains the complete drive image of the subject PC. The ability to boot and burn proves to be a significant time-saver and helps to make the process somewhat fool proof.

Booting from the Acronis CD Launches the Acronis recovery system.

The full version of Acronis offers many options.

Selecting Backup launches the backup Wizard.

Selecting to Backup the whole hard drive is the best way to proceed.

Acronis gives you the option to just back up partitions or select the whole drive.

Select a destination for the Backup " Here engineers selected the built-in DVD Burner

NEXT: Now That We're Backed Up, It's Time For The Rip And ReplaceWith the backup process completed, the next step is to downgrade the PC to Windows XP from Vista. The simplest and fastest way to accomplish that is to do a bare-bones install of Windows XP directly from an XP installation disk or from an image created on a similar PC, which is another instance where a third-party backup and imaging tool proves to be a valuable ally in the process.

There are several factors to consider when installing XP onto the new system. The first is what process will be followed to complete the installation. For smaller deployments of just a few PCs, a direct install from an XP installation CD is probably the best way to go.

Booting from a Windows XP CDRom brings up the familiar setup screen.

After agreeing to the license agreement, it's ready to go.

This screen gives you the ability to select a partition or create a new one.

After deleting the existing Vista partition, engineers used all drive space for XP.

A format is needed to complete the process. The "quick" version works fine in most cases.

XP formats the drive and prepares to copy over the OS.

Copying begins and the installation is almost complete.

After a reboot, XP goes through the final steps of installation

Larger deployments, especially those which are done under volume license agreements are best accomplished using an imaging solution that installs a clean copy of XP to the new PC. For more sophisticated installs, integrators can choose to build images that contain core applications and other company applications for deployment across an enterprise. For this example, engineers completed a fresh install of XP onto the new system by formatting the hard drive and following the installation wizard prompts.

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