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I just bought a laptop. It came with Windows Vista Home. I wasn't that happy with the performance so I decided to downgrade to XP. I used a USB to USB cable and formated the hard drive.

I booted from the DVD drive and during the installation got this error:

Setup did not find any hard disk drives installed in your computer.

Make sure any hard disk drives are powered on and properly connected to your computer, and that any disk-related hardware configuration is correct. This may involve running a manufacturer-supplied diagnostic or setup program.

Setup cannot continue. To quit Setup, press F3.

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Can you see the hard disk in BIOS? – Aaron Dec 19 '11 at 14:26

You'll need to find disk-controller drivers for your laptop. If it came pre-loaded with Vista... you might be out of luck. Many manufacturers never made xp drivers.

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First some background:

One of the most common disk formats on laptops used to be IDE/ATA. This is old.
It was replaced by something called AHCI and SATA.

To ease the transition SATA comes with two modes:

  1. Ancient IDE compatability mode.
  2. The normal AHCI mode.

You want the latter. It offers much more features.

Now XP is also ancient. Even XP SP3. It was designed a decade ago under the assumption that it would be installed on a system with an ancient IDE compatible drive. If that is not the case then you need to press F6 to load addition drivers.

This was usually used to load SCSI or RAID card drivers, but you also need it for a SATA controller in AHCI mode.

In small steps this means you want to do the following:

  • Boot windows XP SP 3 from a CDROM.
  • During the setup a you will be prompted to 'press F6 to load additional drivers'.
    When this happens press F6.
  • Insert your floppy with the drivers.
  • load the drivers and continue the installation. XP should now work fine.

The problematic parts here are two fold:

  1. There need to be drivers for XP. And there is no reason for a modern laptop manufacturer to write those for such an ancient OS. So you might just be out of luck.
  2. You either need a classical floppy drive or a recognized USB floppy drive. At the time XP was released it recognised four very specific models of USB floppy drives, so you need to make sure you get the right one.

On addition to that XPs regular support ended 5 years ago. Extended support will end on the 8th of April of this year, meaning no more security updates. At that time you have the choice of either installing a different OS, or glueing shut all USB and network ports (and wireless) and using it as a secure standalone laptop.

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