Last year I bought a laptop that included Windows Vista Home Premium, OEM version. As I bought it for my linux work and am not fond of Vista, I would like to replace it by Windows XP or make a Virtual machine that runs XP.

Is it possible to legally downgrade my Vista version to XP without paying for an extra XP licence? There is some text in the Vista license about downgrading but I cannot understand it.

Can I just use my Vista license number for XP?

I'm talking here about how to do this in a legal way, not technically. I do not care for the data that's now on my system, I just as well would like to do a clean reinstall.

(I do not like Vista because of the strict administrator policies and the memory overhead, but that's not what this question is about.)

  • 5
    Can't understand why XP is considered better than Vista. An 8 years old OS...
    – splattne
    Commented Jul 17, 2009 at 20:43
  • Please could you rephrase this. Commented Jul 17, 2009 at 21:42
  • @Diago ...rephrased question
    – Roalt
    Commented Jul 21, 2009 at 6:43
  • 3
    Around here we consider moving from Vista to XP to be an upgrade. Commented Sep 10, 2009 at 21:01

5 Answers 5


According to official Microsoft document from http://download.microsoft.com/download/5/f/4/5f4c83d3-833e-4f11-8cbd-699b0c164182/royaltyoemreferencesheet.pdf

The OEM vesions of Windows Vista Business and Windows Vista Ultimate include downgrade rights to Microsoft Windows XP Professional, Microsoft Windows XP Professional x64 Edition, and Microsoft Windows XP Tablet PC Edition. Customers may not downgrade to Windows 2000 Professional from Windows Vista Business or Windows Vista Ultimate. No downgrade rights are included in other Windows Vista products in the OEM channel

Translation: Legally you can downgrade OEM versions Vista Business and Vista Ultimate. Other version cannot be legally downgraded.


First an answer I don't believe it's possible for consumers to downgrade a license from Vista Home Premium to XP

There is some info here http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9040318/FAQ_Giving_up_on_Vista_Here_s_how_to_downgrade_to_XP You'd obviously need to perform a clean install to do this.

Next a comment

Vista isn't crap, it's much better than XP. It had a bad run on release due to hardware manufacturers failing to write half decent drivers.

And some advice

Personally I'd buy a Windows 7 Upgrade license for $50 rather than stepping back 8 years to XP if you really can't stand Vista

  • 1
    It's all about experience, and trying Vista was really horrible, especially with the 10x times it asked permissions for the tinyist details. I admit I installed Win 7 RC and that's what it should have been. But it's officially not out so no way to get there already for the longer run.
    – Roalt
    Commented Jul 19, 2009 at 10:08
  • If you look at benchmarks for gaming, Vista performs worse that either XP or Win7. Probably because of the memory footprint. So maybe crap is a bit harse, but it's worse for me.
    – Roalt
    Commented Jul 19, 2009 at 10:15
  • I, and some other people around here, continue to have problems with Vista that we didn't have with XP. This isn't due to problems writing drivers (and Microsoft made it considerably harder to write audio and video drivers for Vista), but other issues. I have hopes for Windows 7, but definitely prefer XP to Vista. Commented Sep 10, 2009 at 21:04
  • Note that Windows 7 Enterprise is currently available as a free 90-day trial. Note that it isn't an RC. Plus, Windows 7 is only a little over a month away. While XP is nice, it seems a little stale for your sort of modern hardware, and Windows 7 sports better power management features (supposedly), helping you kick out extra battery life to balance the slightly increased memory footprint and processor load. Commented Sep 10, 2009 at 23:10

Before you even think about going with XP, check whether you can find ALL XP drivers for your PC. Chances are you don't and then the project is dead in the water anyhow. And as was said earlier, who wants to wrestle with an 8 year old OS these days. Follow the advice and get Windows7.


I think the only way you can downgrade an existing Vista to XP is to install XP over it. They're completely different operating systems under the hood.

  • I do not care for my existing data. I clarified my question to this point.
    – Roalt
    Commented Jul 19, 2009 at 10:11

It is possible to get rid of Vista and go to XP.

If you have a license for XP, creating a Virtual Machine is the easiest way to go. You can get Virtual PC for a free solution, or preferably get VMWare Workstation and go that route. This way you won't have to mess with backing stuff op on your Vista machine.

If you have no need for Vista then you will basically have to start from scratch by installing XP as a clean install over the Vista partition. Be sure to back up anything pertinent first. It is similar to installing XP normally, you just need to format the Vista partition first.

If you decide to go that route here is a link describing how to do it:


  • There is some text in the license of Windows Vista that says that you can downgrade. I just wonder how to do this, I do not want to sponser Microsoft with buying another windows license because they gave me a faulty product. I changed my question accordingly
    – Roalt
    Commented Jul 19, 2009 at 10:13
  • Well unless you have a separate license of XP from an older machine or go down to some computer junk store and pick up a machine that has a license sticker attached to it you are out of luck to do it legally. Microsoft doesn't count the number of licenses you have installed with XP so you can install an older license on a new machine without issue.
    – amarcy
    Commented Jul 20, 2009 at 15:06

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