Data Doctor: Changing computer operating system could cause problems - East Valley Tribune: Business

Data Doctor: Changing computer operating system could cause problems

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Posted: Friday, September 28, 2007 12:55 pm | Updated: 7:33 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Q. I recently purchased a new laptop with Vista. I am very frustrated with it, and since I have a new copy of XP professional I would like to dump Vista and load XP. How should I go about this? - Hugh

A. This scenario has become very common in our stores across the country as folks who were not given a choice of Windows versions when they bought their new systems are looking to revert back to Windows XP.

Although it may seem like the best thing to do since you are familiar with Windows XP, it may actually create a whole new series of problems for you. In other words, this may not fix your problem; it will simply change it.

There are a couple of major issues that you must consider before taking this very drastic measure: support and software drivers.

I am not aware of any computer manufacturers that will provide support to you if YOU install a different version of Windows then what came on the machine. Some may offer at an additional charge the option of “downgrading” the system to Windows XP, but that would likely require you to send it back to the factory that does the actual setup (contact your vendor to see what options you have).

Whenever you make any changes to a computer - add new hardware or change versions of software that came from the factory - you are giving the manufacturer an excuse not to ever help you again. Their position that “they will only support what they sold you in the form that they sold it to you” is their loophole to deny you service. So I would strongly recommend that you not give them this ammunition if you ever want to be able to call them for support.

Even if you don’t care about their support, there is another more challenging issue that you may not be able to overcome. Your newer computer that was designed to run Windows Vista may not have drivers written for it under Windows XP.

Every hardware component in the computer (the motherboard, video card, BIOS, network card, USB ports, etc.) needs a small software program known as a driver to be recognized by Windows. These drivers are created by the manufacturer of the hardware component, so if they never intended the component to be used in Windows XP, they never wrote a driver for it to run in Windows XP.

We have seen this scenario play out time after time across the country from virtually every brand of computer that we have been asked to downgrade to Windows XP.

You may get 90 percent of the system operating properly, but finding a driver for the last couple of components may become an issue that, unfortunately, you won’t really know about until after you have started down this thorny path. You may end up spending a lot of time and/or money just to figure out that you have no choice but to stay with Windows Vista on this laptop.

Depending upon your reasons for wanting to downgrade, you may be better off to go through the learning curve for Vista instead of creating other headaches that may have no solution.

It’s just a matter of time before you will be forced to use Vista (although that time frame is not clear at this point), so if there are no major compatibility issues with your software or peripherals, you may want to research ways of modifying Vista to be less frustrating (like disabling User Access Controls to stop the constant warning messages).

If you are having compatibility issues with your existing software or peripherals (printers, scanners, etc.) then you may want to research options from the companies that make those items to see if they have or are working on solutions to getting your older gear/software to work in Windows Vista. If none of those options work out, you may still be better off purchasing updated software or peripherals that are designed to run under Windows Vista.

This underscores the importance of doing your homework before purchasing a new computer that has a newer operating system. We have seen this same trauma with every new version of Windows since the release of Windows 95.

For those dealing with the “which Windows version should I get” question, I highly recommend that you work with vendors that give you an option based on a thorough analysis of your situation. There is no “one-size fits all” solution, so stay away from vendors that only offer one solution.

The issues of compatibility will eventually work themselves out on mainstream software programs and popular peripherals, but if you have older obscure programs or peripherals, the only long-term solution for Vista users will be to replace incompatible items with updated versions.

- Ken Colburn is president of Data Doctors computer Services and host of the “Computer Corner” radio show, which can be heard at www.datadoctors.com/radio. Readers may send questions to evtrib@datadoctors.com

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