Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Vista to XP-Pro Downgrade Dance--OY!

Once again, I am glad I’m not flying home from this five-week long business trip. Reason Number One, and enough reason in and of itself? I’m traveling with two laptops.

I have my new laptop, shipped to me on location during this trip. Why? Obviously, you didn’t read my last post. Although I am disheartened, I shall now give you the chance to correct your oversight by clicking here. But I still also have my old laptop, my dead one. Why do I still have it? Why do you have YOURS? Truthfully, if I kicked you in the gut, tell me why you still have your cashed-in laptop, and I’ll tell you why I still have the two that died before the dead one I’m traveling with. Not only that, but if you missed my post about this vintage “portable computer” I found in my closet, the picture alone is worth a look-see.

But I digress. (No surprises there.) Let us get back to why I’m so happy I’m not flying home. Can you even imagine the confusion at an airport check-point should I arrive with two computers? Do you think they’d buy into the premise that one of them is for my imaginary—and thus invisible—friend, who, while they are busy haranguing me, is stealthy passing through their crack security with three four-ounce bottles?

However, since I do not wish to write to you from jail, I shall refrain from walking into that trap by happily getting into my little SUV and driving five hours.

As promised in my last post (read it yet?), I shall herewith present my “technical report” as to how I survived (mostly) transitioning a brand new machine loaded with Windows Vista (NOOOOOOOOOO!) to Windows XP Pro. I used the “downgrade” disk supplied by Sony that came packed with the new machine. A downgrade. How hard could that be?

Let me count the ways.

Way Number One, and enough reason in and of itself: Fallout. Or, perhaps it could best be described as fallin, as in, I fell in to a four-day process, exacerbated by the fact that I was staying in a remote area (book deadline) with DIAL-UP.

I’ll give you a moment here to recover from the exhaustion you likely encountered by screaming, “WHAT KIND OF A NUT CASE TRIES THAT?!”

The "easy part" of the Vista-to-XP downgrade, albeit the most nerve wracking: inserting downgradable disk one of two and doing what it said, which was basically to “click here.” Well, before the “click here” part, there were those licensing tomes, likely some blather about making sure you know what you’re doing, and a release waiver claiming it isn't their fault if your heart stops during this maneuver, since you are basically wiping your hard drive completely out before the new operating system installs. Hopefully. PLEASE, GOD!

In hindsight, I now know that perhaps the hardest part was pushing that button. That, dear traveler, takes guts.

I also vaguely recall some fail-safe instruction that said you could always go back to Vista. You had to write some IMPORTANT piece of information down, though, which I think I did. I was so stressed about the click part, I was hyperventilating and therefore not thinking clearly. Truth is, I am a “somewhat savvy” Computer Person, which I realize makes me extremely dangerous. People who are utterly clueless about computers know better than to try stuff like this without a backup team of experts surrounding them. And then, they’re smart enough to hand the computer to them.

I cannot explain to you how fretful I was, watching whatever you call that little thingie that lets you know how far into the process the machine is. (Told you I was dangerous.) The disks should have come with a warning: THIS WILL TAKE A VERY LONG TIME. I’m guessing it was more than an hour for the first disk, maybe closer to two. Why I started this near my bed time, I have no idea--other than BOOK DEADLINES. But no way was I leaving my new traveling mate’s side while it was frying its own brain and growing a new one. PLEASE, GOD! Waiting for the machine to reboot—seeing that it actually had something in its head—was torturous. I was so happy to hear that "delightful" Windows sound, to see the familiar XP graphics, and to watch it come to rest with a desktop full of happy icons and colors.

That, as it turned out, was the easy part. Of course my new machine recommended I go straight to the Microsoft update website (it tried to take itself there—HA!) and update everything. On DIAL-UP?

Oh, my STARS! I have a DUMB machine now!

I went to bed to try to sleep this nightmare off. When I awakened, first things first: I needed to get to a high-speed connection. However, I couldn’t use a public zone ; I wasn’t about to start downloading eons of updates via “unsecure networks,” especially with anti-virus protection not yet in place. Sure, there was a trial 60-day super-duper Norton everything available in the machine, but I didn’t want to unpack all of that into a computer brain dumb enough to try to update Microsoft on dial-up. So I uninstalled it. (Take that!) I already owned a multi-machine license for Norton Internet Security . Still, I needed to get online to download it.

(Let me take a moment here to say how happy I am that I was, as always, traveling with a reliable--HEAR THAT, EQUIPMENT?--HP iPAQ. I sync it with MS Office, so all that account info was with me, even though I was on the road. Something to think about, should you be self employed.)

Luckily, I had a friend in the area whose house was Wi-Fied. But first things first: hold breath, turn on laptop, turn on Wi-Fi and see what happens. YIPPEE! DUMB machine was smart enough to look for networks! My friend gave me her password and I connected right up! With that, I started my endless hours (days, as it turned out—more later) of downloads and updates.

After a brief e-mail exchange on a writers’ loop, I learned most everyone who had MS Office 2008 hated it as much as Vista. I was (still am) in the midst of two book deadlines. I didn't have time for a learning curve that turned out to be a road straight to hatred. So, I uninstalled MS Office 2008 Small Business Edition (another pre-loaded trial version) and popped in my copy of MS Office Small Business Edition 2003 my husband sent from home, then started those updates.

I’m gonna stop now with the “uninstall/install my own stuff" descriptions and cut to the part that made me the most disappointed and insane, and might you, too, should you try this downgrade--at least with a VAIO. It turns out my new machine was designed to work at its optimum performance with Vista. This is a piece of info I did not learn—because they do not tell you—until after the downgrade, and after I started running into things that did not work, at least the way they were supposed to.

For instance, I was unable to independently turn off the blue tooth when running Wi-Fi. (Why waste battery?) A call to CDW’s tech support, where I bought the machine—and their tech support is why I ordered from them, especially while on the road—directed me to a Sony PAGE of downloads, drivers, patches etc. which were created for this Vista-to-XP downgrade purpose. Also on that page (or links from that page) was the first notice I’d seen as to how some things about my machine would not ever work "optimally" with the XP downgrade, even after the downloads, and this included maintaining maximum battery life.

Check out this page, then click on, say, the first item on the list. Take a look at the warnings!

Let me be clear here: I love Sony VAIOs. I am happy with my sexy new little (2.8#) Sony VAIO VGN-TZ290, and the two VAIOs I owned before this one. I am glad I am not running Vista. But I’ve lost a little somethin'-somethin' with my machine by "doing the downgrade"—soon to be a new dance craze near you. (Or perhaps a new Olympic event. It SHOULD be!) The first thing I lost after the first direct-from-Sony download was the ability to get on line using the Wi-Fi! CDW tech support rose to the occasion, and we got it straightened out, but . . . not fun.

Just know that should you decide to try to kill the evil Vista with the XP-Pro downgrade, at least on a machine like this, you might have a price to pay in terms of time and makin’ things happen. I have managed to get everything working on the machine that I need to work, and I have managed to get myself back to work, too. There is no going back. But had I known what I was getting into, I might have made a different choice in machine. Maybe. If I could have still found one with XP-Pro already loaded on it.

Then again, I was on the road with a dead machine. I was desperate. So I went with the tried and true: Sony VAIO and CDW. We do what we must and we live with our choices. LONG LIVE MINE!


Hugh Livingston said...

Actually, it's not that confusing to security when you bring two computers. I routinely go through the machine with 2 laptops, 2 extra batteries, 2 external hard drives. And yes, they want them all in separate bins. I also have a cello with me, in a 5-foot tall custom made case that looks like an aluminum coffin. If you are a seasoned traveler, it really isn't all that hard. But good luck with your computer trials.

Press this button to upgrade to Macintosh.

Charlene Ann Baumbich said...


Thanks for letting me know I was fretting about nothing. Although I am seasoned, I am not seasoned with your wonderful blend of spiciness. I'm seasoned more with, um , discombobulation, one laptop and no coffin-shaped items. But you have given me courage! Thanks!

Gregg Luhring said...

Hi Charlene,

I just read your last 2 posts. I can almost relate... Barb and I just bought a new PC laptop to run our accounting on. (so we can share in the misery) It was apparent immediately that we needed XP back. As you know, we are Mac People so I hired an ex-employee to take it home and do the downgrade in his free time. He's now a tech at the local computer dynasty and it took him 4 extra days to find all the little pieces needed to keep most of the new built-in features intended for Vista, not old-fashioned XP. You are a brave woman. I couldn’t do it. Don’t tell anyone what I do for a living!


Charlene Ann Baumbich said...


Thanks for saying I'm brave. Truth be known, in this case, I'd say I was more desperate and insane.

As for finding "all the little pieces" needed to keep the new features on my machine, thus far, I've only had enough time to find the main pieces needed to get my work done. Maybe one day . . . .

And now, I hear there's a major RECALL. Haven't checked yet to see if it includes my machine. I'm too afraid.

Thanks for the shout--and for feeling my pain. And I promise, I haven't told a soul about you know what.