Finding Windows XP Now That It's 'Officially' Cancelled

Tuesday Jul 22nd 2008 by Ronald Barrett
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Getting a copy of XP these days is like buying whiskey during Prohibition. It can be done, but you need to know the secret handshake.

So here we are in late July and it has been nearly a month since Microsoft “officially” stopped shipping Windows XP. However, lukewarm response from end users to Windows Vista and the grassroots “Save XP” movements have softened Microsoft’s stance.

Therefore, to appease the masses and the OEM’s, Microsoft has offered a downgrade option to users who purchase Windows Vista Business or Ultimate. Purchasing either version from an OEM will allow a user to get a Windows XP license and have the downgrade installed from the manufacturer.

Okay, problem solved, right?

Microsoft gets the sales of a Vista product – and not just a Vista product but a Business or Ultimate license. The end-user can ask the manufacturer to install Windows XP Professional on their new hardware. Sounds like a win-win situation. Everyone gets what they want.

But not so fast. Yes, there’s a small problem.

That problem is trying to get that downgraded Windows XP license. Come on, you didn’t actually think it was going to be easy did you?

I have been involved in the Windows side of the technology business for over a decade. If there is one thing that has always frustrated me it was the Microsoft licensing piece. If you thought it was crazy and convoluted before, in the words of Bachman Turner Overdrive: you ain’t seen nothing yet.

You see, it seems that neither the manufacturer’s Web sites – or their sales reps, if you try to phone in the order – are clear on what the program is exactly.

It exists… you can get it… but it’s not easy. At all.

Of the Web sites that I’ve checked none seems to offer the ability to downgrade for Home users. So, if you are a home user looking to get XP Pro installed on that new system all I could say is…sorry.

Calling the sales center for the Home & Home Office users is no better. It seems most of the sales reps are not aware that you can downgrade. If your level of frustration has been low lately, and you have the need for unnecessary stress, try convincing one of these reps that you have the right to purchase the Vista license and get the XP downgrade license.

It seems they haven’t been told the same things you and I have. As a result, it’s almost impossible for a home user to get XP shipped installed.

I did find one manufacturer who offered Vista Ultimate installed and then gave the option of getting a Windows XP restoration CD. So, you get that brand new PC with everything installed and then you need to wipe the entire system – including a drive reformat since XP uses NTFS and Vista uses the new NTFS5 file system.

One the business side it is less impossible but still just as frustrating. Using the business Web sites, you can get the “downgrade” but be prepared to pay. Some manufacturers are only offering it with the higher end business machines. Others will charge you a premium for installing XP on the system for you. Some offer the downgrade only with Vista Business, not for Vista Ultimate.

A few of the business manufacturers have the same restoration CD policy. They will provide you with a system with Vista installed and it will be up to you to re-install Windows XP. There are those who say they will provide a system that is Windows XP ready (driver ready, that is) however, you’ll need to purchase Windows XP from a secondary source.

If that isn’t strange enough, it gets better. Quite a few of the OEM’s have a policy that states that Windows XP will only be available to business customers who will be purchasing at least 25 desktops or laptops over the next 12 months.

So we have a downgrade option that includes paying more, re-installing the OS and (I think) extortion. I have been purchasing machines for a long time and never have I heard of needing to commit to a number of machines to get what should be available to me on a single machine.

The reports I’ve read from other journalists as they looked into this 25-machine commitment policy claim that none of the manufacturers seem to be enforcing this policy.

Therefore, what is the bottom line? How do you get a “new” system after June 30th 2008, with Windows XP Professional installed?

Well, if you’re willing to use the business Web sites or sales reps that offer pricier systems with fewer options, you could get what you want, with a bit of deception. Simply put, they must believe you are a small business. And in some cases, they need to believe you will purchase another 24 systems in the coming year.

If deception is not your thing (and I don’t blame you), you can try to wade through the corporate bureaucracy and get the manufacturers to sell you a system with Windows XP installed. I promise you it will not be an easy task.

Moreover, I wouldn’t be surprised if you ended up with nothing in the end for all your effort.

I’m sorry – I apologize for my industry. You would think it would be a simple task to get what you want. Considering that Microsoft took the end-users to heart and offered the alternative, it should not be this hard to get Windows XP installed and delivered without having to pull teeth or lie.

In conclusion, I recommend the following, given that the coming of Windows 7 isn’t until 2009: perhaps you can stretch your system until that time.

Maybe you can purchase an older pre-built system with XP from a reseller. Or perhaps a barebones system running ReactOS (a Windows XP clone Operating system) which works with all the same system drivers XP uses.

The problem with that last option is ReactOS is in the Alpha stage, it will not be in Beta until sometime in September. That means you need to continue to limp along with your older PC or laptop for another two months or so. Good luck!

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