A) Reinstall your whole system as XP. Ugh. What a PAIN.
B) Find an alternative piece of software, buy alternative piece of hardware. Expensive/annoying!
C) Add a partition or whole drive with XP. Best alternative.
It is NOT that bad. I just did it, and it took about an hour. Here's how.
Software you will need:
- EasyBCD - Download and install in Vista.
- Acronis Disk Director - Best partition resizing program I've found. You can use the built in partition resizer, but the pagefile generally makes the available size very minimal (in my case, it was 200MB for the maxsize of the new partition). Note that some people recommend Partition Magic. If this was 2 years ago, I would have given an emphatic YES, but since Symantec bought it and let it die, there have been issues with Vista that have cropped up
- Your Vista and XP CDs - yes, you need both.
Step 0: Backup you system. You do run the risk of fuXoring up the whole system, so do a full disk image. I highly recommend Acronis True Image Home (this is starting to sound like an ad, but I swear I get no kickbacks... yet!)
Step 0.5: If you want to install on a separate drive, skip Step 1.
Step 1: Create the new XP partition.
In Vista, use your chosen software, in this case ADD, to shrink the Vista partition. I would suggest at least 100GB, but more if you think you will be swapping large files - remember to have space for any temporary files that might be generated. Next, create a new partition using all the unallocated space. Make it a primary partition, NTFS format. Apply/Finalize the changes, and you will be asked to reboot.
Reboot, and you will either see a text-y prehistoric looking screen giving you a rundown of the partition creation process or a completely black screen with disk activity (my case). Don't worry, just wait for the reboot to go through. In my case ADD rebooted the system again and Windows thought the reboot was in error. Just start up normally. The partition will be formatted once in Vista, and you may need to boot again (I did, though subsequent reformatting didn't require it).
Step 2: Check My Computer, and make sure the new partition/disk appears. Hooray!
Step 3: Install XP
Insert your XP CD, and reboot. If your BIOS settings are not set up to boot from CD first, remember to set that (if you never messed with your BIOS settings, this should be how things were set up at the factory). You will be presented with a list of disks*, along with the available space. Select your newly created partition and hit Enter.
*If your disk is not shown, you probably have an older copy of XP and a newer motherboard with SATA hard drive controllers. You may have to load your driver floppy at the beginning of the XP install boot - when it asked for Third Party SCSI or RAID Drivers. (I had to do this with a 4 year old PC installing XP no-Service Packs)
Step 4: Tweak and protect XP
The average Windows PC directly connected to the internet is compromised within 15 minutes. Install all your Windows Updates, restarting as necessary. Don't forget the antivirus software and firewall. I recommend Kaspersky Internet Security 7 for both. Universities generally offer AV software for free, and you can always grab ZoneAlarm's free edition.
Step 5: Give me back my Vista!
Reboot with the Vista DVD in the drive, and select the option to repair a Vista installation. The program will scan the drives and find your Vista installation, select it. Choose the first option, which is for Boot Time Problems (prevents Windows from booting properly blahblahblah). Let it do its work, click finish and you will reboot.
Tada! Yay Vista!
(If you are not saying Yay Vista here, you may have borked your computer. Try repairing more options from the previous step, but at this point something is seriously wrong.)
Step 6: Choose, don't lose
Time for the magic. Open EasyBCD. Select Add/Remove entries, type NT/2000/XP/2003, name it something with 'XP' in it, click Add. Click Change Settings,
Shazzam! You win! Reboot and you should have the option to choose either XP or Vista. Niiiice. As a side note, you can also install Ubuntu using the same procedure (partition, install, Vista CD reboot, repair, and EasyBCD), and use the NeoGrub option in EasyBCD. Haven't tried adding MacOS X... yet. Then again, I have no reason to.
Slightly more technical explanation (if you WANT to know, not that you NEED to know). The issue here is that the Master Boot Record (MBR) gets overwritten by Windows with that version of Windows bootloader. So Installing XP means the bootloader for XP only is installed. The Vista bootloader plays nice with XP, with the right settings (XP's does NOT play nice with Vista), but not Linux. NeoGrub, based on the GRUB bootloader lets you select between a Linux distro and the Vista bootloader. Depending on how you configure it, you may end up with Selecting between Linux and Windows on the first screen, and then XP or Vista on a second one (first screen is NeoGrub, second is the Vista bootloader).
All in all, the whole thing is not that bad. The hiccups are if you have to use a floppy with SATA drivers (who has a floppy drive anymore? and flash drives won't work for it), and user error, so take your time. You may be forced to call Microsoft to reactivate your old copy of XP. Just call them and speak to the nice Indian woman for the authorization code. I know people that have used crazy pirated XP serial numbers from Chinese hacking sites, and they were just given their activation code.