Corin Anderson (magellanic) wrote,
Corin Anderson

Vista down to XP

owens888 bought a new laptop last week and it arrived Monday. She bought it with Vista preinstalled but wants to run XP instead. So my fun job for last night was to do the side-grade. I'd like to say it went swimingly, but it did not.

First, the laptop configuration. It's a Lenovo T61, a model from the IBM ThinkPad line. I've always thought of the ThinkPads as the Cadillacs of laptops and this model doesn't dissapoint. It looks just like any other ThinkPad: black, squarish, nubby pointing stick between the G, H, and B, keys. The laptop sports a 15.4" widescreen (1280x800), built in everything you need, a 60GB drive, 2GB RAM, and a an Intel Core 2 Duo 2.2GHz processor. More computer than was used to run the entire Apollo program, now sits your lap.

Vista is pre-installed on 55GB of that 60GB drive. The other 5GB is a hidden partition that holds the Recovery disk. It's not a bad idea -- you can't lose an installation disk if you never had it in the first place. Nor can you sell it on eBay... I expected this setup and so it was easy to install XP without harming the recovery disk.

So off I start installing XP. Problem #1 is: the hard drive cannot be detected. "Make sure it's turned on" the installer helpfully suggests. "Thanks." It turns out that the T61's drive is an ACHI(?) drive, or something; some form of SATA mode that XP doesn't grok. Reboot / enter BIOS / fiddle / "Compatability mode" and we're off to the races again.

Now, actually, before I begin actually installing XP, I've found some forums on the Web about doing this sort of side-grade; apparently it's not that uncommon. They suggest I download a pile of drivers before I begin the XP install, because it's a lot harder to download drivers when the wireless NIC isn't working. Naturally. Melinda finds a CDRW in her room and I burn what looks like a good set of drivers onto the drive.

Alright: less stalling more installing!

Swap discs for XP install, reboot, and 39 minutes later we have: a WinXP machine! Except...

Of course, there's a pile of devices whose drivers didn't work. Time to get working on those. I swap out the XP install disc for the driver disc, run the installers, and: nothing. Ugh. Poke. Poke. Poke. I manage to discover I have the right driver for the LAN adapter but it's pretty crazy: there are two "ethernet controllers" listed in the device manager whose drivers aren't installed. I choose one, choose the "I have a driver in my own directory" option, navigate to one of the driver directories I've copied over, and say "er, maybe; could you try this driver?" No luck. Oh, and: the drivers on the CD-RW I burned, they're all named like "7iwc27ww", and it's up to me to guess whether that's even a LAN or display driver. Ugh.

Okay, so, in the end, I manage to get the LAN working, but no WiFi, no sound, no super-fast SATA drive, and only VGA safe mode. This sorta stinks. Melinda's room has only WiFi, so I'm stuck. I throw in the towel and head to bed, grumpy.

. . . . .

This evening I pick up where I left off with the laptop, only now I have a much bigger table, a wired ethernet connection, and it's not yet 1a. I was hoping that, with the internets connected, Windows's driver installer would just magically find all the drivers it needs. No such luck. *sigh* Fortunately, although it didn't work just that easily, I *was* able to figure out how to install drivers much more fluidly from Lenovo's site. Having the wired LAN really did help.

So, first up: install Lenovo's ActiveX control that lets it report on what's installed as you're looking over their site. That seems to make some new links appear on their site, or that just may be mind tricks it's playing with me. Either way, at least it doesn't break during the install.

Next up, the wireless driver. Which is the right one? There's many listed, but I guess, correctly, that it's just the default "Wireless" driver listed for the T61 (as opposed to the Intel or Cisco or other wifi drivers). Download, extract, Setup, install, reboot and: it works! Yay! 300% more happiness in my evening.

The rest of the drivers are short work. I delete the other WLAN driver (all the drivers extract into c:\drivers\win from which you run their setup programs) and install other components: hotkeys (Fn+brightness knobs); Display driver (something besides VGA safe mode), and ultranav (middle-click and scroll with the nubby mouse scrolls the window). Great!

I have a few more things to configure but it's really turn in to a real XP laptop now. Finally! Here's to hoping that switching back to Vista at some point in the future won't be nearly so hard. 8)
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