Downgrade Dell Inspiron 1525 Laptop to XP

Dell Inspiron 1525

I was asked by a fed up an owner of the Dell Inspiron 1525 if I could fix her laptop, which had recently acquired a habit of throwing up 'inappropriate material' when she least expected it (along with other less exciting problems).
Having regularly worked with Microsoft Vista and all it's uniquely annoying features, and CPU hogging graphics, I thought it most beneficial to downgrade to Windows XP.

After a little research I found two links which were a great help in the downgrading process (Here & Here).

With the help of these two links, and past knowledge, I successfully completed the downgrade with no qualms. So offer this guide not as a concise step-by-step, but as a loose follow-through of the process I took.
I hope it helps someone out there...

I take no responsibility if something goes wrong as a result of following any of the steps below. Also be aware that doing this will erase all the data on your laptop's hard-drive. Including personal files!

1. Preparation

Before I started the downgrade I downloaded the following drivers and stored them on an external medium. You are able to use any external storage device; such as a CD, USB key or, in my case, an external Hard-Drive.
The drivers will allow your Windows XP Operating System to correctly communicate with the Dell Inspiron hardware after the downgrade. So it is important to place them on a medium that is easy to retrieve.

The drivers you will need to download are:-

2. Entering the BIOS

The advanced features being used for the SATA hard-drive in the Dell Inspiron 1525 are not supported by Windows XP. So to try and install it now would throw up various errors relating to an unrecognised drive etc. Instead I needed to disable these advanced features by gaining access to the lowest level interface for the peripheral devices, called the BIOS (Basic input/output system).

To enter the BIOS on a Dell Inspiron 1525, and most other computers, is a simple case of restarting it and then during it's start-up process just keep pressing F2. The screen will then turn blue and you will be greeted with a screen similar to the images in the following steps.

3. Altering the BIOS

3.a Disabling the advanced hard-drive features

Once within the BIOS I went to "Onboard Devices", then down to the subcategory "Flash Cache Module" and turned this off.

BIOS Flash Cache Module

Turning this off allowed me to continue onto the next subcategory "SATA Operation" and to set this to "ATA", as opposed to AHCI (Advanced Hot Controller Interface). Doing this disables advanced features such as Hot Plug and Native Command Queuing which Windows XP initially does not support.

BIOS SATA Operation

3.b Re-ordering the Boot Sequence

Now the advanced features of the SATA drive had been disabled I was safe to install Windows XP.
To do so I had to go into the "System" category, then into the subcategory "Boot Sequence" and alter the Boot Sequence of the Dell Inspiron 1525 laptop so that the "CD/DVD/CR-RW Drive" is the first device in the list.

With these alterations made it was now possible to put in the Windows XP installation CD and exit the BIOS, saving the changes made.

4. Installing Windows XP

The installation of Windows XP is as straight forward as usual. Until I came to the partition table, showing the available partitions:-

  • -: Partition1 [FAT]
  • D: Partition2 (Recovery) [NTFS]
  • C: Partition3 (OS) [NTFS]
  • F: Partition4 (MediaDirect) [FAT32]
Partitions before modification

In this case each sectioned off part of the hard-drive was used for storing files relating to a certain task of the Vista Operating System. An example being the D drive (Partition 2) named "Recovery". The purpose of this drive is to contain important Vista system files, which are used when the user wishes to "Recover" their present system.

As drives D, C and F were all being used for tasks specific to Vista, I deleted them and used the resulting "Unpartitioned Space" to install Windows XP.

Partitions after modification

Then just followed the steps to continue on with the installation...

5. Installing the Windows XP drivers

Once I had successfully installed Windows XP the next step was to load up the external medium I had chosen and then start installing the drivers on the laptop one-by-one. The drivers downloaded in the first step are all in an executable (".exe") form, meaning all that is required is to double click each of the files and follow their installation steps.
This step was one of the easiest.

6. Finished

After installing all the Windows XP drivers I had completely the downgrade. All that was needed to be done was install those all important Microsoft Updates and put in place some protection. Then I was finished.
Her laptop is now a lot easier to maintain, doesn't eat up the CPU and is easier to install hardware for.
If you have downgraded the Dell Inspiron 1525 and have some additional information that would be off some use then don't hesitate to contact me.