We show you how to move back from Windows Vista to Windows XP - without glossing over the tricky bits. We show you how to transfer your Vista email, contacts and user data back to the old standby operating system.
Warts and all guide to ditching Vista
The mail mess
In my case, transferring the data I'd accrued using Vista's native apps back to my XP apps was the real problem. I'd used Vista non-stop for 60 days, and I retain all my email correspondence with vendors to cover my, err, let's say posterior. Just copy it back? That's not so easy, as Microsoft decided to revamp (not for the better in my opinion) the way Vista and Windows Mail stores messages and contacts.
Where Outlook Express stored messages in database files and contact information in the single-file Windows Address Book, Vista and Mail store every email and contact as a separate file - a more versatile approach but also considerably less efficient and inadvertently responsible for the auto-complete bug I mentioned up front. In addition, it makes Windows Mail very slow compared with Outlook Express.
Vista Mail's address export function worked fine for the contacts. Before reinstalling XP I exported to both vCards and a .csv (Comma Separated Values) file, which is basically a text file with one record per line and each bit of information separated by a comma.
While vCards seemed like a good idea at first, Outlook Express's vCard import function lets you add only one at a time, and if you drag and drop multiple vCards into the program window, you still have to click the ok button for every card. With about 1,000 email addresses to copy, I soured on that path to carpal tunnel in short order.
CSV import was much faster, and with the exception of a couple of odd characters in the First Name field, the Mail and Outlook Express fields matched up perfectly, so I was able to restock the Windows Address Book in XP in about 30 seconds.
Two ways to import email into XP
Finding an easy way to move my email back into XP proved more difficult. Outlook Express's import function won't import Vista Mail's .eml messages wholesale. The following method is simple and suffices - if you have a taste for the tedious.
You can save Vista Mail's messages to a safe place and then drag them directly into the Outlook Express window. But if you have a lot of sorted email, you must manually recreate your folder structure - which is where the tedium commences.