You, personally, may never have encountered a piece of hardware or an app that didn’t work on Vista, and you might be perfectly happy with it, but many people including me have had problems with Vista and thats why I went back to XP.
I did like the look of Vista and some of the new features, like the Sidebar the fast search results and the start menu, so I found away to get these features in XP without losing performance and stability.
Install royale-noir first then Royale-Remixed, when "Display Properties" window opens after installing Royale-Remixed choose the "Media Center Edition 2006" theme then open "Appearance tab" and choose "Royale" then under "Color Scheme" choose "Royale Noir".
The Royale-Noir theme uses the same resources as the default XP theme so it won't bog down the system, this is the best theme to use if you would like to use a dark UI. The Royale-Noir theme was actually developed by the Microsoft design team and that's why you don't need to use the Uxtheme patch to use this, you can read more about the theme here.
To add additional gadgets to the Vista Sidebar you need to add them manually, download the gadget that you want from Windows Live and use a program like WinRAR/7-Zip to extract the contents to a folder, then name the folder to what ever the gadget is called then put .Gadget to the end of the name e.g. BBCRadio.Gadget
Then all you need to do is place that folder to C:Program FilesWindows SidebarShared Gadgets
If you are using SP3 and don't mind playing about with the system files, you can replace the Uxtheme.dll file with this patch and use this theme to give you a better Vista look.
Free programs for a complete OS after XP is installed.
These are the programs I install, you may not need to install all of them so check out the program first to see if its a program you would use.
If there is a program you still need that isn't listed have a look at my list of free software, there maybe something there that might help.
Setting Up and Installing XP
First thing you should do before doing a fresh XP install is to download all the software that is needed and to make sure that you have all of your drivers. A great program that will save you a lot of time and headaches is DriverMax, it will backup all of the drivers that are installed on your PC for easy reinstalling.
Once you have backed up all of your drivers just check that you have got all the software that you will be installing and make sure they are saved on a partition that is use for storage or a CD/DVD.
Now we need to back up your program settings, copy this folder. C:Documents and Settings"user name"Application Data to a storage partition or a CD/DVD. Make sure that you can see hidden files or you won’t be able to do this.
Open a window then go to Tools > Folder Options > View > Show hidden files and folders.
Now its time to install XP, If you have never install XP before Lifehacker have a guide over on there site, the only thing I would add that isn't in that post is to install XP without being connected to the net and if you only have one hard drive I would partition it so you can keep your documents and the OS on different partitions, I normally give XP 20GB (20480) but you may want to use more depending on what programs you use.
Once XP is installed, install these programs in this order without being connected to the net:
AutoPatcher with all the Windows Addons, Updated Components and some Registry Tweaks.
Windows Media Player Firefox Plugin
DivX Web Player
(IE) Flash Player
(Non-IE) Flash Player
DAMN NFO Viewer
Advanced WindowsCare Personal 3
K-Lite Mega Codec Pack
Now run TCPOptimizer to optimize your Internet connection then connect to the net and update any programs that needs updating, at this point it doesn't matter what order you install the rest of the software as all the important programs are installed and updated so just go ahead and install the rest of the programs.
Now that everything is installed lets change the location of “My Documents” so its not stored on the same partition as windows, you can change this by going to:
Start button > Right click “My Documents” > Properties > then change the Target > Move.
Once you have done that fire up JK Defrag and make sure the screen saver mode has been installed.
Now lets make the text look better.
Right click on the desktop > Properties > Appearance > Effects > second drop down menu change to ClearType.
While still in Display Properties setup the screen Saver.
select “avast! antivirus” then Settings > Screen saver > JkDefragScreenSaver, now every time the screen saver starts it will scan your PC for virus and defrag it.
Once that's done go into safe mode (Hit F8 as the PC starts up) then copy the Application Data folder back into windows.
That's pretty much it, you still need to setup some of the programs that are installed and to sort out what program start with Windows (you can use CCleaner to stop programs starting with Window) but this setup should give you a good starting point.
Once you have everything installed and setup how you want it you may want to do a back up, Macrium Reflect is a great FREE tool for doing this if you don't own a copy of Norton Ghost.
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