Dell’s Inspiron 518 line only comes with Vista pre-installed. Unlike some other machines you may order from Dell, they don’t give you two copies of the installation media, Vista is all that you get.
We don’t use Vista (and probably won’t for a while yet), so I needed to back-port a pair of these machines to XP. Someone else out there might want to do it. Here’s how (disclaimer: there is no modem or card reader, and only onboard video in these machines, you may have trouble with models that are configured otherwise):
First, you’ll need a USB key or some other removable media. Boot the box into Vista, connect to the network, and go to the Realtek website and download the WinXP (WinServer 2003) Driver… file name Driver_XP_5699_0828.zip. Next, go to the Intel website and download the XP drivers for the video chipset… file name win2k_xp14363.exe. The network and video drivers are the two drivers that you *must* get before you start the reinstall process, there are XP-compatible drivers on the Dell Resource CD that shipped with the computer for the Intel chipset and sound card, but the network and video card drivers on the Resource CD is Vista-only.
Next, you need a Windows XP Professional installation disk. If you have the Volume Licensing Edition (like Caltech does), you don’t need to worry about licensing… you can install any version of Windows on a machine you want, provided you bought it with some Windows license on it. If you don’t have access to the Volume Licensing Edition, you need (a) to have ordered your computer with either Vista Business or Vista Ultimate in order to have access to Microsoft’s “back-port” terms; and (b) a Windows XP installation disk (and key) of any type. If you bought it with Vista Home, you’re stuck shelling out the $$ for the license.
Boot the box with the XP installation disk in the CD/DVD drive, destroy the existing partitions, and install XP like you normally would (if you don’t understand what I mean by “destroy the existing partitions”, you probably shouldn’t be attempting this until you do).
Boot into XP, connect your USB drive, and uncompress the Driver_XP_5699_0828.zip file to your desktop. Open up the Device Manager, browse to the network card, and choose update driver. Don’t let the wizard search, choose “I will choose the driver”, and use the “Have Disk” option. Browse to the uncompressed folder and select the .inf file. The wizard will complain that the driver might not work, but this is Realtek’s driver and so far it seems to be fine in production, so you can probably safely ignore that :)
After the network is working, stick in the Dell Resource CD. Cancel the autoplay, open up My Computer, and right-click on the CD/DVD drive and choose “Explore”. In the “Zipfiles” directory, you’ll see a long list of executables, you want these ones:
- R180772.EXE (audio drivers)
- R180776.EXE (Intel chipset drivers)
Install those drivers, and you should have a working sound card, and USB hub. Enjoy!
[edited to add]: There are XP drivers available for the Conextant modem that comes as an option to this machines. If any visitors to the blog have a 518 with the media card reader, please let me know if you’ve found XP drivers for that as well, so I can add it to this post. Already this post has had five Google search visitors looking for “Inspiron 518 XP drivers”…
[edited to add]: Thanks to Michael S., in the comments, the drivers for the all in one card reader driver for XP: