Dell will charge customers up to $50 to factory install Windows XP on some PCs after Wednesday, according to the company's Web site.
Buyers of the low-priced Vostro line of desktops and notebooks will pay $20 to $50 more for Windows XP Professional installed as a "downgrade" to Windows Vista Business or Vista Ultimate than they would for Vista only.
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To meet Microsoft's June 30 end-of-availability deadline , Dell will stop pre-installing most versions of the seven-year-old operating system after Wednesday. However, it will still be able to ship PCs with XP by taking advantage of the downgrade rights built into Vista Business and Vista Ultimate. Downgrading lets Dell install Windows XP Professional in lieu of Vista, although the newer OS is still shipped with the machine so that buyers can, if or when they want, transition from XP to Vista.
Vista Business and Vista Ultimate are the only generally-available editions that allow downgrades, and can be downgraded only to Windows XP Professional. By Microsoft 's licensing terms, the less-expensive XP Home cannot be installed as a downgrade.
In late April, Dell was the first major computer maker to announce it would downgrade Vista in order to continue installing XP after June 30. A few days later, Dell's global small- and mid-sized business software manager, Jenni Doane, used a company blog to say that Dell would offer free downgrades on Latitude, OptiPlex and Precision systems, but would charge what she termed a "small fee" on Vostro systems.
In fact, Dell has priced Windows XP downgrade options the same as Vista-only selections on its Latitude notebooks, OptiPlex desktops, and Precision desktops and notebooks.
Desktops and notebooks in the low-cost Vostro line, however, carry a downgrade surcharge, an examination of Dell's Web site revealed.
Adding Vista Business to a Vostro 1000 notebook, for example, costs an additional $99 above the price with the default operating system, Vista Home Basic. Selecting the downgrade option -- Windows XP preinstalled and Vista Business installation media in the box -- costs $149, however, a $50 downgrade surcharge.
Downgrading from Vista Ultimate comes with a smaller add-on charge, although the Vista OS selection itself is pricier. To add Vista Ultimate to a Vostro 400 desktop, for instance, costs $149 more than the default Vista Home Basic; choosing to downgrade from Ultimate -- Windows XP pre-installed and the Vista Ultimate installation disc in the box -- costs $169, a surcharge of $20.