A while back I'd written about my frustrations with Vista (I know, take a number) but there was no going back because the XP install discs were too old and failed to install. Well, a friend at an enthusiast pub saved the day.
The problem was this: my Windows XP CD was stamped in 2001. My Intel motherboard, a 975XBX2, was built in 2006 and was so different from 2001 or earlier that the install process would fail. We're talking the time before SATA drives. The original XP install discs would not recognize a hard drive larger than 170GB.
What I needed was the newer XP discs that were updated for Service Pack 2. Turns out, you can make one. If you Google "Windows XP Slipstreaming" you will find plenty of tutorials on the process. Here is the Cliff Notes version: you copy the original XP CD to a folder on the hard disk, extract the Service Pack 2 files into that folder as well as the boot image file, and build a new CD. The SP2 extraction updates all of the installation files. Burn the disc, and you have a Windows XP with Service Pack 2 install disc.
So instead of XP crashing when it loaded pci.sys, the install came right up, recognized the 300GB, 500GB and 750GB drives instantly, and installed without a hit. I still had to download more than 100 critical fixes plus another 30 optional fixes, but the fact is, I am out from under that mess.
Nice bit of foresight on Microsoft's part to enable such updating. The company first introduced this for Windows NT 4 and refined it with 2000 and XP. It was intended for enterprise customers so they could keep their install discs current without having to go through 50 Windows Update updates (like I did), but it's perfectly legal for an end user to do it; the EULA does not forbid making a copy for yourself, which is what I did.