Microsoft is doing the unthinkable: it's enabling Windows Vista haters to downgrade to Windows XP. Microsoft isn't actively promoting the offering, but has clearly conceded that some customers need to have XP. It's offering purchasers of business-orientated laptops with Vista Business or Ultimate editions installed the chance to get hold of a recovery disc containing the older OS.

Dell announced earlier in the year that it was to retain Windows XP Professional as a build-to-order option. On its website machines don't have a Windows Vista symbol hanging over them, but a 'Windows XP optional' logo.

Windows XP Recovery CD

A posting on etailer Dabs' site talks up the opportunity with Sony's Vaio range: "If you're not ready for Vista, you can downgrade to Windows XP without affecting your Sony Vaio warranty and switch back to Vista at any time."

And business stalwart the IBM ThinkPad doesn't miss out. Parent Lenovo has a whole webpage dedicated to the scheme: "For a limited time only Lenovo customers who have Windows Vista Business or Ultimate installed on their machines will have the chance to purchase a Windows XP Recovery CD."

That means you'll have to do the work yourself, mind you, as well as buy the Windows XP disc separately. Yet it does offer businesses and other Windows Vista adversaries a way out of the Vista quagmire.

Business-oriented etailer sites such as PC World Business still remain relatively Vista-free zones.