Anxiously awaited is this week's installment of the e-mail bag and your questions. Let's get right to it.

Question: A few weeks ago, you mentioned that you were removing Windows Vista from your computer and would install Windows XP. You never mentioned how it went, as I am about to do the same thing.

Answer: Indeed, my business laptop arrived with Vista eight months ago, and I thought I would give it a fair shot. I found some to like about it, but much to dislike. The video card on the laptop was aimed at business applications and lacked the "oomph" to display Vista in all its Aero glory, and the motherboard was capped at 2GB (it's an ultra-portable), and thus the performance always was rather lacking.

It certainly was a pain to start over, but I made a complete backup of the Vista machine with Acronis True Image Home, which makes an entire backup of the computer so I could go back to the Vista image at any time.

The second option is to buy a second hard drive, install XP on the new hard drive and buy a cheap external enclosure for your old hard drive. Then you can use a simple USB cable to connect your old hard drive to your new Vista PC to recover your data. (One tip: If you have something in the My Documents folder of Vista, you may not have permissions in XP to immediately read those files, so either change the permissions or move them to a standard file folder before you log off the Vista drive for the last time.)

Overall, I am very happy with the switch. XP with 2GB of RAM is much peppier than Vista with the same memory. The computer certainly lost a few bells and whistles, but the whole process took only a couple of hours, starting with a Service Pack 2 image. The worst part was getting the Windows image all patched up to Service Pack 3 and then some.

I still have Vista on a powerful desktop at home and I will leave it there, but for standard laptops and desktops, especially in corporate environments, XP remains the clear winner. (A recent study suggests that one in three of Vista PCs in business environments end up being downgraded to XP.)

Question: Now that we all have to buy new laptop cases to be TSA-compliant, what case do you suggest for a 15-inch MacBook?

Answer: You're talking about the new ruling that air travelers don't have to remove their laptop from their cases to be X-rayed and put in those bins. But that's only true if you have a "checkpoint-friendly" case. That means any case or sleeve that can be opened or laid flat. Manufacturers are rushing out cases that zip open like an open book. You also can buy a sleeve and keep your laptop in that and keep that in the overall case you carry on. That's what I do for my iBook.


James Derk is owner of CyberDads, a computer repair firm, and tech columnist for Scripps Howard News Service. His e-mail address is [email protected].