Microsoft hopes to have Windows 10 running on 1 billion systems within three years. An admirable goal, but one that does not take into account the requirements of the user. Windows 10 shares a lot in common with Windows 8.1; it is a smooth experience upgrading from that release. For Windows 7 users, the story might be a little different. Some older applications just work better with the older versions. If you purchase a new PC today, it likely will have Windows 10 preinstalled. Users still have an option, though, which is the ability to downgrade the installation to an older version of Windows, such as Windows 7 or even Windows 8.1.
Important Note: This is a different process than rolling your Windows 10 upgrade back to the previous version. When you upgrade Windows 7 or 8.1 to Windows 10, you have a 30-day window where you can roll it back to the previous version and not lose any of your data. For more on rolling back, check out one of these following articles:
Prerequisite Tasks you should Complete
Downgrading is an involved process; I strongly recommend you have everything in place before you start this project, such as:
- The copy of Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 you want to downgrade. If you don’t have a license, you will have purchase a Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 license. If your system came preinstalled with Windows 10 Pro, you’d need to download or borrow a Windows 7 Professional or Windows 8.1 Pro disc.
- A product key from a computer that is running Windows 7 Professional or Windows 8.1 Pro. If you are exercising downgrade rights from Windows 10 Pro OEM, this key can be either a retail upgrade, full version, OEM preinstalled, or System Builder product key.
- Necessary hardware drivers for either Windows 7 or Windows 8.1.
- External hard disk to back up your Windows 10 installation.
- Have a copy of your Windows 10 Pro OEM product key available, just in case Microsoft support needs to verify it during activation. Here is how you can find it. Please note, this is for OEM preinstalled Windows 10 Pro licenses only.
Press Windows key + X then click Command Prompt (Admin), at the command prompt, type the following command, then hit Enter on your keyboard.
wmic path SoftwareLicensingService get OA3xOriginalProductKey
Other Options you should Consider Before Downgrading
For computers upgraded to Windows 10 from Windows 8.1 or Windows 7, a limited option is available within 30 days to rollback to your previous version. If your upgrade to Windows 10 is more than a month old, then a manual downgrade will have to be done. If your computer came with recovery media, consult the documentation for instructions on how to reinstall Windows 7 or Windows 8 on your computer.
If you recently purchased a new computer, preinstalled with Windows 10, only to find out it does not work with your hardware or software, or you just don’t like it, then you might want to consider returning the computer. The hassle associated with actually downgrading is not as convenient and smooth sailing as you might believe.
Also, there remains a demand for systems with older versions of Windows, which is what you might prefer. Most OEM vendors such as DELL, HP, and Lenovo offer new model systems with a choice of Windows 7 or Windows 8.1. If your computer is still within its warranty period, then I suggest you take advantage of it, and purchase an appropriate system preinstalled with Windows 7 or Windows 8.1.
Microsoft made available, a list of vendors who are providing a selection of Windows 7/8.1 systems with support for Intel’s latest CPU architecture, Skylake. Microsoft recently announced plans to limit Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 support for future revisions of Skylake. This would make now an opportune time to upgrade to a new PC while they are available. Within a year’s time, Microsoft will only focus on supporting Windows 10 on future processor technology.
Next: Downgrade Preinstalled Windows 10