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How to roll back your Windows 10 upgrade

Woody Leonhard | Feb. 19, 2016
Windows 10 not your cup of tea? Here's how to get back to your previous version of Win7 or Win8.1

Hundreds of millions of Windows 10 users can’t be wrong -- or can they? I hear from people every day who tried the Win10 upgrade and for a variety of reasons -- broken drivers, incompatible programs, unfamiliarity, fear of snooping, doubt about Win10’s future -- want to get back to their good ol’ Windows 7 or 8.1.

If you performed an upgrade using Microsoft’s tools and anointed techniques, rolling back should be easy. Operative term: “should.” Unfortunately, many people find that Win10 is a one-way trip -- sometimes for very good reason.

Here’s a thorough rundown of what you should expect, during the upgrade, then amid the rollback, along with a list of what frequently goes wrong and a bunch of tips on how to make the round trip less painful.

If you’ve upgraded from Win7 or Win8.1 to Win10 and you love your new system, more power to ya. But if you have a nagging doubt -- or want to know what’s in store if you decide to move back -- this report details what awaits.

Anatomy of a hassle-free rollback

Most people who want to roll back from Windows 10 to their previous version of Windows have no problem with the mechanics. Providing you still qualify for a rollback (see the next section), the method for moving back is easy.

Caveat: If your original Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 system had log-on IDs with passwords, you’ll need those passwords to log in to the original accounts. If you changed the password while in Windows 10 (local account), you need your old password, not your new one. If you created a new account while in Windows 10, you have to delete it before reverting to the earlier version of Windows.

Step 1. Before you change any operating system it’s a good idea to make a full system backup. Many people recommend Acronis for the job, but Windows 10 has a good system image program as well. It’s identical to the Windows 7 version, but it’s hard to find. To get to the system image program, in the Win10 Cortana search box, type Windows Backup, press Enter, on the left click Create a System Image, and follow the directions.

Step 2. In Windows 10. Click Start > Settings > Update & security > Recovery. On the right, you’ll see an entry to “Go back to Windows 7” (see screenshot) or “Go back to Windows 8.1,” depending on the version of Windows from whence you came.

If you don’t see the “Go back to” option and are using an administrator account, you’ve likely fallen victim to one of the many gotchas that surround the upgrade. See the next section -- and don’t get your hopes up.


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