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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

Step 3. If you choose “Go back to a previous Windows,” you’re given a choice (screenshot), analogous to the choice you made when you upgraded to Windows 10, to either “Keep my files” or “Remove everything.” The former keeps your files (as long as they’re located in the usual places), so changes you made to them in Windows 10 will appear back in Windows 7 (or 8.1). The latter wipes out all of your files, apps, and settings, as you would expect.

Step 4. The Windows rollback software wants to know why you are rolling back, offers to check for updates in a last-ditch attempt to keep you in the Windows 10 fold, warns you “After going back you’ll have to reinstall some programs” (a problem I didn’t encounter with my rather pedestrian test programs), thanks you for trying Windows 10, then lets you go back.

Step 5. After a while (many minutes, sometimes hours) you arrive back at the Windows 7 (or 8.1) log-on screen. Click on a log-on ID and provide a password; you’re ready to go with your old version.

I found, in extensive testing, that “Keep my files” does, in spite of the warning, restore apps (programs) and settings to the original apps and settings -- the ones that existed when you upgraded from Win7 to Win10. Any modifications made to those programs (for example, applying security updates to Office programs) while using Windows 10 will not be applied when you return to Win7 -- you have to apply them again.

On the other hand, changes made to your regular files while working in Windows 10 -- edits made to Office documents, for example, or new files created while working with Windows 10 -- may or may not make it back to Windows 7. I had no problems with files stored in My Documents; edits made to those documents persisted when Windows 10 rolled back to Windows 7. But files stored in other locations (specifically in the \Public\Documents folder or on the desktop) didn’t make it back: Word docs created in Win10 simply disappeared when rolling back to Win7, even though they were on the desktop, or in the Public Documents folder.

One oddity may prove useful: If you upgrade to Windows 10, create or edit documents in a strange location, then roll back to Windows 7 (or 8.1), those documents may not make the transition. Amazingly, if you then upgrade again to Windows 10, the documents may re-appear. You can retrieve the “lost” documents, stick them in a convenient place (such as on a USB drive or in the cloud), then roll back to Windows 7, and pull the files back again.


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