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Downgrading from Windows 8 to 7: What you need to know

Ian Paul | Nov. 21, 2012
For all the talk about the advantages of Windows 8 over Windows 7, some people just can't get past Windows 8's radical shift in user interface.

What can Windows 8 Pro downgrade to?

If you bought a PC with Windows 8 Pro preinstalled you can downgrade to either Windows 7 Professional or Windows Vista Business.

Also, in case you're wondering about the differences between Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro, know that the Pro version offers several power user and enterprise-centric features such as BitLocker disk encryption and the ability to boot from a virtual hard drive (VHD). PCWorld detailed the features in each Windows 8 edition in April.

What do I need to downgrade?

To take advantage of your Windows 8 Pro downgrade rights, you need installation media (such as DVD or USB key) for Windows 7 Professional or Windows Vista Business. You also need a valid product key for the older OS. Microsoft says it's fine to use a product key currently in use on another machine; you just need the old code to get past the product key request during installation.

Where can I get the installation media?

The tricky part is obtaining installation media for Windows 7 Professional and Vista Business because you are pretty much on your own for sourcing installation discs. You can try calling the manufacturer of your Windows 8 Pro PC to see if they will give you the Windows 7/Vista installation media you need, but don't get your hopes up. Posing as a regular customer looking to buy a Windows 8 Pro machine, PCWorld called the home and home office sales lines for Dell and HP. Both companies said they do not supply downgrade discs for free or at a nominal cost. Dell, however, will sell you a downloadable version of Windows 7 for about $290. You also won't get downgrade discs directly from Microsoft, and if you don't have the disc, you can't downgrade.

Again, downgrade rights are largely designed for businesses that may have Windows 7 installation discs on hand or have volume licensing agreements that provide access to older versions of Windows.

I have the right installation disc and a product key, now what?

If you have installation discs for Windows 7 Professional or Vista Business, you are almost ready to downgrade. As with any Windows installation, make sure any personal files already on your PC are backed up on a portable hard drive or an online backup solution. You should also make sure that you have Windows 8 installation media for when you want to move back to Windows 8. New PC owners should pay attention during first-time startup of a Windows 8 PC for a prompt to create system recovery discs. Otherwise, you can use Microsoft's built-in tools in Windows 8 to create a system image or recovery media .


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