The trick to finding more than just a few outdated Windows 7 models or having to jump through agonizing downgrade hoops with Windows 8 is knowing where to look. Here's our summary of what we found on the major PC makers' sites.
Dell: We didn't have much luck when we called Dell's sales line. A Dell rep told us that only a handful of "last year's" Windows 7 models existed. But when we went online and skipped the For Home section of PCs and went to Dell's For Small Business & Office pages instead, we hit the Windows 7 jackpot.
In the business section, we found Windows 7 models to choose from in the Latitude, Inspiron, Vostro, and XPS laptop and Ultrabook lines.
The number of Dell OptiPlex and high-performance Precision desktops equipped with Windows 7 were just as plentiful. However, we spotted only one budget-friendly, midrange Inspiron with Windows 7.
HP: As we found with Dell, most of HP's consumer Home & Home Office Store desktops and laptops ship with Windows 8. The trick to buying Windows 7-equipped PCs from HP is to skip calling the sales line and head directly to HP's Small & Medium Business Store. There, you can choose an Envy, Folio, or EliteBook system that comes with Windows 7.
Lenovo: Finding Windows 7 systems from the world's second-largest PC maker is a bit harder. Lenovo does carry Windows 7 hardware, but what we saw didn't impress us. The offerings ranged from underpowered laptops running Windows 7 Home Premium to expensive midrange ThinkPad models.
Beyond Dell, HP, and Lenovo, your choices narrow even more.
Best Buy may not stock its retail stores with Windows 7 PCs, but you can still buy Windows 7 systems by visiting BestBuy.com or calling the sales line. When we called, the rep told us that "most Windows 7 systems have sold out" and that the only Windows 7 systems for sale were an Alienware laptop and a refurbished Pavilion desktop.
Navigating BestBuy.com to find Windows 7 PCs was much easier. After we narrowed our search for Windows 7 systems, we found hundreds of different laptops and desktops that met our criteria (and even one Vista notebook).
The bottom line
In the end, don't trust what salespeople tell you. Windows 7 PCs are out there, but you need to visit Dell.com, HP.com, and other PC resellers' websites to find them.
Learn to use the specification sorting tools that typically run down the left side of such sites. In those columns, you'll see filters that you can choose to narrow your search.
As you drill down to Windows systems, you'll see the Windows 7 filter. Click it, and the chances are good that you'll be able to avoid Windows 8 just a little longer.
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