Should I consider Windows 8?

Well, Windows 8 has a number of advantages over Windows 7—for example, Superior multiple monitor support, account synchronization, and faster startup times, but most people just can't get past Windows 8's radical shift in user interface. Some may even want to ditch Windows 8 altogether in favor of Windows 7 after spending a few days with the new OS.

The good news is you can buy a PC loaded with Windows 8 Pro, try out the new OS, and then downgrade to Windows 7. Unfortunately, the downgrade to Windows 7 can be confusing and full of twists.

Hewlett-Packard is typical: It does not support downgrades of consumer-grade Windows 8 PCs to Windows 7. But if you buy a Business Computer loaded with Windows 8 Pro, you can make the jump. HP's policy is based on Microsoft's licensing terms, which support downgrade rights only to new PCs preloaded with Windows 8 Pro, the version of Windows designed for business.

Many home users and some small businesses will unknowingly purchase Windows 8 Home because it is cheaper than a PC with Windows 8 Pro and is commonly available in the big box retailers. But if you need the flexibility to downgrade to Windows 7 Pro, the downgrade process can still be difficult to figure out. When I researched this, I found different answers to the Windows Downgrade rights and procedures. We can tell you exactly how to perform the upgrade legally and efficiently.

Should I Downgrade?

Microsoft offers a downgrade path mostly for Medium and Small Business PC users who may not be ready to use the new version of Windows. Some businesses are concerned about the incompatibility issues with older software and don't want to incur the training costs that come with rolling out a new OS to employee workstations. Retail consumers, on the other hand, usually want to dump Windows 8 because they simply don't like the new OS. Microsoft must have felt Apple IPAD envy because they designed the OS to support touch screen monitors. The problem is that most business pc users don’t have a touch screen, so doing simple tasks in Window 8 involves tedious and cryptic features like using the “Windows” as a Shift Key to perform those commands. In my opinion Microsoft made a HUGE mistake by removing the start menu completely. They should have given the end user a choice to use the touch screen interface or add the start menu back on until we upgrade to a touch screen monitor.

Make sure you really need it

If you already know that you're going to downgrade to Windows 7, you could save yourself some grief and buy a new Windows 7 PC. We still have several models available with Windows 7 Pro, But if you choose this option, you lose the ability to upgrade to Windows 8 at a later date without paying for it.

Here's the bottom line taking pricing and installation headaches into consideration: As long as Windows 7 is available on new PCs, buying a Windows 8 Pro machine with downgrade rights really only makes sense if you plan on returning to Windows 8 at a later date.

Windows 8 to Windows 7?

If you bought a PC with Windows 8 Pro preinstalled you can downgrade to either Windows 7 Professional or Windows Vista Business. But really, who would want to downgrade to Windows Vista, easily the most bug ridden operating system of all time. To take advantage of your Windows 8 Pro downgrade rights, you need Windows 7 Pro installation media (such as DVD or USB key). 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?

If you have installation discs for Windows 7 Professional, 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.

I have also read that you may have to disable the new Windows 8 secure boot feature in your Windows 8 machine's BIOS settings. Once you're set to downgrade, just pop in your Windows 7 installation disc and install the system as you normally would. When prompted for a product key, use the Windows 7 key that came with the older OS' installation discs and not the newer Windows 8 key; however, you will need your Windows 8 key after Windows 7 is installed.


Regular online activation for Windows 7 will fail because you used a product key that is already in use or was in use at a prior date on a different machine. So now you have to activate your Windows 7 downgrade installation by telephone.

During the helpline call you may have to speak with a customer representative. Just explain the situation and have your Windows 8 Pro product key available to prove your PC has downgrade rights. You will then be given a single-use activation code (usually it's annoyingly long) to enter into the activation window. Once the code is entered and confirmed, you're all done.

If you have more than one Windows 8 PC that you need to downgrade, Microsoft says you can just use the same Windows 7/Vista installation media on each machine.

Downgrading from Windows 8 Pro to Windows 7 Professional is not a simple process, but at least the option is there if you really need it.

Micro Doctor will consult and suggest the correct operating system for your needs. We have several Microsoft Professional engineers that regularly use, train and explore all Microsoft products and most new technologies. Trust us to guide you through the most technically challenging areas of business computing.

Written By Mark Richmond MCSE Micro Doctor Inc.

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