Archive for August, 2013

Going from Windows 8 to Windows 7

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

If you have looked in the store at new computers recently, you are undoubtedly aware that they all come with Windows 8. While Windows 8 seems to be popular with younger users, it seems to be very unpopular with those of us who are older. So the question that I get is “What are my options?”

One option is to purchase your computer directly from a manufacturer or a computer store that builds custom computers. In this way you may have the opportunity to purchase a computer with Windows 7 installed instead of Windows 8. However, this can be daunting to many people, since most people are not sure what they should order.

Another option is Microsoft’s “downgrade” option. If the version of Windows 8 that is preinstalled on your computer is at least the professional version (not a home version), then you can use the Windows 8 license with Windows 7. If the computer comes with Windows 8 home preinstalled, then you do not have any downgrade rights, and you will need to purchase a new Windows 7 license in order to convert the computer from Windows 8 to Windows 7.┬áThis is likely to cost from $100-$200 if you have a professional do the install for you.

Downgrading a Windows 8 computer to Windows 7 presents several challenges. The first challenge is getting a copy of Windows 7 to install on the computer. If you are downgrading the home version of Windows 8, and have purchased a copy of Windows 7 on disk, the problem is solved. However, if you are using the downgrade rights for Windows 8 professional, you cannot go to the store and get a disk with Windows 7 without paying the full cost of the desk, which defeats the purpose of downgrading using your existing license. For this scenario, you need to find somebody who has a generic version of Windows 7, not a recovery disk from a Windows 7 computer.

The next challenge that I have run into is rather technical. Hard drives are partitioned into one or more logical drives, such as the C: drive that we are all used to. In addition, the hard drive installed in your computer normally includes what is known as a recovery partition, that contains everything needed to restore the computer to factory new condition. This recovery partition may or may not be hidden, so you may not see it in the list of drives on your computer. Microsoft has made some changes to their requirements for computer manufacturers with Windows 8. In my experience so far with new Windows 8 computers, there are three main effects of these changes. First, the way that the hard drive is partitioned is incompatible with previous versions of Windows; as a result, in order to downgrade it is necessary to erase the entire hard drive, including the recovery partition. Second, the way that the computer now boots does not allow for booting from a CD or DVD without changing some system settings,  presenting a problem for both system recovery and installing an operating system other than Windows 8. Third, because you can no longer boot off of a CD or DVD, you must use a USB drive to create your recovery media; anything already on this drive will be erased, and a suitable drive is more expensive than blank DVDs would be.

So what does all of this mean for me? While it is certainly possible to replace Windows 8 on a new computer with Windows 7, it is not as easy a process as it has been with previous versions of Windows. Before undertaking this project, you must first decide whether you might want at sometime in the future to restore the computer to Windows 8. If that is a possibility, then you need to get a USB drive to create your recovery media. Next, if you are downgrading from Windows 8 professional, you must be certain that you have the software key for the installed copy of Windows 8 to be used to activate Windows 7. Finally, you must change the basic computer settings to allow the computer to boot off of the Windows 7 disk. The exact method for doing this varies from computer model to model, so it is impossible for me to tell you in this article how to accomplish this.

The prospect of undertaking this project is frightening for many people. Unless you are very comfortable with modifying basic settings on your computer, I highly recommend that you have a professional undertake this project for you. In an effort to not get to technical in this article, I have skipped over some other aspects that could cause problems. While many of you could certainly deal with these potential problems, is that something that you really want to do yourself?