Downgrade Windows 8: What You Need to Know

Dennis Faas's picture

In recent weeks we've received quite a few emails asking this pressing question:

"Dear Infopackets,

I recently bought a new Windows 8 computer and I've just about had enough with it. I'm sure some people love the system, but I find it too confusing. I can't afford to replace the computer, so is it possible for me to run Windows 7 on it, instead of Windows 8?

George H."

My response:

Yes, George. The short answer is that you can retrofit a Windows 8 computer with Windows 7. But the process can be a lot of a hassle. Please read through all of our instructions before you decide whether to go ahead.

We'll detail how it all works and what you need to do. But consider this first: if you install an application that restores the Windows Start button, you should be able to make the Windows 8 interface feel a lot more like Windows 7 without actually getting rid of Windows 8, with its security and other advantages.

If you are determined to "downgrade," be aware of your licensing rights. For an OEM version of Windows 8 (which means the new operating system was already installed on your new computer when you bought it), you can only downgrade from Windows 8 Pro, not from any other version.

Assuming you have Windows 8 Pro, you can download to either Windows 7 Professional or to Windows Vista Business. You cannot downgrade to Windows XP. (Source:

Of course, to install Windows 7 you'll need to own a DVD copy of whichever operating system you plan to install on your new computer.

As with any change of operating system, you'll want to back up all your documents and other files, assuming you want to use them after making the switch.

Secure Boot Complicates Process

Before downgrading your new Windows 8 computer, you must disable a feature called Secure Boot. This can stop a Windows 8 computer from loading other operating systems -- including Windows 7. Unfortunately not all manufacturers have set up their computers in a way that lets you disable Secure Boot easily, which makes it more difficult to downgrade from Windows 8.

For those computers that do let you disable Secure Boot, the instructions vary from brand to brand, sometimes even from model to model. So be prepared to search online or contact your computer's manufacturer for instructions.  (Source:

In most cases, you can't disable Secure Boot in Windows itself, but rather in the computer's boot menu, which you'll need to access as your computer starts up. If you are going to do this, it's a great idea to get the instructions for disabling Secure Boot and print them out before you start.

(For more on disabling Secure Boot, see our guide.)

Making The Move to Windows 7

Once you've disabled Secure Boot, installing Windows 7 is a fairly simple process: insert the Windows 7 DVD and go through the normal installation process.

In some cases the computer will tell you that it can't upgrade over the Internet and will give you an Activation Support Line to phone. Call this number and explain that you are downgrading from a Windows 8 Pro machine.

You may need to supply some details from your original packaging or from a sticker on the back of the computer. Once you satisfy Microsoft's requirements, you will be provided with a single-use activation code.

Once you've entered that code into your computer, your system downgrade to Windows 7 should be complete.

Keep in mind that, should you change your mind, you can reinstall Windows 8 at any time.

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