How to downgrade a PC from Windows 8 to Windows 7

If you recently purchased a PC with Windows 8 and have had enough of it, or it’s giving you gray hairs, or premature baldness, there is some good news. It is possible to revert to Windows 7 and go about your daily IT tasks the way you’re used to. However, some not so good news is that it downgrading a PC from Windows 8 to Windows 7 is not as straightforward as it might first appear. Microsoft has added some hurdles for the would-be downgrader to overcome, but it is doable with a bit of BIOS tinkering and patience. With Windows versions prior to Windows 8 it was a relatively straightforward process that was a case of formatting the Hard drive and just re-installing the old OS, say from Windows 7 going back to Vista or XP. Windows 8 introduced new BIOS requirements, that means reverting to Windows 7 is not such a simple task anymore. In this article I will explain how to revert your PC back to Windows 7 from Windows 8, assuming that your PC came with Windows 8 pre-installed when you purchased it, there are though a few steps to take before commencing.

Check your drivers

It is important to know what driver’s you have installed beforehand, and to have them available. If you built a desktop PC yourself, then the drivers will be on the CD that came with your motherboard, or you can download them from the manufacturers website. They will usually provide all the drivers for your network card, soundcard, graphics and chipset, plus any other hardware that your motherboard might support, like a RAID card for example.
To check what drivers are installed, go to Windows Control Panel, System and Security, then Device Manager, or simply search for ‘Device Manager’ in the search box, top right of the control panel screen. If you purchased a laptop, from DELL, HP, Acer or other reputable manufacturer then you can go to their website and get the drivers from there, usually under their support section. DELL will ask for your system tag, to make life easier. Next comes the BIOS settings.

Disabling UEFI BIOS settings

Next stage is to alter the BIOS settings from UEFI to legacy boot. Some laptops, namely Compaq have what is known is ‘secure boot’, this disabled any boot-time options, and is just another hurdle to stop users from altering their computers. Also, it will be necessary to alter the BIOS settings to Legacy boot, instead UEFI boot, otherwise Windows 7 installer will lock-up and not continue.

Backup everything first

The next stage is to backup all your important data, if you’ve had the PC for sometime, doubtless you will have some personal data on their. You can either, backup the Windows system folders manually, i.e copy them over individually, or just copy your root ‘username’ folder i.e C:\users\your-name\ to an external hdd or usb memory stick, or burn them DVD’s, although that method is getting outdated.
If your PC is a laptop then chances are you will have NO software discs supplied with it, if purchased recently, i.e since 2009 or so, but the manufacturer will usually give you the option to create a set of restore discs that will restore your system to it’s factory state. Bear in mind that this will usually erase any personal data so best to backup first.

Obtain Windows 7 Discs

Once the BIOS settings have been altered, the next stage is to format your hard drive. If your PC is a laptop, there will most likely be a recovery partition, sometimes hidden, on the hard drive, with the recovery image stored, but, if you alter the boot sector or other partitions, then this partition maybecome useless.

Warranty warning

Bear in mind, if your computer is a pre-built desktop or laptop that’s less than 12 months old, it may well be under warranty and altering the state of your PC, i.e installing another operating system can void your warranty.

Downgrade right with Windows 8 Pro.

Some versions of Windows 8, namely Windows 8 Pro, may come with downgrade rights, i.e you will not have purchase another Windows serial number in order to use it, if not, you will to purchase Windows 7 discs, either Full retail or OEM.

About admin

Mike Gisbourne is an IT Professional/System builder from the UK with 20 years experience of PC building. Building PC's since 8086 days and Windows 3.1/95. Mike specialises in PC hardware, server administration, hosting. He is also a musician, keyboard player.