I can’t stand Windows 8. I tried, honest, but I just can’t deal with it.
How do I go back to Windows 7?
That’s actually a composite of several variations, often with varying
degrees of colorful language.
Even after trying things like
Classic Shell, to get a Start menu back and remove most of the annoyance of
the tiled Start menu, some people simply don’t like Windows 8. So much so that
they long to go back to Windows 7.
It’s typically not terribly easy, but it is possible.
The fast track: Being prepared before you upgraded
For folks that have upgraded to Windows 8 over an existing installation of Windows 7 or earlier, reverting can be fairly simple.
Restore the image backup that you took of your machine immediately prior to the upgrade and you’re done.
Now, if you didn’t take an image backup of your machine prior to the upgrade, you’ll need to read on to find the more time consuming steps you’ll need to take.
And of course, if you haven’t yet upgraded or you’re considering upgrading to Windows 8 at some point, just remember to take that image backup of what you have before you upgrade. It can save a lot of time and effort should you want to revert.
Step 1: Take a system image
This is counter-intuitive to most people, but I’m of the opinion that it’s a critically important step, particularly if your machine came with Windows 8 pre-installed.
Take a backup image of your machine before you revert.
You may not believe me, but I think that someday, somehow, you’re very likely to want to upgrade back to Windows 8.
As we saw above, the easiest way to do that is with an image of what you have right now.
Take that backup image before you start. You may prove me wrong and never need it, but do it anyway. If you do need it someday, you’ll thank me.
And if you’ve actually done any work in Windows 8, taking a backup image of everything ensures that you’ll be able to transfer your data files back to your system when this process is done. (Although it might also make sense to copy your data files specifically to some other location, perhaps a thumbdrive or external disk, for easier retrieval.)
Step 2: Grab your Windows 7 Installation Media
Yes, for this step, you need a copy of Windows 7 to install.
Unfortunately, that may require that you purchase a copy of Windows 7 somewhere.
If your machine came with Windows 8 preinstalled, you might contact the vendor to see if they have a “downgrade” available, perhaps at a discounted price. This is actually the most desirable approach because they’ll probably provide a copy that includes any machine-specific software that’s appropriate for your situation.
If not, a retail version might be your only choice. You can download a copy of Windows 7 for free to perform the install, but you’ll eventually need to purchase a license key to keep the software running.
At least, the retail version won’t have a lot of the shovelware that many OEMs often include.
Step 3: Install Windows 7 from scratch
Unfortunately, there’s no way to “downgrade” an existing Windows installation – the only viable approach is to install Windows 7 from scratch.
I recommend that you choose the appropriate options as part of the setup process that will completely reformat (erase) your hard disk. It’s possible that with the existence of a newer version of Windows on the machine, this might be your only option.
Install Windows and then get it as up to date as possible.
It’s at this point I also like to take another system image as an alternative to needing to reinstall from scratch in the future.
Step 4: Install your applications
You’ll need to reinstall all of the applications that you care about that don’t come with Windows from scratch.
This also means locating the installation media for those programs or the downloads or re-downloading those that can be re-downloaded.
In many cases, this also means having your activation keys ready for those applications that require it. Whether printed on the original packaging, product receipt or confirmation email, activation keys should always be saved for times like this when you’re very likely to need them again.
And naturally, this will also mean reconfiguring those programs that require some sort of setup, including things like your email configuration, or any customizations that you’ve made to other programs.
This is also another good time to take another system image, as an alternative to needing to reinstall Windows and applications from scratch again in the future.
Step 5: Restore your data
If you had data on the Windows 8 machine prior to beginning this process, now’s the time to copy it back.
If that data was stored on a thumbdrive, external hard disk, or perhaps even another computer, you can just copy it back to the appropriate locations. If the data was simply captured by the backup image we used to start with (or you forgot to make a separate copy of something important and the backup image is all you have), then use your backup program to extract the data files that you care about and copy them back to your machine.
Step 6: Carry on
Windows 7 will be around for a long time. If you’ve gone through all this effort to revert, you can do so with the knowledge that support for Windows 7 won’t be ending any time soon, and perhaps most reassuringly, you’re not alone.
The success or failure of Windows 8 has yet to be determined. But the same is not true for Windows 7. Even today, it continues to grow in popularity and will be something that I feel is comfortable to count on for quite a while.