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How Do I Uninstall Windows?

You can’t. But you can do something else.

After trying the latest version of Windows, you might find that it's not your cup of tea. What then? Well, it's not really an "uninstall"... it's more of a replacement.
A photorealistic image of a crisp, clear Windows logo on its screen with the international 'no' symbol, a red circle with a diagonal line, overlaid on top of it.
(Image: DALL-E 3)
Question: I installed the latest version of Windows. I don’t like it. I want to get rid of it but there is no uninstall program. How does one get rid of this program? I’m moving to Linux.

It happens with every version. People love the version they have, or they at least tolerate it, but the new version? Apparently intolerable.

So they want to jump ship.

But you’re quite correct: there is no uninstall. There is only replace.

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Uninstalling Windows

To uninstall an operating system like Windows, you must erase everything and perform a clean installation of the new OS. There’s no simple uninstaller; you must back up data, install the new OS, reinstall applications, and restore your data.

Operating systems are different

If you install a program and change your mind later, you can typically run an uninstaller and return to where you were before. All the other software on your machine remains unaffected, and only the program in question is removed.

Operating systems don’t work that way. In essence, the operating system represents everything on your machine. While it is not the various applications you have installed, it resides underneath them, and thus when they change, everything is affected.

The only way to “uninstall” an operating system is to erase it — and everything else on the machine — and replace it with something else.

Installing an operating system

When you install an operating system from scratch — a “clean” install —  you’re effectively overwriting what was there before. That’s as close to an “uninstall” as you get.

In case of an upgrade, you’re preserving your applications, data and settings, but the operating system itself is completely overwritten and replaced. But that’s only for an upgrade. There’s rarely a downgrade, and even when there is, it’s typically only to a specific prior version and available only for a limited time.

The bottom line is that there’s nothing to uninstall to. Even if you could uninstall the operating system,  it would leave you with a machine with no operating system: a machine that would not boot.

How to uninstall Windows

Our path forward is clear, if severe. To uninstall Windows:

  • Back up everything; ideally, an image backup of everything you have installed today.
  • Install your new/old/replacement operating system from scratch.
  • Install your applications from scratch.
  • Recover your data from your backups or elsewhere.

It’s more than Windows

While I’ve been talking about Windows throughout this discussion, it applies to any operating system. Regardless of which you use, there’s no such thing as an uninstall. Because an operating system is so fundamental, most do not retain the information required to support a subsequent true uninstall and revert to whatever had been there before.

Do this

My general advice for those who intend to keep using Windows is not to uninstall the latest version, but rather learn to tolerate it. I know that’s not the answer many want to hear, but it’s by far the best approach for long-term support and use.

On the other hand, if you can’t stand it, or plan on jumping ship, you at least now know what’s required to make that happen.

Maybe jump onto this ship? Subscribe to Confident Computing! Less frustration and more confidence, solutions, answers, and tips in your inbox every week.

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15 comments on “How Do I Uninstall Windows?”

  1. One other option might be, if XP is in the original boot partition, he/she may be able to to go into Disk Management and format the partition that W7 is installed into. also there might also be the option of using an old DOS program like fdisk to assign a new active partition and delete the W7 one.

  2. Then I would hope someone backed up the XP registry ’cause I’m pretty sure that’s been changed and could trigger a lot of black and blue screens of death. But then again, I’ve never upgraded an OS (beside SPs), so I could be wrong.

  3. I’ve been a Windows user since v3.0. But now I am strongly considering moving to Linux Ubuntu Desktop. BIG STEP AND LEARNING CURVE !!! I just can’t afford paying for every new OS (Windows) that shows up; especially because of the exsorbetant(sp) prices! Can’t be free I guess.

  4. AuntieD…whatever uses you put your machine to could very well be catered to by Linux! Why did you ever start using windows? You’d always receive free OSes and updates till eternity! So, don’t worry about discontinuation of XP mainstream support! Just switch over to Linux!

  5. No,you can NOT uninstall Windows,the only thing you can do is restore your computer to factory settings. This will put your computer back to the way it was before you bought it. I had to do this with my computer because I had problems and system restore no longer worked. So I had to restore to factory setting. The factory restore setting is an recovery image that the makers of your computer put on there in the facory,that will put the computer back to the way it was when you bought it. So original programs and settings will be restored and if you have upgraded you copy of Windows,example from XP to windows 7. This too will be removed and replaced with the original copy of Windows it had before you bought your computer. Windows Xp.Andrea Borman.

  6. There are a few comments suggesting switching to Linux if you hate Windows 11. I have 2 Windows 11 machines and 2 Linux machines soon to install a Linux distro on a third. I keep them running all the time or put them into sleep mode. I find that my Windows 11 machines only have to be rebooted after an update. My Linux machines, on the other hand, have to be rebooted once or twice a week as they begin to run a little unstable. Linux machines usually don’t have to reboot after an update, so there’s that.
    There are many things I dislike about Microsoft, but the quality of their software isn’t one of them.

  7. about a year ago i bought a Lenovo, ideacenter, with win 11 preinstalled. about 6 months ago i got a notification (if that`s what it`s called) in in the lower right corner of my desktop page. system requirements not met. all i can ascertain is my CPU isn`t up to par. i`m not a repair guy. how do i upgrade my CPU? and what kind of CPU should i buy? i loath to wonder what kind of requirements we`re gonna need when win 12 comes along. i miss the days of installation disks.

    • I’m confused, if you’re already running Windows 11, then the machine supports Windows 11.
      I’d want to see the notification.
      For the record, CPUs generally can’t be “replaced” without replacing the motherboard inside the computer. Generally not something for the average user.
      The most common incompatibility has to do with the TPM. But as I said, I’d want to see the message. If you’re already running Windows 11 because it’s pre-installed I don’t understand why you’re getting a message at all.

  8. “My Linux machines, on the other hand, have to be rebooted once or twice a week as they begin to run a little unstable. ”

    What distros are you running? I use Linux Mint and long-term instability is not a problem. My desktop runs 24/7 and the only times it’s rebooted is if I download a new Kernel or for a specific purpose (for instance I recently rebooted after replacing the UPS battery), never for OS instability.

    • I run Ubuntu, both here at home, and the very server you’re looking at hosting They need to be rebooted roughly once a week for updates. (Not arbitrary on my part, I’m told a reboot is required.)
      Over a couple of years now I had maybe half a dozen times where I had to reboot because of some kind of instability.

  9. “Ubuntu. I think the problem is with Suspend (sleep). It might be because the computer is a bit old to be running Ubuntu. Maybe, I’ll replace it with a lighter distro.”

    Possibly your reboot requests are because you’re running a server, in contrast to a desktop/laptop system. My updates all happen in the background while the system is operating normally. I use the Mint Update Manager which notifies me that updates are available and presents a list where I can individually choose whether or not to accept the update(s). Upon acceptance the updates happen in the background (after entering my Administrator PW of course) . On the rare occasions when a reboot is required (again 99% after a kernel update) it’s “As soon as possible”
    My desktop is an old Optiplex 7010 so it’s far from new. My laptop is an Acer Aspire E15, even older. Both run Mint Cinnamon . BTW I’ve never had a problem restoring from Sleep over the 10 years or so I’ve been running Mint.

    • I don’t get reboot requests. The computer just starts acting, I think the technical term is, flakey. I have to manually connect my Bluetooth when I come out of suspend, Other times I have to unplug my WiFi adapter and plug it in. I never have those problems with Windows. It’s not really a problem. I’m mentioning this as a counter-arguement to the Linux only crowd who love to bash Windows. Linux is great, but it’s not a Windows killer.

  10. I run Linux Mint (currently 21.2-Xfce which uses the 5.15 kernel (which was released Oct/Nov 2021 if I recall correctly) by default) and rebooting is generally not needed short of kernel updates which with those you can install, then reboot whenever you feel like. it will suggest rebooting, since that is required to switch to the new kernel, but you can wait as long as you want.

    but the only thing I don’t install unless I plan to reboot shortly after is NVIDIA driver updates since I noticed, while you can install them and not reboot, it seems to interfere with GPU accelerated video playback on Celluloid etc (so for proper function you basically need to reboot if you install the NVIDIA driver update). so what I do when offered a NVIDIA driver update if I don’t want to reboot is right click the update in Mint’s ‘Update Manager’ and tell it to ignore this current update etc. then in the future when I do get around to rebooting ill usually just remove the entries blocking those particular updates so everything is back to normal… ‘Update Manager > Edit > Preferences > Packages’ and on the ‘Blocked packages’ section simply highlight/select what you want to remove and then click the “-” in the bottom area.

    in fact, as I type this on my primary PC, which I leave running all of the time, I am at my all-time record uptime and still going, which I just cracked 110 days (at this point I am going to see how far I can take it without a reboot). my previous record was 105 days and change. prior to that, 99 days and change. on Windows it’s difficult to get more than about 30-45 days because of forced reboots because of updates etc.

    note: in regards to my record uptime… I noticed about 80 days in (checking terminal with ‘ps -o etime *PIDhere*’ shows 29 days 18hrs etc it’s been running so nearly 30 days ago when I issued the ‘pulseaudio -k’ which means I was 80 days and some odd hours in when I issued the pulseaudio -k command), when playing a video through Celluloid etc to my TV, which is HDMI (my PC monitor is connected through DP and has PC speakers and those were fine), there was a bit of sound crackling noises (but my PC speakers were okay as it only effected the HDMI sound output) but I cured that by ‘pulseaudio -k’ (without the ‘) from terminal which basically restarts the sound server (kills it off but apparently Mint auto-reloads it as I see it running in Task Manager) and it’s been fine since.

    but since those 110 days there has been one NVIDIA driver update (I am currently using v525 series driver in the ‘Driver Manager’ in Mint) that I avoided installing and there is eight kernel updates after what I am currently using as I am currently on 5.15.0-79 and there has been 82/83/84/86/87/88/89/91 since.

    TIP: anyone who reads this if you did not take any action and have been running Mint for a while you probably have quite a few old kernels still installed which will burn up a fair amount of free space. so I would remove these (‘Update Manager > View > Linux Kernels’ and click ‘Remove Kernels…’ and the rest should be fairly straight forward as you can’t remove the kernel that’s currently in use so you can’t mess up your computer even if you remove everything shown there. some suggest keeping the newest kernel with one a little prior to that on the side of caution) and probably suggest setting up the automated kernel removal in Mint… ‘Update Manager > View > Preferences’ and on ‘Automation’ and on ‘Automatic Maintenance’ where it says ‘Remove obsolete kernels and dependencies’, enable this.

    p.s. I have been on Mint since Jan 2019. I have played with Windows 11 through virtual machine (QEMU/KVM) on my computer as it’s hardware is not officially supported by Windows 11 but it works without issue through the VM(virtual machine) (as I see it’s emulating TPM 2.0) and I even ran a script from Github to “activate” it (works on Win10/11) and it holds up after clean installs, but one has to use the same UUID for the VM for the Windows activation to hold up after fresh VM installations. I fairly rarely use a Windows VM but it’s nice to have just-in-case.


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