With its latest OS installment Windows 10, Microsoft offers many new features and enhancements over the previous versions. This Windows edition has become exceedingly popular worldwide. But, this does not mean everyone has to like it. Many users wish to uninstall Windows 10 and go back to the older version. They have their reasons. Microsoft has changed the UI dramatically and those who are used to old ways of interacting with Windows find it difficult to get comfortable with the new one.
If you wish to remove Windows 10 from your PC and install an older version, such as Windows 7 or 8.1, we have prepared this guide for you. There are three possible scenarios and we have covered all of them.
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Case 1: Uninstall Windows 10 and restore older Windows OS within 10 days of Upgrade (rollback)
When Windows 10 was first introduced in 2015, Microsoft gave you 30 days to revert to the original Windows (7 or 8) in case it was an upgrade. However, a year later, the company changed the policies and now you only have 10 days to return to the older version from which you upgraded to Windows 10.
Microsoft made these changes owing to the data which revealed that most users downgraded to the previous version within 10 days. The company further argued that this lets them free up space on the user’s computer sooner.
When you upgrade from an old Windows OS to Windows 10, a new folder named ‘Windows.Old’ is created which saves all the installation and backup files from the previous OS. That’s a lot of data and thus eats up a lot of space on your hard drive. This folder remains on your computer for up to 10 days, after which it is automatically deleted by Windows.
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If you are within 10 days of the upgrade, returning to your previous OS is extremely easy (assuming that you have not deleted the Windows.old folder manually or using Disk Cleanup app.) Here is what you need to do:
- Click the Start menu
- Select Settings
- Now click on the icon labeled ‘Update & security’
- Click ‘Recovery’
- You should see the option to go back to previous OS installation (7 or 8) depending upon which one you upgraded from; select the option
- Click ‘Get started’
- On the ‘Why are you going back?’ popup, select the reason why you wish to revert to the older version
- Click Next
This is all it takes to restore the older Windows OS version on your computer. It may take 15-20 minutes for the installation (or more) depending on your computer specs.
Note: This method works only when you have upgraded to Windows 10 and not performed a clean install.
Case 2: You are past 10 days of upgrade
Windows 10 will delete the Windows.old folder automatically after 10 days from installation. As aforementioned, Microsoft wants to free up space on your computer (some 10-15 GB) even if you don’t really need extra space (after all we use high capacity hard disks these days). So, you will no longer have access to the previous installation files after 10 days.
But, this does not mean you cannot uninstall Windows 10 and get back to the older version. Of course, it would not be as straightforward a rollback as in Case 1. Nevertheless, it is easy.
Since you upgraded from an older version of Windows 10, it is safe to assume that you were a licensed user of Windows 7 or 8.1. This also means that when you bought the OS (or the computer with OS preinstalled) you must have also received the product key.
In this case, we will need to perform clean install of the older version of Windows and overwrite Windows 10. In fact, you don’t need to do anything special to uninstall Windows 10. It will be overwritten with clean installation automatically. It is much like installing the OS on a new computer (or a formatted one).
If you are going back to Windows 7, you will need the Product Key. Thankfully, you don’t need the product key to install Windows 8.1.
Besides the product key, you will also need the ISO files for Windows installation. For Windows 8.1, visit https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/software-download/windows8 and download the Media Creation tool. Follow the easy on-screen instructions to create the ISO files. You can burn the ISO files to a DVD or create a bootable USB drive.
Windows 7 users will need to visit https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/software-download/windows7. You will need to enter a valid Product Key on this page to download the tool. If you created a Microsoft Account when you bought the new computer with Windows 7, you can find the product key there. You may also find the key on the underside of the laptop on a sticker. If you cannot find the key, you will need to contact Microsoft Support.
Once you have the ISO files on a CD/DVD or USB flash drive, you can boot your computer with it and install the fresh copy of Windows 7 or Windows 8.1. During the installation process, Windows 10 will be overwritten and the older version will be installed. If you have any important files on Windows 10, make sure you take the backup, especially if the files are saved on the Windows drive.
Note: You will need a valid license for the installation of the older version of Windows. If you have the license for Windows 8, you cannot install Windows 8.1 directly. But, you can install Windows 8 first and then perform the free upgrade to 8.1.
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Case 3: If you have clean Windows 10 installation
This is a pretty straightforward scenario. If you got a clean copy of Windows 10 and did not upgrade it from any older version, you cannot rollback to Windows 7 or 8.1 (as there is nothing to rollback to).
The licenses for every edition of Windows are different. In case of an upgrade, it is fair to assume you have a valid license for the older installment. But, if you installed Windows 10 fresh and have not used Windows 7 or 8.1 before, you may not have the valid license.
In this case, you will need to buy a fresh license for the older version you wish to install. You will need to buy it only once though and you can use it for as long as you want.
Once you have purchased the new license for the old version, you can uninstall Windows 10 with a fresh installation of Windows 7 or 8.1.
If you don’t like what Windows 10 has to offer, you can roll back to the previous edition of Windows OS. There are a few scenarios you need to keep in mind. If you have upgraded from an old edition to Windows 10 within the past 10 days, you can use the built-in tool of Windows 10 to roll back to the previous OS. If you are past 10 days, you can install the previous OS from the scratch and overwrite Windows 10. In case you bought a clean installation of Windows 10, you will need to buy the new license for the desired older version.