Downgrading from Windows 8 to Windows 7: Steps and Caveats for Businesses

You have bought new computers running on Windows 8. But you are not interested in having your employees hurdle the learning curve associated with the new tile-based interface. All you want is to have the machines run on good old reliable Windows 7.

Here are the steps to downgrade from Windows 8 to Windows 7.

1. Get hold of Windows 7 Professional installation media. It has a corresponding alpha-numeric product key. Previously installed disks and product keys in your business organization can be used.

2. Confirm the availability of drivers. The new computer must have the requisite drivers for Windows 7.

3. Use the Windows 8 Recovery Media Creator utility to make a recovery drive. This enables you to easily restore the computer to Windows 8, in case you will need to do so in the future. You can find Windows 8 Recovery Media Creator in Settings.

4. Do BIOS configuration. You need to go through the BIOS boot option in order to install Windows 7 Pro X86 (which is installed differently from the X64 version) on computers equipped with the new Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI), the replacement for the traditional BIOS. Windows 7 Pro X86 does not support UEFI, thus the need for configuring the BIOS.

5. Proceed with installing Windows 7. The same installation media disk and key can be used multiple times.

6. Call Microsoft for activation. Product activation will not happen automatically because you have already used the Windows 7 key before. A number to call Microsoft will appear on the activation window. Simply read out your Windows 8 Pro key when prompted by the representative over the phone, then explain that you want to downgrade to Windows 7. You will then receive an activation code.

So what are the possible drawbacks of downgrading a Windows 8 computer to run Windows 7?

Majority of Microsoft’s business software licenses include rights to downgrade. Thus, you do not lose the right to switch to Windows 8 in the future.

Software downgrade rights are handy, most especially to business organizations. Once Microsoft releases new software versions, it normally stops selling older versions. This poses a problem to some business users. For example, what if you were to buy a new server that runs Windows Server 2008? Does it mean you need to invest on the current Windows Server 2012 in order to deploy it properly? The less expensive way would be to simply exercise downgrade rights.

How can things go wrong when you choose to downgrade?

You risk noncompliance, which can be a problem when your business is audited. You may not know that you do not have edition downgrade rights.

For instance, you bought Office Professional Plus for the computers in your office, but you opted to use Office Standard. If your company gets audited, you can end up paying for licenses to run Office Standard because Office Professional Plus does not come with edition downgrade rights.

For businesses, always ensure that your seemingly harmless downgrading to Windows 7 does not rack up fees later on. Have someone competent and knowledgeable read through the compliance policies before you downgrade your company’s new computers to Windows 7.

By K. Ong