The easiest way to go from Windows 10 back to Windows 7 or 8

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You read this blog. You also probably listen to my podcast. You most likely know that I do computer repair here in Safety Harbor, Florida (and remotely all around the country). So you know that I’ve been telling people, “Don’t upgrade to Windows 10 yet”. It’s too early, and there are bugs (as we knew there would be). I’ve had a few clients just this past week who went ahead and upgraded to Windows 10 anyway, and now their printer isn’t recognized. Or they can’t go online because the wifi doesn’t work. I even had one newly-upgraded Windows 10 desktop computer that didn’t recognize ANY keyboard or mouse – wireless, USB or even the old-fashioned PS2 style.

Windows 10 bugs

 

NOTE: for those of you that have upgraded to Windows 10 and your computer is working fine, that’s great. I know a lot of people already have done this and so far seemingly have had no problems. This particular blog post is for the other group – for whom Windows 10 is not working as it is supposed to.

If you planned ahead properly, going back to Windows 7 or 8 is easy. You just restore from a system image backup. The catch is that you have to already have a Windows 7 system image backup created – BEFORE you do the Windows 10 upgrade.

So if you haven’t yet upgraded to Windows 10, but you’re about to go ahead and do it (not recommended), you need to create that system image backup first. To do that, I use a free program called Macrium Reflect. I’ve set up this backup process on lots of client computers, and I use it on my own computer every day. (It’s actually one of the FOUR separate backups I do daily on my main computer. Yes, perhaps I’m overdoing it on the side of caution – you don’t really need to do 4 types of backups each day.)

I’m not going to go into the full details of how to set up a system image backup with Macrium Reflect. If you want, I can help you get that in place, and I can do it remotely. You will need to have an external/portable drive just for that backup – you can get a 1 TB portable drive now for about $60. When this is created, Macrium Reflect takes a “picture” of your entire hard drive and puts it on that external drive. That’s why you want to do this BEFORE you upgrade to Windows 10, so the external drive will have that snapshot of your entire computer while it’s still running Windows 7 or 8.

Then, if you upgrade to Windows 10 and something doesn’t work, or several things don’t work, or you just don’t like it, you can just restore that Windows 7 or 8 system image and you’re back to the previous version of Windows just like nothing happened.

Important note: any work that you do while you’re in Windows 10 mode will not be carried back to the Windows 7 or 8 restore. So if you create anything important, or edit any critical documents, or make any other important changes, be sure to save them somewhere else BEFORE you run that system restore.

What if you upgraded to Windows 10 and you don’t have a system image backup?

Unfortunately, that’s the situation in which some people are finding themselves. If that’s you, you’re not completely out of luck. If you did the Windows 10 upgrade within the last 30 days, you should be able to use the “Go back to Windows 7” function that’s built in to Windows 10.

To do that, use the search function in Windows 10 and do this search (exactly):

Go back to Windows 7

or if that search does not work, try doing a search on just this one word:

recovery

In either case, what you are looking for in the search results is the option to go back to your previous installation of Windows 7. If you see that option listed, click on the “Get Started” link right under that phrase and follow the directions on the screen. It’s important that you have anything critical backed up before you start this process, and you also must know your Windows 7 login password (if you had one) – otherwise you won’t be able to log in to Windows after this is completed. It will take a few restarts and a good chunk of time, but if it is successful, you’ll be back to your previous Windows installation.

What if you don’t have a system image backup, and the “Go back” function is not an option?

If these first two processes aren’t available or don’t work, then you’re really looking at just a regular reinstallation of Windows 7 or 8. As you might suspect, this process could mean that any data that’s currently on the computer will be lost. In fact, you should assume that everything on the computer will be wiped out so you should copy anything important to an external drive or some type of backup.

The important thing to know is this – you can avoid all of this hassle just by choosing NOT to upgrade to Windows 10 yet. As I have been saying for a while, there is no advantage to upgrading right away. If you’re running Windows 7 or 8, the upgrade to Windows 10 is going to be free for a whole year. So just be patient and wait for all the impatient early upgraders (AKA guinea pigs) to find the bugs so that Microsoft can fix the bugs (the big ones anyway). You can always upgrade later. Or, you might skip Windows 10 completely, since Windows 7 will be supported up to January 2020.

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