How To Uninstall Windows 8

How To Uninstall Windows 8 Consumer PreviewHow to Install Windows 8

This page is for those with a ‘can do’ mentality.  The situation is you have installed Windows 8, but now you want to downgrade to a previous operating system.

Purists will tell you that it’s not possible to uninstall these Microsoft Preview versions.  Guy says, ‘Why don’t we re-define the problem?’

How to Return to the Previous Operating System


Thinking Through the Uninstall Problem

Suppose one of those famous Microsoft wizards waved their magic wand, and ‘puff’ Windows 8 disappeared – what next?  Well you probably want to go back to your old operating system.  Thus the real problem is not the negative action of uninstalling Windows 8, but the positive one of installing Windows 7, Vista, XP, or whichever operating system was present before Windows 8.

Unfortunately there is no Microsoft downgrade magician, but if you installed the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, then I believe you have the skill to reinstall the previous operating system.  I do concede this is going to be a pain, but don’t shoot the messenger here.  Remember that so far no data has been lost, and neither will any personal files be over-written by the re-build.

Planning The Reinstall

  • Find a copy of your old operating system. 
    Check for a restore partition, maybe there is an option on the boot screen?
    Ask a friend to borrow their Windows 7 DVD, but use your product key.
  • You need to find the 25 digit product key. 
    Perhaps it’s on the back of your computer, or is there a sticker underneath?
    Could the number be scribbled in a notebook?
    Does your supplier have a record of this product key?
  • Would it be best to install the previous OS on a separate partition?
    My thought is should you keep Windows 8 until you get say Windows 7 working?
  • You will also need to find the DVDs for MS Office and other programs you installed.
  • See more about installing Windows 7

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Uninstalling Windows 8 Strategies

It goes without saying that you need to take care of all data files on this computer before reverting to a previous operating system.  So please backup the relevant data files, or copy them to a network share.

Dual-boot configurations.  The way back for a dual-boot system is easy; backup any useful data, reformat that second drive and then restore your personal files.

Upgraded to Windows 8 from an older Microsoft OS.  You are going to have to manually reinstall the previous operating system, for example, Windows 7 or XP.  Naturally, take the precaution of backing up data.  The real drag is reinstalling MS Office and any other programs that you used on this machine.  Just copying an old shortcut to the executable rarely results in the application running properly; mostly the target program not even start because it cannot find the correct registry entries and file locations.

There are several tactics for winning this uninstall battle.  Firstly you could leave as many files as possible intact while you re-install say Windows 7.

Secondly, admit the purists were right all along, backup, reformat the partition and start again.  This means installing the operating system and the other programs from scratch.  The appeal of this tactic is greater if you have a Windows 7 restore disk, or a Windows 7 image that you can apply to this computer.

Thirdly, you could try and make use of the Windows.old files to restore Windows 7.  I have seen this work from Vista back to XP, but have not tried it from Windows 8.

System Restore Points.  Good idea, but did not work for me; no restore point would downgrade Windows 8 back to Windows 7.

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Windows 7 ‘Upgrade’ from Windows 8 Consumer Preview

Cannot be done – The experts are correct if run a Windows 7 setup from Windows 8 then this is the message you get from Microsoft:

Windows 8 Consumer Preview cannot be upgraded to Windows 7 Ultimate. You can choose to install a new copy of Windows 7 Ultimate instead, but this is different from an upgrade, and does not keep your files, settings, and programs. You’ll need to reinstall any programs using the original installation discs or files. To save your files before installing Windows, back them up to an external location such as a CD, DVD, or external hard drive. To install a new copy of Windows 7 Ultimate, click the Back button in the upper left-hand corner, and select "Custom (advanced)".

Re-installing the Old Operating System on the Same Partition

Can be done, but it’s a pain to install Windows 7 when Windows 8 is already operational.  I am just the messenger here!  If you can think of a better tactic for this situation, such as a recovery disk or a disk image, then go for that solution.

The partition you selected might contain files from a previous Windows installation. If it does, these files and folders will be moved to a folder named Windows.old. You will be able to access the information in Windows.old, but you will not be able to use your previous version of Windows.

Lessons Learned From Uninstalling Windows 8 Consumer Preview

Let us be brutal here, the problem occurred because we were gung-ho and Windows 8 lured us to upgrade, which made returning to the old operating system difficult.  Thus, next time let us take a different tactic, for instance opt for a clean install on a test machine, or dual booting to a second partition.

Upgrade Windows 8 Consumer Preview to Windows 8 RTM

This shocked me, if true it would be the first time I can remember beta software that could be upgraded to the (Release to Manufacturer) version.

Source: ComputerWorld, they say: "Users running Windows 8 Release Preview can upgrade using the upgrade tool and pay the $40."

Summary How to Uninstall Windows 8 Consumer Preview

If you upgraded from say Windows 7 to Windows 8 Preview, then sooner or later you are going to face the decision how to get back to the previous OS.  The key is to believe that it can be done.  The only difference between a manual re-install and a magic bullet is time.  I found that the most pain came when I had to reinstall MS Office and other programs that I needed on this machine.

On the other hand it was easy to get rid of Windows 8 on a dual-boot configuration, just backup data files, reformat that second drive and restore the data.

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Microsoft Windows 8 Install Related Topics

How to Install Windows 8  • Windows 8 Live ID Logon  • Win 8 Install  • Windows 8.1 Install

Windows 8 Uninstall  • Windows 8 Hyper-V  • Join Windows 8 to Domain  • Windows 8 Dual Boot

Windows 8 Remote Desktop  • Windows 8 RecImg – Recreate Image