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Full Guide on Changing Windows 10 back to Windows 7/8.1 – No Data Loss

  • Contents:

    You May Feel Regretful after Upgrading to Windows 10, Right?

    In order to let more people use the newest Windows operating system – Windows 10, Microsoft promises all devices running Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 can free upgrade to Windows 10 within one year, which indeed attracts lots of people all over the world, and I was once a member in Windows 10 crowd. Nevertheless, after using this system for a period of time, parts of users planned to rollback it to the previous version of Windows since they think Windows 10 is not as good as Microsoft says, and I searched on the internet, with listing the following 4 reasons for rollback:

    • Some programs cannot be used in Windows 10.
    • Privacy is threatened since Microsoft might collect or leak our private information like address, mail, and phone number by default.
    • Windows 10 loses many cool features which work well in Windows 7 or 8.1.
    • Windows 10 is a new-born operating system so it is vulnerable and unstable.

    View the post Configure Windows 10 to Protect Privacy to see what security issues Windows 10 has as well as how to configure it to protect your privacy.

    Of course, there might be other reasons driving you to do the rollback, but this is not the key point. What users care about most is how to do the rollback. Aiming at different users we give different solutions, so please choose the correct one for yourself. Then, let’s see details.

    windows 10 How to Use Windows 10 as Virtual Machine Easily and Quickly
    How to use Windows 10 as a virtual machine? This post takes VirtualBox and VMware Workstation for example to show the detailed steps and gives some useful tips.

    How to Rollback Windows 10 to Windows 7 or Windows 8.1

    1.Backup Important Files in Case of Downgrade Failure

    No matter which method we take to rollback Windows, it’s best to make a copy for all our important files. After all, any accident or error could occur during the rollback process, and this may result in data loss and even system crash.

    It's very easy to clone system disk: start and launch the program, select the system disk, choose "Copy Disk" feature, select the disk that is used to hold the copy of the system disk, choose copying methods, and apply changes. For more details, please see Copy Disk.

    Of course, you can choose to backup Windows 10 and system related files only but not the entire system disk.

    You can use MiniTool Partition Wizard to make a copy for the whole system disk, which is absolutely free for Windows 10 users.
    To backup Windows 10, please go to Control Panel > System and Security > File History > System Image Backup > Create a system image, and then create system image by following instructions. Once a backup is created, it’s time to start the rollback.

    By default, a system image includes the drives required for Windows to run. It also includes Windows and your system settings, programs, and files. You can use a system image to restore the contents of your computer if your hard disk or computer ever stops working.
    ---------- Microsoft

    2.Revert Windows 10 to Windows 7/8.1 within One Month

    As long as you make the rollback within a month (someone says 30 days and someone says 28 days) from the time you upgraded, Microsoft offers an option to do the downgrade, which could be Go back to Windows 7, Go back to Windows 8.1, or Go back to previous version of Windows, depending on your system and settings. Here, we take reverting Windows 10 to Windows 8.1 for example:
    Click Start windows 10 start button > Settings > Update & security > Recovery to get the window below:

    go back to previous Windows option

    Here we can see the Go back to option. Please tap on Get started button, and then Microsoft will ask for your feedback as well as reasons for changing back to previous Windows. Type your feedback and click Next. Then, the following screen will appear:

    make sure plug in your pc

    Please make sure that your computer is plugged in, because the rollback might be interrupted due to power off, and then click Close to continue. Afterwards, click Go back to Windows 8.1 button to do the rollback, which may take some time for the system needs to read settings of the previous Windows. Once the rollback process is completed, your computer will automatically boot from the previous version of Windows.

    Tip: rollback requires the password of your old version of Windows. Without it, you will be locked out of the system. In addition, after you go back to old Windows, some apps coming with Windows, like Mail and People, might not work anymore. To fix them, reinstall them from the Store.

    Nevertheless, during the rollback progress, you may receive the error message: We are sorry, but you can’t go back. The files we need to take you back to a previous version of Windows were removed from this PC.

    can't go back to previous windows

    Now, most users would want to know what files were deleted or removed. In fact, the rollback should be on the availability of Windows.old and $Windows.~BT or $Windows.~WS, which are created by Windows during upgrade and hidden in drive C by default. If one of them is deleted, renamed, or damaged, then you may receive the error message above. To check whether these files are still there, please do these operations:
    Go to Drive C, click on View tab, check File name extensions and Hidden items:

    how to view hidden items in Windows 10

    Then open Options, under View tab put checkmark on Show hidden file, folders, and drives, and remove checkmarks from Hide extensions for known file types and Hide protected operating system files.

    show hide items in folder option

    After these settings, these files would be visible in root directory of C drive. However, if you can’t find them, most probably they have been lost. Under this situation, users have no choice but to try recovering them or take the rollback solution that will be introduced in the next section. As to recovering deleted data, please see Undelete Recovery to get details.

    In addition, it’s very necessary to mention another situation: you are unable to find the Go back to previous version of Windows option even if the upgrade is completed within one month. Here is the possible reason: you logged in as a regular user rather than with admin account. To deal with this situation, just change the current account to the admin account, and then the very option would emerge.

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    Well then, what if the upgrade has been done for more than a month? Users have to take the following methods.

    Rollback Windows 10 to Windows 7 or 8.1 after One Month Limit

    Before showing the exact methods, let’s see a way to extend the one month limit to go back to previous version of Windows, which is recommended by lots of websites.

    The Way to Extend the One Month Limit to Go back to Previous Windows

    Based on the fact that files (Windows.old and $Windows.~BT or $Windows.~WS) used to revert Windows 10 will be deleted automatically after one month, which is the key to resulting in downgrade failure, many people suggest making a copy for those files or renaming them before the one month limit ends, which is in theory available. But in my opinion, it’s useless. Here is my explanation.

    From Microsoft I got the message that the Go back to previous version of Windows option will be unavailable in Settings if the upgrade has been done for more than a month. Without such an option, how can we do the rollback even if files for reverting are still there. Of course, if you are lucky enough to find the option somewhere or make it appear again, this is undoubtedly an excellent solution.

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    Therefore, users have to look for other ways after the upgrade has been done over one month.

    Revert Windows 10 to Old Version of Windows from a Windows 7 or 8.1 Backup

    Before upgrading to Windows 10, most people will be suggested to make a backup for their system or other important files in case of upgrade failure. If you have prepared such a backup, it could be so easy to do the restoration. Here, we just show how to rollback Windows from backup created by Windows, for there are lots of third party backup programs which require different operations.

    1.Restore from Backup and Restore (recommended to revert to Windows 7)
    Go to Control Panel > System and Security > Backup and Restore (Windows 7) > Select another backup to restore files from. Then, do the recovery by following instructions.

    PS. Backup and Restore is a component of Microsoft Windows introduced in Windows Vista, which allows users to create backups and restore from backups. It was deprecated in Windows 8 and removed in Windows 8.1,and then back in Windows 10. This tool allows you to restore any old Windows 7 backups on your Windows 10 computer.

    In addition, if you have created a system image for Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 before the upgrade, you can use another recovery option in Windows 10 to do the rollback – Advanced Startup.

    2.Restore from System Image
    Go to Start windows 10 start button > Settings > Update & security > Recovery > Advanced startup > Restart now to get the following window:

    windows 10 advanced startup option

    Here, please choose Troubleshoot, and then Advanced options to enter the screen below:

    system image recovery in advanced startup

    Now choose System Image Recovery, and then recover Windows using a specific system image file.

    Note: everything will be replaced with the information in the system image if you recover from a system image, so please backup all your important files saved after the image is created.

    Actually, we can see another advanced option – Go back to the previous build, which in theory would bring system back to the previous version, but I didn’t make such a test. If you are interested in this method, you can have a try and please tell us whether it works. Thanks.

    In addition, someone suggests rolling back Windows 10 from a command prompt, which is indeed introduced by Microsoft specially for Windows 7 users. If you are interested in this method, just try it. Well, what if we want to do the rollback when Windows 10 is unbootable? Here are 2 options: rollback Windows 10 from Safe Mode or revert it by using Windows installation disc or system repair disc (CD or DVD disc rather than USB flash drive). We haven’t tested these 2 methods, but you can have a try.

    Summary: reverting Windows 10 to old version of Windows from a backup is highly recommended if we have a backup for Windows 7 or Windows 8.1, because this requires simple operations and just removes new things. However, if there is no such backup, we have to take the following recovery options.

    Rollback Windows 10 to Windows 7 or 8.1 via Restoring Factory Settings

    In Windows 10 you are able to restore your computer to factory settings, which reinstalls the version of Windows coming with your computer. For example, if your computer was preinstalled with Windows 8, then upgraded to 8.1, and then upgraded to Windows 10, restoring factory settings will change Windows 10 back to Windows 8 rather than 8.1.

    Detailed steps to do factory reset are as follows: go to Start windows 10 start button , and then select Settings > Update & security > Recovery > Reset this PC > Get started > Restore factory settings.

    Tip: this will remove all your personal files, remove apps and drivers you installed, remove changes you made to settings, and reinstall any applications your PC manufacturer installed on the PC. So please backup all needed files in advance, and you can make a copy for the entire boot partition (always drive C) if there are lots of files to backup. MiniTool Partition Wizard Free can help you create such a copy with ease via the Copy Partition feature, and you can download the freeware to have a try.

    However, this recovery option isn’t available on all computers. If it doesn’t work for you or you have a product key for the previous version of Windows, we highly suggest making a clean Windows installation.

    Change Windows 10 back to Previous Windows from Clean Installation

    You can download the Media Creation Tool to create installation disc for Windows 8.1 or download Windows 7 ISO file and burn it to USB flash drive or DVD. Then, install your old version of Windows from this disc, and the product key for the previous Windows is required.

    However, to make sure you don’t lose any useful files from reinstallation, you’ll need to backup the system partition, and MiniTool Partition Wizard Free edition can help you do this in easy steps. For steps to backup a partition, please see Copy Partition.

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    Are you regretful to upgrade to Windows 10? If yes, now rollback it to the previous version of Windows by taking one of ways introduced here. Should you encounter problems during the rollback process, let us know via leaving a comment and we will try our best to help you solve them. In addition, if you think this post is useful, please share it to help more people. And any suggestions are also welcomed.