How Do I Downgrade From Windows 10?

Rory Buszka

Partition Master
This is probably the most common question I have seen asked when relating to Windows 10. Even though I use Windows 10 and don't hate it too terribly (though I do despise some things about it, it's not enough to prompt a downgrade), I do think that the way Microsoft has pushed its latest OS on the market through unwanted automatic upgrades (using surreptitious, sneaky, slimy means) is nothing short of a colossal betrayal of trust, and it should be an outrage to anyone, even more or less satisfied users of Windows 10, that Microsoft has conducted itself this way.

I created this write-up as an easy step-by-step reference for anyone searching the web for this question. I didn't go into too terribly much detail below, so if you have questions, do a google search with your question or post it here in this thread. If you follow these steps carefully, you won't leave out anything too crucial.


How do you downgrade from Windows 10?

The answer is that there is no guided or automatic process for this, so you have to do a manual clean install, the hard way. You will want to pick a weekend when you'll have some time to babysit your PC.

1) Obtain installation media for the previous version of Windows that you want, with a valid product key. If you bought your PC with the previous OS version, see if you have any recovery media that shipped with the PC. If you built your PC, you probably have the Windows installation media in storage somewhere.

2) Make a full backup of your main hard drive using Windows 7 version of the backup utility (that Win10 includes because the 10 version is crap and experienced users will want the 'old' one) - I recommend buying a dedicated external hard drive for backups if you don't have one. Also if you are using a laptop without a DVD drive, you will need to buy an external DVD drive and hook it up via USB for the re-install process.

3) Copy your user directories (Documents, Pictures, Music, Videos, Downloads) to the same external hard drive used for the system backup, because you can't grab them out of the backup you made using the backup utility (either Win7 or 10 versions don't allow this) and you will want to copy them back to your hard drive.

4) If you use Outlook, locate your email data file and also copy it to the external hard drive. You want to be able to get your emails back, and you will need this (.pst) file. Same goes for any other email client you use that resides on your PC, like Mozilla Thunderbird.

4-1/2) Make a list of all the programs on your PC that you will want to re-install after nuking everything. Also, find out what Wi-Fi or Ethernet adapter your PC has and download the driver for it, then save it to your backup external hard drive. You will need that for downloading all the Windows updates, drivers, and apps that you want to re-install.

5) Put in the installation media for your previous Windows version and reboot. When asked to boot from CD or DVD, do it.

6) During the install process, delete all existing partitions on your machine's hard drive (Win10 creates a bunch of extra) and create a new, single partition, then format that partition. This erases ALL data (OS, apps, files) that was on there.

7) Proceed to install the old version of Windows.

8) When the system comes up with the fresh install of the old version of Windows, install the driver for your Wi-Fi or Ethernet adapter.

9) Restart the machine and connect to your preferred network (either Ethernet or Wi-Fi).

10) Run Windows Update and download and install all the updates that you possibly can.

11) Run Windows Update again and see if there are any more updates. Do this until there are no more updates.

WARNING: If your Windows Update control panel says that installing the next update will install Windows 10, don't do it. Instead, skip to step 15 below and download/install the GWX Control Panel, then come back. Otherwise you will need to go back to Step 5.

12) Open the Documents, Pictures, Music, Videos, Downloads folders created by the new OS install and copy over the contents of the corresponding folders you made backups of when preparing to downgrade (step 3).

13) Start downloading and re-installing all your apps from the list you made in step 4-1/2.

14) Set all your settings back where you like them.

15) Download and install the latest version of the GWX Control Panel utility to prevent Windows Update from downloading Windows 10 and doing another pushy, slimy, cowardly, disrespectful automatic upgrade that you didn't ask for. Turn on every protection option that the GWX Control Panel offers. This will suppress any known Windows Updates that try to install Windows 10, as well as making pop-ups and taskbar icons for Windows 10 go away.

16) Resume using your PC as before.

Unbelievable, I know, but this is what you have to do. I don't mind it so much because I've done it many times when building or reconfiguring a new machine, but non-power-users will find this a time-consuming and arduous task. But you will have been initiated into the world of doing clean installs, and it's a good idea to know the process for doing this.

Happy computing.

And fuck you, Microsoft, fuck you. Learn to listen to your customers, and don't piss on them like this.

Postscript: While at one time I did write review articles for Techgage, I am not a current contributor and this post doesn't necessarily represent the position of Techgage on Windows 10 or downgrading, simply my own, so don't take it the wrong way. But there are people who want to go back to an old version and should understand the process to do so.
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Greg King

I just kinda show up...
Staff member
Late acknowledgement but great write up, Rory. It's good to see you around here. For those that don't wish to have Win10 installed on their PCs, knowingly or unknowingly, write ups like these are excellent.