Ron is a retired engineer and manager for IBM and other high tech companies. He specialized in both hardware and software design.
Have you recently upgraded your computer from Windows 7 to Windows 10, but are now considering reverting, at least temporarily, from Windows 10 back to Windows 7? And do you anticipate that having gone back to Win7, you might want to reinstall Win10 at some future time? If so, here is an urgent word of advice – don’t do it!
At least, don’t do it unless you are aware of the potential pitfalls and know exactly what you are doing.
I found out the hard way that reverting from Win10 to Win7 is not as foolproof as a lot of people on the web make it sound. There are literally hundreds of websites filled with assurances that you need not be afraid to install Windows 10 because you can easily go back to Windows 7 if you don't like it. What none of them I looked at warned about is the fact that the reversion process will wipe out your pre-installed Win7 product key. Without that key, your Win7 installation will be marked “not genuine.” And that will prevent you from being able to install many applications, including Windows 10.
So, if your computer came with Win7 pre-installed, and you were not given the product key, installing Win10, and then reverting to Win7 will leave you without any genuine copy of the Windows operating system. In other words, you’re stuck!
This article is for people who either did not receive a Win7 product key when they purchased their computer, or who had one but misplaced it. If you do have your key, successfully reverting from Win10 to Win7 should not be a problem for you.
How I lost Win10 and invalidated Win7
I purchased a used PC with Windows 7 preinstalled for the express purpose of upgrading to Windows 10 while it was still free. After some difficulties I was able to get Win10 successfully installed and most of my applications working. But one of those applications, MS Office 2003, would not install.
I have Office 2003 working correctly on other Win10 machines. But in each of those instances, the program was installed under Win7 and continued to work flawlessly once I upgraded to Win10.
That led me to believe that the problem might only be with the Office 2003 setup program, rather than with the application itself. Since I had no problems when it was installed under Windows 7, I thought the solution to my problem would be to revert to Windows 7, install Office 2003, then go back to Windows 10.
All the articles I read online assured me that if I reverted to Win7 from Win10, I could easily go back to Win10 later on. In fact, this was even recommended as a strategy for acquiring Win10 before the free purchase period expired, even if you didn’t want to start using it right away. Apparently, when Win10 is installed, Microsoft makes note of that fact, and associates that particular installation with the specific hardware on which it took place. Even if you then revert to Windows 7, you would have effectively “reserved” a free copy of Windows 10, which could then be reinstalled after the free period expired, without having to purchase a paid version.
The implication was that in going back to Win7, your machine would be restored to exactly its state before the upgrade to Win10.
“This copy of Windows is not genuine”
So, I went ahead and followed Microsoft's directions for reverting to Windows 7. The reversion went surprisingly quickly, taking not quite an hour to complete. However, neither in the instructions about how to do the downgrade, nor during the process itself, were there any warnings about potential issues or danger areas I needed to be aware of.
Imagine, then, my shock and dismay when Windows 7 was restored, but now carried an on-screen notice that “This copy of Windows is not genuine.”
To add insult to injury, the copy of Office 2003 I had purchased refused to install under Windows 7 just as it had under Windows 10.
Now in something of a panic, I tried to reinstall Windows 10. But the installation process demanded that I enter the product key, which, of course, I did not have. So, now I was stuck. My Win7 installation is marked as not genuine, and I can’t get back to Win10.
Reverting to Win7 wiped out my product key
When I called the company from which I purchased the computer, I was told that when you revert from Win10 back to Win7, it does a “clean install” that wipes out all the previous operating system information, including your Win7 product key. Worse, the vendor said that by the terms of their agreement with Microsoft, they are strictly forbidden to give out that product key. So, they couldn’t just send it to me. The only way to overcome this problem and get my Win7 installation marked as genuine again, would be to return the computer to them so they could reenter the key themselves.
This did not make me happy.
But, upset as I was at not having been warned about this issue, I kept my cool and did not rant and rave on the phone. Keeping the conversation civil encouraged the vendor to search for a solution that hopefully will undo the damage. (It’s not something they can do for everyone, so I won’t mention specifically what it is).
If you are thinking of reverting from Windows 10 to Windows 7, be careful!
The purpose of this article is simply to alert people to the fact that, despite what you may have read on the web, reverting from Windows 10 to Windows 7 is not necessarily a painless process. In fact, it can be a downright dangerous one. If you do it without having your Win7 product key, you may find yourself up the proverbial creek without the proverbial paddle.
When I first thought about undoing my Win10 upgrade, I had some real trepidation about messing around with an installation that I had finally got working. But I squashed those thoughts. After all, in light of the almost unanimous reassurances I was seeing on the web, what could possibly go wrong? As it turns out, quite a lot!
From now on, I'll be paying more attention to my trepidations.
If you still want to go back to Windows 7, check out this video
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2016 Ronald E Franklin
Sammiepetty on April 13, 2018:
Has anyone had major issues with your PC after the downgrade? My downgrade was out of my hands, and ever since the PC has gone from windows 10 back to 7 it has just been not functioning correctly.
Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on March 21, 2018:
Hi, Audrey. I can't deny that Win 10 has presented some challenges. After a recent major automatic update, my wife's Win 10 computer became unusable. After many hours of labor I finally figured out how to get around the problem by doing a reinstall from Microsoft's website, which put the newest version in place and got around the update problem.
Still, I'd recommend that you upgrade from Win 7 to Win 10. The reason is that Win 7 will soon become unsupported by Microsoft, and will become an orphan like Win XP. Win 7 mainstream support already ended in 2015, and extended support ends in 2020.
I changed from Win 7 to 10 because, having been through the loss of support with XP, I didn't want to have to face it again.
I wish when you are satisfied with your present OS you could just keep it (I'd still be using XP!), but that's not the way technology works.
Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on March 21, 2018:
I'm still using Win 7 as I've heard horror stories about upgrading to Win 10. I'm not all that savvy about computers anyhow so I'm sticking to Win 7 for now.
Thanks for this informative and well-written article.
Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on August 01, 2016:
Hi, MsDora. Sounds like you may have been bitten by this problem also. If so, I'm sorry it happened to you. It's very frustrating, especially since no warning was given. Thanks for sharing.
MsDora on August 01, 2016:
Thanks for this instructive article, although too late for me. At least, now I understand a little better what is the real problem.
Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on July 29, 2016:
Diane, your's is another example that the promise of "no harm, no foul" if you revert from Win10 is not necessarily true. I'm not a user of Outlook, so I don't know how Win10 accommodates those who are. For me Win10 has worked out pretty well, except for the glitch I describe here. Thanks for sharing.
G. Diane Nelson Trotter from Fontana on July 29, 2016:
I am mad because the did away with Outlook. That's where I keep everything. I reverted from Windows 10 back to 7 and lost a lot of stuff. Now I have windows 10 on one computer and windows 7 on another.
Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on July 29, 2016:
Hi, heidithorne. I think the lesson I'm taking away from this episode is, when it comes to the OS, if it's working, don't mess with it! I, too, like Win10, and after this, have no plans to ever again try to uninstall it. Thanks for sharing.
Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on July 29, 2016:
Backward compatible technology is such a minefield as you've discovered! Been there, done that and often had to purchase something new or different to combat the problem. Thanks for sharing the warning for those who are struggling with the same issue! P.S. Win 10 has been good so far for me.