How to uninstall Windows 10: Summary
Within a month of installing Windows 10 you can uninstall Windows 10 by selecting Go back to Windows 7 or 8.1 from the Recovery menu, but even after a month all hope is not lost. In this article we reveal your options for downgrading Windows 10. (Updated 25 October 2016 with general updates.)
How to uninstall Windows 10: Step-by-step guide
Windows 10 has been out for a good while now, and if you’ve recently upgraded then the clock is ticking on your downgrade window. Microsoft gives you one month to try out the new OS and roll back if you hate Windows 10 or find out some things don’t work properly. It’s easy to downgrade Windows 10 and return to Windows 7 or Windows 8.1, and here we answer your questions about downgrading and upgrading.
The first step is of course to back up any information you currently have on your PC that you want to keep. Changing an operating system is a big thing, and data can often be lost along the way. You can use external hard drives, thumb drives, or some of the various online cloud storage such as OneDrive, Google Drive, Dropbox, or Tresorit, that offer lots of space for free. When you’ve safely copied any documents, video, photos, or other important data you need, you’re ready to begin.
If you’ve added any user accounts since upgrading you’ll have to sign out of them and then remove them from the main account before you can downgrade.
Naturally, you can only downgrade if you upgraded from Windows 7 or 8.1. If you then did a clean install of Windows 10 you won’t see the option to go back. You’ll have to use a recovery disc, or reinstall Windows 7 or 8.1 from scratch.
How to downgrade Windows 10 after a month
Here are some options open to you.
How to downgrade Windows 10 after 30 days: a clean install
Once 30 days have elapsed since you upgraded to Windows 10, it will automatically delete your old Windows files (kept in a folder called Windows.old) along with the files in two other important hidden folders: $Windows.~BT and $Windows.~WS.
You can check for these folders by enabling ‘Hidden items’ in the View tab in File Explorer. But even if those folders are present after 30 days, it’s likely the files within them have been removed to prevent them using up a lot of unnecessary disk space. This means you can’t roll back.
One obvious way to get around this is to use your Windows 7 (or 8) disc and activation key. It’s not exactly a simple process since you’ll need to back up everything and then wipe your hard disk and start from scratch. After installing Windows, you’d need to install drivers for your hardware, then all your software, and finally your documents and all the other files and settings you backed up. And, of course, hundreds of Windows updates.
If you have a disc but lost your activation key, you can extract it from Windows 10 by pressing the Windows key and R to bring up the Run box. Then type cmd and press enter. Then copy and paste this code at the command prompt which will have popped up:
wmic path softwarelicensingservice get OA3xOriginalProductKey
Hit Enter and your original product key for the previous version of Windows will be displayed.
How to downgrade Windows 10 after 30 days: Factory restore
Many laptops and PCs have a hidden partition on the hard drive which contains a copy of the original Windows, programs, drivers and settings which were on your PC when it arrived. Upgrading to Windows 10 shouldn’t have affected this, so it should still be intact.
Whether or not you can access it is another matter. Typically you can look out for a message while your computer is starting up, such as “Press F11 for recovery options”. When you press the appropriate key, you should be presented with a menu that will include the option to restore factory settings. For more details, including which keys to press on different laptops, see How to reset a laptop to factory settings (this applies to some PCs as well).
On some computers, you’ll still have a Windows application which allows you to perform a restore by using the manufacturer’s own method. On an Acer Aspire laptop, for example, we found the Acer Recovery Management app which made it simple to go back to the original version of Windows which came in the box.
Performing a restore will wipe the C: drive, so you will lose all your personal files and settings. So you’ll still have to back these up, and you’ll still have plenty of Windows updates and programs to install after the restore is complete. You shouldn’t have to worry about anything not working, since the drivers will be reinstalled. But any hardware you’ve added will have to have the software or drivers reinstalled, such as a printer.
How to downgrade Windows 10 after 30 days: Third-party backup software
If you’re thinking of upgrading to Windows 10 (or have just done so) and don’t want the 30-day limit, there are two different options.
Hard drive imaging software is nothing new: Acronis, Norton Ghost and similar programs have allowed you to make a complete copy of your hard disk so you can quickly go back in the event of a hard drive failure, or some other disaster. You can use these, or something specific such as EaseUs System GoBack which is designed to let you roll back to a previous version of Windows.
Naturally, you need to install and use this type of software BEFORE you upgrade.
If you have already upgraded but are within the 30-day rollback window, you can enable hidden items (as described above) and rename the three folders which Windows will try to delete. If it can’t find the folders – because you’ve changed their names – it can’t delete them. We can’t verify this works, but some users have reported that renaming the folders back to their original names after 30 days brings back the rollback option, which you’ll find in Start > Settings > Update and Security > Recovery.