Microsoft, OEMs Put Downgrade Restrictions On Windows 10

Early reviews of Windows 10 are positive. The operating system that officially launches July 29 is being unofficially called the "Windows We’re-Sorry Edition" after the fiasco that was Windows 8. But that still doesn't mean partners are not putting the brakes on migrating to Windows 10 out of the gate.

"Windows 10 might be the best OS Microsoft has ever come out with, but that doesn't mean our customers are ready to migrate off Windows 7," said Larry Velez, CTO and founder of Sinu, a New York-based MSP that partners with both Google and Microsoft.

Partners such as Sinu said they are hoping Microsoft doesn't deviate from its tradition of offering downgrade rights to earlier OSes as it pushes consumers and businesses hard to adopt Windows 10.

[Related: Microsoft's Free Windows 10 Upgrade: 10 Things Partners Need To Know]

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All indications suggest that major PC makers Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Lenovo plan on offering downgrade rights to earlier versions of Windows with some exceptions.

Hewlett-Packard said partners can expect Windows 10 Pro to ship with downgrade rights to both Windows 8 Pro and Windows 7 Pro. HP business customers of the Windows 10 Pro will have the option to have an earlier version of Windows ship preloaded on PCs with either Windows 7 Pro or Windows 8 Pro.

HP business partners also can purchase Windows 10 Pro PCs (preloaded with Windows 10) and choose to downgrade to Windows 7 Pro or Windows 8 Pro at a later time. In that case, it's likely a partner would have to make a special request for the OS media to downgrade to.

End of support for Microsoft's Windows 7 operating system is not until 2020. End of life for Windows 8 is January 2023, according to Microsoft.

"Some companies need to replace aging hardware, but just aren't ready to standardize on Windows 10 yet," Velez said.

Windows 7 is still the leading operating system with 61 percent global market share for desktop PCs, according to monthly figures from NetMarketShare. Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 together make up 15 percent of operating systems in use, followed by Windows Vista users who represent 1.6 percent of operating systems.

Dell said it will ship Windows 7 Pro and Windows 8.1 Pro factory-installed for most Windows 10 system customers, when requested.

Lenovo said if a partner requests downgrades, it will ship ThinkPad, ThinkCentre and ThinkStation systems with a Windows 10 Pro license and a Windows 7 Pro downgrade preload. It also said it anticipated having TopSeller models with both Windows 10 Pro preloads and TopSeller models with the Windows 7 downgrade preload. Lenovo TopSellers are preconfigured systems designed to appeal to the most number of partners for a competitively low price.

While businesses with Pro licenses have extraordinary flexibility when it comes to upgrading and downgrading, all other Windows consumer users and some SMB customers are faced with limited options.

For one year, Microsoft is allowing consumers and some businesses with systems running Genuine Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 a free upgrade to Windows 10. But when we asked: Once you upgrade for free to Windows 10, is it possible to downgrade back to Windows 8 or 7 without having to buy a new OS license? Microsoft said those who upgrade to Windows 10 for free will have one month to revert back to the old OS on their device.