Don't like Windows 10? Here's how to uninstall it

Don't like Microsoft's new OS? Here’s how to go back to the version you had before

Windows 10 was certainly a huge leap forward when Microsoft unveiled it in 2015. At the time, users were getting increasingly frustrated with legacy Microsoft operating systems. Windows Vista was a no-no, Windows 7 was uninspired and Windows 8 was criticised for its oversimplification and mobile-focused UI.

The user interface for Windows 10 was one of the biggest shifts Microsoft users had ever seen. It was pretty much a complete overhaul, bringing the platform in-line with other desktop and laptop operating systems (dare we say it - MacOS and to some extent, Chrome OS). Simplified menus, new iconography, features that really blasted the operating system into the 21st century made it a pleasure to use for the majority.

But, as is usually the case when a company launches such a significant overhaul, there were objectors. For starters, because it was such a change, a lot of applications and programmes weren't supported from the outset. This was probably the fault of the developers for not testing the new operating system, but also, should Microsoft have made such a giant leap?

Those that made use of the free upgrade to Windows 10 just after launch may have been a little disappointed that it didn't offer everything they were promised, stripping down some legacy features, and completely getting rid of them in some cases. Although it's toon late to roll back to Windows 8.1 now as there was only a 10-day grace period, it's still possible to switch back to an older version of the iOS, although it is a more laborious process, so be prepared!

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Below is our guide to going back Windows 10 to version 7 or 8, without losing data in the process.

How to uninstall Windows 10 after an automatic install

When Microsoft automatically rolled out in Windows 10 update to everyone, without asking their permission, there was quite an uproar. Not only did people complain that their existing programs stopped working, but critical data was lost too, leaving a lot of users in a very sticky situation.

Luckily, Microsoft offered anyone who didn't get on with the update the option to downgrade their system - as long as they did so within 30 days. Many people took advantage of this and when they discovered their programs weren't compatible, they switched back to Windows 8, Windows 7 or sometimes, even older platforms.

But after the roll-out of the 2016 Anniversary update, testers have just 10 days to decide whether they want to keep it. Microsoft justified this by saying its research showed the majority of those using the roll-back feature did so within the first few days and also, by removing the ability to revert to older versions of the operating system, computers could save between 3GB and 5GB space on their hard drives. After this time, the old OS is removed from your machine.

Rolling back

The first thing to do before you upgrade is to make sure you have a backup of all your files and folders either in the cloud or on an external hard drive, and perhaps a key to reactivate Windows 7 or Windows 8 if you think it may all go a little wrong.

To roll back to your previous version of the OS, go to the Start menu and choose 'Settings', then Update & security'. Choose 'Recovery' in the left-hand panel and, on the right, find Go back to Windows 8.1' or 'Go back to Windows 7'. Click the Get started' button below that and follow instructions.

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Once you have gone back to the old version of Windows, older programs may need to be installed. 

Of course, this will only work if you still have the Windows.old folder (C:\Windows.old). If you can't find it or you have deleted it, then you are out of luck.

A clean install

A complete reinstall may be your only option if the rollback method described above is no longer available.

This can also have the effect of removing tons of bloatware that have clogged up your operating system, slowing it down.

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A clean install is different from the Reset you PC option in Windows 8 and above. This can often re-install junkware that came from the manufacturer with the laptop. 

This uses just the Windows media (CD or USB) and nothing else and should result in a faster PC as well. It is also a way of dealing with any malware-infected machines or those that have been riddled with ransomware and had data encrypted.

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To perform a clean install, insert the Windows DVD into the disc drive or insert a USB containing the Windows installation media into a free USB port. Then turn on the computer (or restart it).                                                   

Look for Press any key to boot from CD or DVD or Press any key to boot from an external device. Pressing a key will force the computer to boot from either the Windows DVD or a flash drive with the Windows 8 installation files on it.

If you can't find your old disc, as long as you have the product keys, you can download Windows installation media and burn the ISO file to a disc or copy it to a USB drive using Microsoft's Windows USB/DVD download tool

On a Windows 7 PC, look for a "certificate of authenticity" sticker with a key on it. It is normally on the underside of a laptop or at the back of a desktop PC. For Windows 8 PCs, the key can be embedded in your computer's firmware. This means Windows 8.1 will automatically detect it and allow reinstallation of Windows 8.1 without even asking for a key.

Uninstalling via a factory restore

If you find yourself after the rollback time limit with no going back to an old version of Windows, help may still be at hand for some users. On many PCs and laptops, there is a hidden partition on the hard disc that has a copy of the original Windows, programs, drivers and settings, which were on your PC when you brought it back from the shops. With any luck, Windows 10 will have ignored this and left it intact. 

To access it, when booting up look for messages such as "Press F11 for Recovery Options". Whatever key the PC wants you to press, press that and with any luck, you should get a menu that has options to restore factory settings. 

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A restore will very likely wipe the entire C drive, so back up any important data before you do this. You will also have to install a ton of Windows update post-installation as well as any drivers and software for hardware you have installed yourself.

Using third-party backup software

If you managed to make an image of your computer prior to upgrading to Windows 10, you can use third-party software to re-install that image onto your computer and get back to a previous version of Windows.

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Tools such as EaseUS Todo Backup Free (www.easus.com) can do this. To create an image, plug in an external drive, run Todo Backup and click System Backup or Disk/Partition Backup

You can use the default settings on this and once the backup is underway, the application can be minimised while performing its task. To create recovery media, click on the Tools icon and select Create Emergency Disk. There are several choices and the best is Create WinPE emergency disk' and USB. Insert a memory stick with a capacity of at least 1GB.

The USB drive can be used to start the PC. Just press a function key while the machine starts up to boot from USB and this will run the restore software automatically so you can restore the PC. 

What if my PC only came with Windows 10? 

If you bought a new PC running Window 10 and you want to uninstall this and put an older version on, things get a little trickier. The legitimate way of having an older copy of Windows on this is to buy a Windows 7 or 8.1 license and install it from scratch, entering the product key you bought during installation.

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