Windows 10 is the latest operating system from Microsoft. This OS has been with us since 2015, and Microsoft updates it every month, adding new features twice a year. However, although it is practically the only version that is supported today, there are many users who are not happy with it, and are looking for a way to go back, to downgrade to Windows 10. Although Microsoft doesn’t make it easy, there are always ways to change Windows 10 and install a different version of it. Or another older version of Windows. And even a different operating system.
Before making any changes to the Windows version, whether formatting is necessary or not, it is highly recommended to make a backup copy of the data. This way we will make sure that if something goes wrong, our data will be safe.
Check versions compatible with the license
First of all, we must be clear about the Windows license that we have and if it allows us to change the version to install and activate a previous one of the operating system. We remember that everything prior to Windows 8.1 no longer has any type of support, so although we will be able to use our license (if it is compatible) to activate Windows XP, it is not really recommended.
The first thing we need to know is if we have an OEM or Retail license. OEM licenses are installed by default on computers (they usually come with a sticker) when we buy them. We can buy Retail at any software store. Once we know the type of license, we will have to see if it corresponds to a Windows 10 Home, or a Pro edition. We can see this from the “About” section of the Settings menu, within “System”.
Once we know the type of license we have, we can check to which editions we can downgrade according to the following table:
|Downgrade to||OEM Windows 10 PRO||Windows 10 PRO Retail||Windows 10 Enterprise||Windows 10 Education|
|Windows 8.1 Enterprise||–||–||Yes||Yes|
|Windows 8.1 Pro||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Windows 7 Enterprise||–||–||Yes||Yes|
|Windows 7 Professional||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Windows Vista Enterprise||–||–||Yes||Yes|
|Windows Vista Business||–||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Windows XP Pro||–||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Windows 2000 Professional||–||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Windows 95/98 / NT||–||Yes||Yes||Yes|
As we can see, only Windows 10 Pro, Enterprise and Education licenses have the right to change Windows to an earlier version. Domestic licenses, Home, do not have such a privilege. Therefore, if we have one of these licenses, it does not matter if it is OEM or Retail, we will not be able to install a previous version of Windows. At least legally. But, of course, we can change the operating system for another.
Go back to a previous version of Windows 10
If what we want to do is go from one version of Windows 10 to another, in that case the license does not matter, we will not have a problem. We simply have to find the best way to do it, especially if we don’t want to have to format.
Uninstall the latest Windows update
Maybe what is giving us problems is not Windows 10, but a specific update. In this case, we will be able to return to the previous version of Windows without problems, regardless of the type of license we use, as long as no more than 10 days have passed since the installation of the new version.
Initially, Windows 10 kept a copy of the old operating system for 30 days. During all that time, if we wanted to go back to the previous version (either by going from Windows 7 to Windows 10, or from one version to another of Windows 10 itself), we could do it during the following month. After 30 days the copy of Windows was deleted, its space was freed and it was no longer possible to go back.
Currently Microsoft only leaves us 10 days to be able to go back in case of having problems after updating. We can do this from the Settings menu, within Update and security> Recovery. The section « return to the previous version of Windows 10 «.
If the gray option appears, it means that more than 10 days have passed. Then we will not be able to use this option.
Format and install the version you want
Of course, unlike what happens with mobiles, the advantage of the PC is that we own our hardware. This means that, even if our PC comes with a specific operating system, such as Windows 10 version 2004, we are free to install the version we want, as long as we do it by formatting, from scratch.
We can download any version of Windows 10 from the Internet (for example, the famous 1607, Anniversary Update), and install it from scratch on the PC. We can even go one step further and install the latest Insider version from its ISO without having to sign up for this program. As we are moving within Windows 10 we will not have problems with the license.
Change Windows 10 for another operating system
Of course, we will also be able to change Windows for another operating system of our choice. Regardless of the operating system that we have installed on the PC, and the type of license that we use, if we do not like Windows 10, or we do not like Windows directly, we can change the operating system. Although the process is going to be somewhat more complicated than simply reverting to a previous version.
To change the operating system, the first thing we will need is a backup of all our data. This is because, in the process, we will have to format the hard drive. Unless we have a second empty hard drive and we want to do a Dual Boot. In addition, we will also need an ISO image of the operating system to which we want to go. For example, if we are going to install a previous version of the Microsoft operating system (such as Windows 7) we will need to record the ISO of this operating system to a USB, and use it to start our PC and begin the installation.
But it may happen that what we want is to get away from Microsoft and look for an alternative and free operating system, such as Linux. So what we will have to do is choose the distribution that best suits our needs (Ubuntu or Linux Mint for users with little experience, Debian for intermediate users, Arch for the more advanced and adventurous, etc), and repeat the process. Once the ISO is downloaded, we save it to a USB, we start the PC and we can install this new operating system on our computer.
The only restriction when choosing an OS for a PC is macOS. The Apple operating system cannot be installed on non-Apple computers. Only if we buy a Mac can we use this system. At least officially, since there are projects (called Hackintosh) that do allow us to install macOS on any PC (although with many difficulties).