When Windows 8 was released, Microsoft touted its advanced features, including a fast bootup time and the capability to use the same operating system for desktops, laptops and tablets. At the same time, many of the design choices in Windows 8 were controversial and, as with most new operating systems, hardware driver support was initially spotty. To support customers that prefer Windows 7, Microsoft created a cost-free downgrade path for some versions of Windows 8. If you aren't eligible a free downgrade, though, you have other options.
Windows 8 Pro Downgrades
If you have the business-oriented edition of Windows 8, Windows 8 Professional, you have the right to downgrade to Windows 7 Professional, but you will need to have your own Windows 7 CD and product key to do this. Doing the downgrade consists of installing the older operating system on the computer and then calling Microsoft for permission to activate Windows 7 in the event that the product key had already been used. There is no charge to do this, but completing the process can be time consuming.
Windows 8 Consumer Downgrades
Consumer versions of Windows 8 don't come with free downgrade rights. To legally downgrade to Windows 7, you will need to have both a Windows 7 CD and a product license that will allow you to install the operating system. In other words, you'll have to pay for both operating systems. If you are looking to buy a new computer and don't want Windows 8, consider buying one that still ships with Windows 7 preinstalled.
Simulating Windows 7
If you don't want to deal with the hassle or potential expense of downgrading, you can re-create much of the Windows 7 user interface on Windows 8. One option is to add third-party software programs like Start8, Classic Shell or StartIsBack to access the Start menu. You can also tweak your system's settings to automatically boot to your desktop instead of the Windows 8 Start screen while also replacing some of the built-in applications that interface with the Start screen with other ones that are desktop friendly.
Why Not Downgrade
If you need to use a piece of unsupported hardware, you might not have the option of using Windows 8 at all. As Windows 8 matures, however, more hardware drivers are becoming available. Given that Windows 8 offers a powerful search tool as well as fast bootup times, it has some real advantages over Windows 7. If you can either learn how to use the interface or are willing to modify it to better suit your preferences, staying with Windows 8 may be a better option for you.
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