There's nothing new about Windows downgrade rights

There's nothing new about Windows downgrade rights

Summary: Microsoft allows business customers to exercise “downgrade rights” to install Windows XP. Does this somehow represents a surrender on Microsoft’s part to the operating system that won’t die? Nope. Here's the full story.


I’ve been laughing out loud for days now as I read the astonishing number of comments and reactions to the revelation that Microsoft is going to allow some customers who buy Windows 7 on a new PC to exercise “downgrade rights” and replace their shiny new OS with Windows XP. The implication is that this somehow represents a surrender on Microsoft’s part to the operating system that won’t die, Windows XP.

Sorry, folks, this isn’t news. It’s the way business versions of Windows have been licensed for as long as I can remember. Many businesses run on proprietary software that might or might not work with a new operating system, so business customers who buy a new PC with a Windows license can choose to replace the installed copy of Windows with an older version.

You can see the current version of this clause if you look at the OEM license for Windows Vista Business or Ultimate. Section 14 reads as follows:

14. DOWNGRADE. Instead of using the software, you may use one of the following earlier versions:

  • Microsoft Windows XP Professional,
  • Microsoft Windows Professional x64 Edition, or
  • Microsoft Windows XP Tablet PC Edition.

This agreement applies to your use of the earlier versions. Neither the manufacturer or installer, nor Microsoft is obligated to supply earlier versions to you. You must obtain the earlier version separately. At any time, you may replace an earlier version with this version of the software.

Ah, I can hear you saying now, “But this is different! With Windows 7, Microsoft is going to give its customers the option to skip Vista and go all the way back to XP. That proves that Windows Vista sucks!”

Uh, OK. By that logic, XP sucks 50% more than Vista. If you bought Windows XP Professional on a new PC, your downgrade rights included the option to replace it with any of three previous Windows editions: Windows 2000 Professional, Windows NT Workstation version 4.0, or Windows 98 (Second Edition). Thank goodness we didn't have blogs back in 2001, or they would have gone completely nuts over Section 1, paragraph 6 of the Windows XP Professional license terms:

Use of Previous Version Of Software. In lieu of installing and using Microsoft Windows XP Professional SOFTWARE, you may install, use, access, display and run ONE of the following versions: Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional, Microsoft Windows NT Workstation version 4.0 or Microsoft Windows 98 (Second Edition) ("Downgrade Software") on the COMPUTER, provided (1) you agree that Downgrade Software support will NOT be provided hereunder by Manufacturer, MS or Microsoft Corporation, their affiliates or subsidiaries: (2) you agree that neither Manufacturer, MS nor Microsoft Corporation will provide you with the Downgrade Software or media; (3) you may not loan, rent, lease, lend or otherwise transfer the CD or back-up copy of Microsoft Windows XP Professional to another end user, except as otherwise provided in the transfer provisions of this EULA….

If you’re a corporate customer with a Windows Vista Business or Enterprise license acquired through a volume licensing program, you have the right to install just about any business edition of Windows. A Microsoft-issued downgrade rights chart (Word format) lists your options:

[C]ustomers licensed for use of Windows Vista Enterprise are licensed for Windows Vista Business, and it can be downgraded to the Windows XP Professional, Windows 2000 Professional, Windows NT® 4.0, Windows NT 3.51, Windows 98, or Windows 95 operating system. You would not, however, be able to downgrade to Windows Vista Home Basic or Windows Vista Home Premium, Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition, or Microsoft Windows Millennium as those are different products and not considered previous versions of Windows Vista Business.

The exact license terms for Windows 7 Professional and Ultimate have yet to be released, but when they are, you can expect to see wording that looks very much like the terms I listed above.

In other words, there’s nothing new here, folks.

Topics: Operating Systems, Microsoft, Software, Windows

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  • There's nothing new about Windows downgrade rights

    LOL, you tell'em Ed!
    Loverock Davidson
  • RE: There's nothing new about Windows downgrade rights

    If an organization or individual were to purchase a new computer with a Windows operating preinstalled, and wished to downgrade to an older Windows operating system, the best plan of attack is to purchase a new hard drive and install the older Windows operating system on it. Then when they are ready to migrate to a newer O/S, simply install the hard drive that originally came with the new computer. This takes less than ten minutes.
  • XP Sucks

    XP user interface is so ugly compared to Vista or Windows 7. Who would want to use XP instead of 7?
    • Who would want to use XP instead of 7?

      "Who would want to use XP instead of 7?"

      Probably companies that have software that runs on XP or IE6 that can't easily be retooled to run on Vista or 7.
      Third of Five
      • They shouldn't have bought that software in the first place

        Personally, if I had a person who was making software for me tell me "By the way..... I'm going to lock this to IE6.... NYAAAH!".... I'd fire him.

        There is NO reason for this 'proprietary software' to be locked to any internet browser, OS, etc.

        NONE IN THE SLIGHTEST! If they are.... I'd be calling up the person who made the software and say "We have a problem, you have some explaining to do!"
        • I don't necessarily disagree with you

          I don't disagree with what you're saying, but I don't think it's so much "locked to" a browser or OS as much as that the code written in a way that isn't compatible with later versions of the product (possibly when Microsoft was trying to completely make the browser a part of the OS).

          Also, what I meant when I said that it ran in XP but wouldn't run properly in Vista or 7 largely has to do with the stricter guidelines (or at least the stricter enforcement of said guidelines) under Vista.
          Third of Five
  • Thank you Mr. Bott.

    The clueless vista bashers have been going nuts (as usual) over this non-story for days. Sad thing is, this stuff never dies no matter how many people tell the truth, years from now we'll be running into angry 17 year old anti-ms geeks talking about how MS knows Vista sucks because you can downgrade 7 to XP...
  • RE: There's nothing new about Windows downgrade rights

    Does Apple allow you to downgrade? Can you purchase a Leopard Mac and downgrade to Tiger or OS9? Just curious...
    • Apples and oranges

      Downgrade rights are driven by business needs. How many businesses are running mission-critical custom OS X applications that are version specific? They would be the only ones would need a downgrade.

      And since OS X is not a business OS, there's no need for Apple to offer this option.

      Ironically, there seem to be lots of people who wish it were available:
      Ed Bott
      • I'm confused by...

        your statement that "OS X is not a business OS."

        What makes an OS a "business OS?" Is there some specification that
        makes it so? If a business uses OS X, is it by definition not a business?

        I'm also curious as to why you feel UNIX isn't a "business OS."
        • OS X can be used for business...

          ...however its proprietary nature makes it unsuitable as a business OS.
          Sleeper Service
          • Say what???

            ...however its proprietary nature makes it unsuitable as a business OS.

            Explain to me how that makes OS X unsuitable but Windows, another proprietary OS, is suitable??? Or Unix, which is proprietary...Or linux which is open source and another business OS???

            Your statement is totally illogical. Yikes!
            linux for me
          • It's proprietary because...

   can only install it on Apple hardware. As such there is no leverage in terms of competition when sourcing hardware vendors and, as such, it's non-competitive.
            Sleeper Service
          • Please point me to a ...

            non-proprietary version of Windows.
          • Windows is a proprietary OS...

            ...but it's not tied to proprietary hardware.

            Big difference.
            Sleeper Service
        • Line-of-business applications

          Large businesses run on Windows, typically using applications what were written in-house or by partners. These aren't off-the-shelf apps, they are custom code that allow employees to perform their jobs.

          Tht's the way it is today in large businesses. They could choose to migrate to a different OS, but that would require a huge investment in rewriting those apps.
          Ed Bott
          • There are several things wrong with that, Ed...

            First of all, not all businesses are large. Many are small. In fact, we're
            told over and over that [i]small[/i] business is the primary job creator
            in the US.

            Secondly, not all businesses, large or small, run custom apps.

            Thirdly, not all businesses, large or small, run custom [i]Windows[/i]
            apps. Ever hear of mainframes from a company called IBM? They
            support the following OSs: z/OS, z/OS.e, z/VM, z/VSE, TPF, z/TPF,
            Linux on System z. Say what you will about the banking industry, but
            this is what they seem to be using.

            Fourth, it is a huge mistake to look at "business" as a monolith. Every
            business has its own needs. It's this kind of thinking that makes
            corporate takeover specialists buy airlines and bankrupt them (eg,
            Eastern, TWA), or the Long Island Rail Road to hire someone who ran a
            freight system in Australia as its head. Freight doesn't complain when
            it's twenty minutes late, but people do.

            I asked this question elsewhere, on a different subject: If, as is often
            stated, businesses can't use iPhones, did my wife's company no longer
            qualify as a business when they dumped their Blackberrys for iPhones?

            If a business doesn't use custom Windows apps, isn't it still a
          • Which would be true if...

            ...the vast majority of small businesses didn't use Windows, Office and standard packages built to run (mainly) on Windows.

            That said, Apple's business penetration is, a handful of large clients aside, virtually always small scale 1-20 station shops. These shops are massively outnumbered by their Windows running brethren though.

            Lareg scale businesses use mainframes for main systems but virtually always use Windows desktops with terminals to run mainframe dependent systems from whilst using Office as a productivity suite.

            There are exceptions but that's what they are: exceptions.
            Sleeper Service
          • I'm not disputing the Windows ..

            market share. My point is this: Windows is no more a "business OS" than
            is OS X, Linux, or System z. It's a silly assertion.
          • The problem is that...

  's become the business OS precisely because of market share. I don't think this is actually a desirable or healthy position; nonetheless it's reality.

            Now OS X could be a good business OS if it was to be licensed to third parties but Apple, for the moment anyway, are dead set against that.
            Sleeper Service