Microsoft will allow Windows 7 users to downgrade to XP

Microsoft will allow Windows 7 users to downgrade to XP

Summary: Microsoft and its PC partners are going to allow Windows 7 users to downgrade not just to Windows Vista, but also to Windows XP, Microsoft officials are confirming.

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Special Report: Windows 7

Microsoft and its PC partners are going to allow Windows 7 users to downgrade not just to Windows Vista, but also to Windows XP, Microsoft officials are confirming.

Some company watchers have been wondering about the downgrade rights that Microsoft will offer when Windows 7 ships. When AppleInsider reported this weekend that HP was going to offer Windows 7 users the ability to downgrade to XP, I asked Microsoft about the story.

Here's what a spokesperson representing the company's Windows client division told me via e-mail on April 5:

MJF: Does Microsoft have downgrade rights for Windows XP planned as part of Windows 7?

Microsoft spokesperson: Yes. This is not the first time that Microsoft has offered downgrade rights to a version other than its immediate predecessor and our Software Assurance volume-license customers can always downgrade to any previous version of Windows. (Note: Microsoft changed the statement from "Software Assurance" to "volume license" Monday afternoon.)

(The spokesperson clarified later that downgrade rights allow users to install previous versions of Windows, not just the most recent predecessor. In other words, a Software-Assurance-covered volume-license user who wanted to downgrade from Vista could, technically, go back to Windows 2000 or even Windows 95, not just XP. Who knew?) MJF: Is Microsoft cutting these kinds of rights deals with each OEM individually? Has it made such an arrangement with HP?

Microsoft spokesperson: Downgrade rights policies are the same for all of our main OEM partners and what you are talking about is not a special arrangement. Since the End User right to Windows XP Professional is part of the license terms for these editions, it's really about making facilitation options easier for our OEM customers and End Users.

(It's worth noting that the only two versions of Windows Vista for which Microsoft and its PC makers provide downgrade rights are Vista Business and Ultimate -- and those must downgrade to XP Professional. I'd think similar limitations would be likely with Windows 7.)

The AppleInsider report claimed that Microsoft and HP had agreed to provide downgrade rights from October (one rumored launch target for Windows 7) and April 30, 2010. Microsoft officials did not comment on whether either date is real. And HP didn't respond to my request for comment at all. (I am doubtful about the April 30th deadline. Why only provide downgrade rights for a handful of months?)

Update: The Microsoft spokesperson said the April 30 cu-off date in the original story is not something the company is ready to discuss. The exact quote: "No dates have been announced for the end of Windows 7 downgrade right facilitation to Windows XP."

Update No. 2: An HP spokesperson responded Monday afternoon, concurring with Microsoft's statement that Microsoft terms and conditions are consistent across OEMs. The spokesperson declined to provide any details, citing "confidentiality" of HP communications.

With Windows 7 looking good (even at this beta stage), why would users want to downgrade to XP, you may wonder. For many businesses, supporting a slew of different Windows releases is a nightmare. They'd prefer to have all their users on one (or possibly two) different versions.

If Microsoft ends up finding a way to insure that legacy Windows apps work on Windows 7 -- beyond supporting them with a combination of Virtual PC and MED-V, another option available only to users who buy Microsoft's Software Assurance licensing -- downgrading to an older version of Windows from Windows 7 could look a whole lot less appealing.

Meanwhile, in related news, TechARP -- the site that brought us the still-unconfirmed-but-likely-true report that Microsoft is planning to offer PC buyers a free upgrade from Vista to Windows 7 if they purchase new systems starting this summer -- is now reporting that users who downgrade to XP also will be eligible for free Win 7 upgrades via the Windows 7 Upgrade Option program.

Topics: Windows, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Software

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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215 comments
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  • This is really no big surprise of course,

    mainly due to the fact of some organizations or many organizations reliance on specific software written to work with XP. And they likely will not be ready to change to a newer OS till Sp1 or SP2.
    xXSpeedzXx
  • I really wish they'd just include MED-V and all prior OSes

    It's such an elegant and simple way to solve both the compatibility AND security problem. Then Microsoft could rip all backwards compatibility out Win7 (well, ok - Win8 - it's too late for Win7), streamlining the OS and massively improving its speed, reliability and security.

    Then if a consumer really has to use old software, they can - but in a sandboxed, disposable and compatible environment.
    TheWerewolf
    • That makes to much sense for MS to ever do

      Backwards compatibility and legacy junk is killing the OS. They need to clean up and start from scratch.

      If that's too hard they can always ask for the help of Linus Torvalds.
      T1Oracle
      • They can't drop backwards compatibility and legacy 'junk'

        Because too many people like myself have programs that were designed for Windows 95 or Windows XP that won't run on Windows 7, even with it's new compatibility things.

        Sure, it's mainly games and BADLY written programs, but.... eh. Some of those games I have never finished, and WANT to finish sometime.
        Lerianis
        • Emulate it or bust.

          It's like living in house that was ravaged by termites (structure eating bugs). It may appear to be standing now, but do you really want be in there when it collapses?

          The legacy needs to die, it costs too much to keep. Let it go and move on.

          If MS can't do this then they deserve to fail.
          T1Oracle
          • Emulate - why not?

            OS/2 had a Win 3.1 and a DOS emulation that ran applications written for these OSes better than they ran on the original OS, and it ran them seamlessly within the OS/2 system including cut and paste between applications.

            The problems that Microsoft has had makes it really hard to believe that OS/2 started as a collaboration between IBM and Microsoft.

            We all lost out when IBM decided to not push OS/2 to make it the real replacement for DOS.
            Update victim
        • No kidding

          Why can't they virtualize support for legacy apps? Make it usable, but just enough of a pain to encourage people to upgrade.

          Include that in the license. Actually give people something for the money they're spending. There's a concept.

          We had a photographer for a business mag in the office today. We're huddled around the sales rep laptop pretending to be involved in something. We were watching Vista boot up. The photog shot the pics, even adjusting the blinds...he was done, it was still booting! ROFL! That's not an operating system, it's a boat anchor.
          Chad_z
          • Umm.. his Vista install has problems..

            Not Vista... Mine boots very quickly... 30 - 45 seconds. I have had Vista and XP boot times exceeding 5 minutes.. usually when something needs fixing..aka rogue apps running or too many things starting up at boot.. Why is this supposedly a Vista issue?
            condelirios
          • Not a Vista issue

            It's a Windows issue. While XP never took more than a minute for me, I have seen other installations of Windows (various versions) take several minutes to boot. I've recently switched to Ubuntu and have faster boot times right off the bat. The OS loads and is completely usable even while other programs are finishing their loading (Miro).

            Because of how Windows loads, it remains sluggish until every bit of programming set for startup has finished starting up. I haven't seen or heard of any installation of Linux doing this. I've also not seen or heard of any installation of OS X doing this.

            It's one of the many little annoyances that gave me reason to switch.
            tmsbrdrs
          • RE: Not a Vista issue

            The way Vista boots has changed from XP so it is faster.
            dougbeer
          • Sounds like he's got a laptop with a TON of crapware included...

            I had a client last year who had similar issues. His system tray had like 40 icons in it. Every piece of crapware known to man was in there. And I don't mean the simple and obvious ones like the volume and network icons. He had a full suite of Google crapware -Picasa, Google Desktop, all manner of toolbars, antivirus, antispyware, trial this, trial that, bonus this, bonus that. The icons stretched about 1/2 way across his 15.4" wide screen..! Maybe if this guy decrapifyed his laptop, it might actually boot in reasonable time...
            Wolfie2K3
          • Imagine what his home is like :)

            Unless he installed a hot wife to help keep things clean his home is
            probably alot like his laptop.

            -- Just kidding. I know its sexist to imply that a hot wife has house
            cleaning functionality by default.
            Snake_and_Jakes
        • Who cares about you and your silly junk

          [i]Sure, it's mainly games and BADLY written programs, but.... eh. Some of those games I have never finished, and WANT to finish sometime.[/i]

          Then go out and buy new junk. Why should the world cater to stay-behinds like you.
          hasta la Vista, bah-bie
          • This isn's a Technological issue...

            Its a financial issue... (for me at least). If I were to replace all the programs I have in my computer today it would cost in excess of $5,000.

            I'm a frelance Graphic Designer. Thats a month's salary in an already sticky economy.

            Sure I'd love to have the latest and greatest. But in this economic climate I'm working 15 hours a day to keeep my head above water. Lets see... new shoes for the kids or a new program for my computer... tough decision don't ya think?
            qtrback
          • Well that's your problem

            Not mine. If you can't afford to keep up with the times, then maybe it's time to look for a new business. You can't expect legacy programs to go on indefinitely.

            Even M$, as dense as they are, will have to see that at some point.
            hasta la Vista, bah-bie
          • RE: This isn's a Technological issue..

            That is why you don't throw out you old hardware. Just mix it up and you switch monitors from one box to the other when you have to.
            dougbeer
          • Hasta la Vista....

            Well if you think you have all the answers, and all the money, why don't
            you just upgrade everyones computers. Some people can't afford it,
            some can, its called economy.
            barker225
          • It's called doing without

            Ever had to do that? I have.

            What are you going to do when M$ ends support for XP? That can't go on indefinitely either, ya know..

            ~

            Normally I don't defend M$ but I think it's sad they have to have an opt out for Windows 7. Not so with Vista because it's a POS and it's right behind XP, but for an OS that hasn't even been officially released yet, it's sad & pathetic.

            All that legacy code they have to build in to it. After almost 10 years of XP, you'd think that would be long enough, but no. There has to be a point where they can say no more, just because some people are too cheap to upgrade their software.

            hasta la Vista, bah-bie
          • Hasta la Pasta...

            Maybe you like spending your time and money with new toys - never truly getting up to speed on any of them. That's you're option.

            You have to spend money to make money, but as I mentioned here before, I can STILL run a decent business on '98 SE and Office '97.

            All this flash in the pan crap of buying in every year or so is a poor substitute for proper, prior programming in the first place.

            ...and that goes all across the board.

            So, spend your money and waste your time. The small benefit you may perceive will still be a chunk of change in my pocket to spend on other things.

            I'll wait until "7" comes out in "fit form" before pawning the farm on it.

            Hasta la Pasta!
            Tracy_Barber@...
          • Tracy Barbacy

            [i]Maybe you like spending your time and money with new toys - never truly getting up to speed on any of them. That's you're option.[/i]

            Dude, right now I'm using XP and I've managed to skip Vista so far. But even I'm aware that someday I'm gonna have to move on. With Window$ 7 or 10 or whatever. Maybe you should too before you're left hanging out to dry when they switch completely over to a 64bit system. Because they will. It's inevitable.

            As much as I'd love switching completely over to Linux, I know I'll be a dual user for quite some time to come.

            [i]You have to spend money to make money, but as I mentioned here before, I can STILL run a decent business on '98 SE and Office '97.[/i]

            Well whoop-de-doo. There's a planned obsolescence to that one too. It's called Office Open XML and with the introduction of the .docx standard it's the beginning of the end for that old junk.

            The time to start converting all your documents is now. Otherwise in a couple of years, people might not be able to read them anymore. Capice?

            [i]All this flash in the pan crap of buying in every year or so is a poor substitute for proper, prior programming in the first place.[/i]

            It's not flash in the pan. You're just too cheap and lazy to upgrade. I know I'll have to do it someday. You will too, unless you want to be left behind.

            [i]So, spend your money and waste your time. The small benefit you may perceive will still be a chunk of change in my pocket to spend on other things.[/i]

            And staying completely in the past is a waste of time. At some point, you're competitors will upgrade and Tracy The Luddite will be left behind using a primitive standard because he won't change.

            I don't upgrade whenever the newest thing comes out either, but I know I'll give myself some grace time (5 to 7 years) before I do.

            [i]I'll wait until "7" comes out in "fit form" before pawning the farm on it.[/i]

            The "fit form"? If you're waiting for perfection, you'll be waiting till the clouds come home. It'll never happen.
            hasta la Vista, bah-bie