How to skip Windows 8 and continue using Windows 7

How to skip Windows 8 and continue using Windows 7

Summary: If you're perfectly happy with Windows 7 and skeptical about Windows 8, I have good news for you. You've got seven more years before you have to give it up. Here are the facts, figures, and dates to know.


Years ago, I worked for a company headquarted in Louisville, Kentucky, a state whose God-fearing people are proud of the vices that make up their heritage. There's gambling on some of the best horse racing in the world, fine bourbon (except in dry counties), and tobacco.

So I should not have been surprised at the reaction of a coffee-shop hostess in Louisville one morning when I asked for a seat in the no-smoking section.

She cocked her head, looked at me quizzically, and said, "Honey, if you don't wanna smoke, just don't smoke."

I think about that exchange every time I hear someone complaining about how awful Windows 8 is, how it's a catastrophe and a disaster. Maybe even a disastrophe.

And I just want to say: "Honey, if you don’t want to upgrade, just don’t upgrade."

There’s a reason Microsoft supports its operating system releases for 10 full years. They know that you might have any number of reasons to skip a Windows release. Maybe it’s incompatible with a business-critical app, maybe you want to align software upgrades with your hardware purchase cycle, maybe you’re just cheap. Doesn’t matter.

The copy of Windows 7 you're running today did not stop working when Windows 8 was released to the public in October 2012. It will continue to be supported for an additional seven years, with mainstream support until January 2015 and extended support until 2020.

During that time, Microsoft will probably release Windows 9 and Windows 10 and be well on the way to Windows 11. Yes, thanks to Microsoft's extended support lifecycle you will probably be able to upgrade from Windows 7 directly to Windows 11.

At the moment, Microsoft is supporting four releases of desktop Windows. For reference, here are the end-of-support dates for all currently supported Windows versions:

  • Windows XP SP3: April 8, 2014
  • Windows Vista SP2: April 11, 2017
  • Windows 7 SP1: January 14, 2020
  • Windows 8: January 10, 2023

(In case you're wondering, yes, Microsoft has a formal definition of "supported.")

Furthermore, you’ll still be able to buy Windows 7 PCs for at least two more years. Microsoft’s sales lifecycle for Windows (which is different from its support lifecycle) specifies that retailers will be able to sell the boxed version of Windows 7 until at least October 25, 2013, and OEMs can sell PCs with Windows 7 pre-loaded until October 25, 2014.

If Windows 8 gets any pushback from consumers and small businesses, we could see big OEMs continuing to offer Windows 7 as an option on its non-touch-enabled PCs for two more years, with Windows 8 as the default option for tablets and touch-enabled PCs.

And on top of all that, you and your business have downgrade rights. When purchased with a new PC, Windows 8 Pro incorporates license terms similar to those of its predecessors, including the right to downgrade to Windows 7 Professional. When you buy a new PC with Windows 8 Pro installed,  you can legally replace it with a copy of Windows 7 Professional.

For a detailed analysis of Windows 8 licensing, including downgrade rights for OEM copies of Windows 8 Pro, see this post: How the new Windows 8 license terms affect you.

So relax. You have at least eight years left before you need to leave the comfort of the Windows 7 desktop and say goodbye to the Start menu.

Want help with Windows 8 upgrades and installation? See also:

Topics: Operating Systems, Hardware, Software

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  • I never understood why some make a big deal about things like this

    Microsoft has always given a grace period when a new Windows version releases allowing OEMs to sell with the downgraded version and often providing downgrade rights to PCs purchased off retail shelves.

    Also on the same note if one chooses to stick with an older version of Windows then should not complain when new features are in that new version of Windows and as new updates come out older versions may not get them. I mean if Microsoft were to release IE11 in the future and not make it available to WinVista or 7 then that is life.
    • The Buzz Buzz

      Some people are making a stink because they sincerely believe that the changes will make it harder to use Windows. You may disagree, but that does not assuage their concern. Because we are all different, there will be people for whom Metro will be or seem to be a PITA. How many? Well that's the real question.

      Some people are predicting that the interface changes will make Win8 underperform Microsoft's expectations. All of Mr. Bott's points above would be the way that people avoid Win8 and adoption is delayed. One problem with these predictions is that we don't know what the expectations are and we have a poor understanding of the ways Microsoft profits from os sales adegree their upgrade revenues in the first year contribute materially to revenues. One question is to what degree is Ballmer's future is tied to stock performance and to what degree a perception (a key word) of a slow start to Win8 combined with indifferent results in the mobile sectors could hammer the stock. Clearly, there are quite a series of assumptions in that question. Any way, some of Ballmer's biggest detractors are trying to build a self-fulfilling prophecy by over-emphasizing the potential of shock among the consumer user when Win8 ships.

      I'm a tad more cynical. I think most Windows and software users are resigned that new upgrades will mean a ratchet up of the annoyance factor. They roll with it as they have rolled with it before.

      Stiil, Microsoft dropped the upgrade price, and they wouldn't except they expect it to increase year 0 revenues, and this time they could use that revenue for their bottom line.

      So that's my take on why there's a lot of "EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE Windows 8!!!!!!" discourse.
      • Spot on

        We all know 7 will continue to be available, thankfully.

        Much like Vista/ME the lower version will be available for considerably longer than planned;-)
        Richard Flude
      • Yep. Metro is a pain in the youknowwhat...

        It really is.
        "Ouch!" "Ow!" "Oooooh, CRAP!" "Argh!" "Rats!" "Wuthtefudge!?!?!"
        Those are actual quotes from real users.
        Eeeeeek! It sucks.

        Just my dos centavos.
        • New always takes time

          Anytime you switch to a new operating system it will take time. Windows 8 is a fundamental remake (Windows 7 was basically Vista after service packs). Yeah people will be annoyed for a while like we always are, but after 1 year I think many will feel differently.
        • Most like it.

          Sure, there is a vocal bunch who don't like it. Agreed.

          Its also a very obvious and plain fact that many do like it. Lets just get ourselves in a huge knot now trying to figure out the outcome of that.

          Or, lets not. Its Microsoft's problem. Not ours. The fact is also quite plain and obvious that Windows 7 is and will be available for use by anyone who has no use for Windows 8 for quite some time. So from the public perspective, its a none debate whether Windows 8 goes huge or fail. Nobody but the "IT madness" types around here care what happens with Windows 8. Thats what I find remarkable when I see the loonies around here predicting the downfall of Windows 8.

          I think Windows 8 will do just fine, and between Windows 7 and Windows 8 Microsoft will continue to not have any problems with lining their pockets with the publics money and continuing domination of the OS marketplace.

          I don’t know how much of that breaks the hearts of the Microsoft haters hearts, but it doesn’t matter, its the way things are and will continue to be.
          • This right here

            I've been using Windows 8 for a while now, and while it took some getting used to, none of the features bother me. I'm not bowing down at the gift Microsoft has bestowed upon me, but I'm also not grouching about new features or different designs. I'm even using it for one of the things that people are complaining about: it's on my home computer, with a dual monitor setup, and I play games on it.

            I have found nothing wrong with it. I treat the metro interface the same way I treat a start screen. I know better driver support will come out at launch, and most of the hunting and clicking I need to do to solve home use issues are not that bad to find once you've done it the first time.

            My best friend however removed 8 within a week, and that was on her Inspiron Duo, which converts between a notebook and a tablet. There are always going to be people who like it and those who don't. I'm a little annoyed at the immediate backlash that's been occuring.
            Robbie Knapic
    • I half agree with you

      Ed has hit the nail on the head - just don't upgrade! I certainly won't.

      The only problem is my home XP box. To "upgrade" to Win 7, I have to spend $400 (that simply isn't going to happen), but Win 8 is supposedly only going to cost $40 which may make it worthwhile. Now if MS drops Win 7 pricing to match Win 8 pricing post-release, then I will be a very happy camper! I am simply not interested in Windows 8.

      Your idea that MS may not release IE11 for previous versions is highly likely to be the case, going by Microsoft's past behaviour. Won't worry me as I don't use IE, but it is still a two-faced attitude - implying you can stay on Win 7 while herding you into an upgrade to Win 8.
      • $400?

        No, you don't have to spend $400 to upgrade from XP to Windows 7. That price would be the full retail for Windows 7 Ultimate, but you qualify for upgrade pricing. I just checked at Newegg, where the pricing for that product is $200 with free shipping. Or you could go Home Premium and pay $110.

        And yes, $40 is a much better deal.

        But $400? Either you're the world's worst shopper or you're trolling. Hmmm...
        Ed Bott
        • Hi ED,

          Just wanted you to know that right now there's some good deals going on from MS, and OEM's. I just bought a new Sony Vaio computer with Win7 Home Premimum, and if I wanted to, I can upgrade up to Win8 for $14.99. (US)

          This deal is good until January 2013......

          • Oops, site won't let me edit?

            Interesting....oh well...
        • "Either you're the world's worst shopper or you're trolling."

          Neither. I just checked again to confirm:

          To log in to my work domain I need Win 7 Pro - and the upgrade here in Oz is $400 (OK, technically only $399). If it were $100 I might consider it, but as things are, I will wait for the Win 8 upgrade. Or maybe just not bother at all, as I am OK with XP and do not like the Win 8 UI changes.
          • World's worst shopper

            This right here.

            I'm from Oz myself and everyone I know knows Dick Smith are notorious for overcharging.
          • Huh?

            "Dick Smith are (sic) notorious for overcharging."
            Really? Since when is RRP overcharging?

            How about Harris Tech charging $376?
            Still a ludicrously high price for an *upgrade*.
          • Outside Context Problem

            err... chaps.. US $ pricing =/= Aussie $ pricing ?
        • $400?

          "But $400? Either you're the world's worst shopper or you're trolling. Hmmm..."

          Or perhaps there's hardware involved?
        • may as well buy a new PC....

          ....vs spending $400 for an o/s upgrade. We're in the process of replacing XP with 7 and are finding many related expenses as the AutoCAD we are using is not compatible.
          • Hidden costs

            Microsoft Surface/W8 is supposed to appeal to the productive professional. A professional uses a lot of expensive programs for CAD/CAM and analysis that have high cost and small distribution. These niche programs run $500 or more a seat, if you can find updates at all.

            Like Vista, Windows 8 puts "Eye candy" in front of utility. Professional users don't need Metro UI. Many are still using CRT monitors.

            Windows 8 dropped the XP mode of Windows 7. That was one thing that saved Microsoft from the Vista incompatibility problems.

            I like the Microsoft Surface Pro. It is a nice light, compact piece of hardware. I won't be able to use it with my old app software. I could if it had Windows 7 Pro installed. No word about downgrading.

            A Surface Pro with keyboard and decent memory costs about $1200. Upgrading my app software would cost about $2000. Total $3200/seat. There are some apps that don't have upgrades and won't due to companies going out of business etc.

            An ultrabook with W7 Pro (Samsung series 9 13") Costs about $1400. It has a better display and keyboard. It weighs about the same as the Surface with type keyboard (2.5 lb). I don't need to learn a new UI. I can run all my old apps. I save $1800.

            Windows 8 is like a Swiss army knife, that doesn't include a knife blade.

            I would be satisfied if MS put the XP mode back in Windows 8 PRO. That would save me $2000 in hidden cost and make Surface Pro an affordable road device for me.

            The alternative would be to allow downgrading Surface Pro to Windows 7 Pro. That would be worth paying another $100 for a W7 Pro license, since it would save me $2000 in app update expense.

            A more appealing solution is to replace the touchscreen with a conventional display, put a hinge on the type keyboard and make it non-removable, load windows 7 Pro, and sell it for $1000. Call it the Surface Ultrapro!

            New is nice, but not necessary. Black ink on the spreadsheet is very nice and necessary.

            This is not about sexy "tile interfaces" or clever kickstands. It is about hard to come by dollars.
      • You can upgrade for $9.95
    • OEMs are also licensees

      How can OEMs provide any rights to hardware buyers?