Where can you still find a PC running Windows 7?

Where can you still find a PC running Windows 7?

Summary: If you want a PC running Windows 7, where do you look? Skip your local office superstore or big-box retailer and go where the business buyers go. In those channels, you'll find that Windows 7 never went away. In fact, it's not just alive, it's thriving.

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The manufactured kerfuffle over HP’s decision to promote a few Windows 7 PCs on its online Home & Home Office Store is an attempt to stir up a fuss over something that every savvy business buyer knows already. Windows 7 doesn't need to make a comeback, because it never left.

In fact, it’s easy to find PCs running Windows 7. All you have to do is shop in the right channels.

This morning I conducted a thorough check of business-focused PC channels. As expected, I found a huge assortment of Windows 7 PCs available for purchase there.

As I noted yesterday, those Windows 7 PCs are a drop in the bucket at HP’s consumer-focused online store, which currently has a grand total of three Windows 7 desktops on offer, with 33 distinct Windows 8 and 8.1 desktop machines on offer.

But you get a very different story if you visit HP’s Small and Medium Business site. Or if you check in with U.S. archrival Dell, which also has a separate online store for Work and Business PCs.

On those sites, Windows 7 continues to be well represented. This isn’t a change from last year or a reaction to Windows 8. It’s business as usual.

When I checked last May, HP’s business side had 120 Windows 7 desktop and notebook PCs on offer, almost three times the number of Windows 8 PCs in the business store. Today, the total number of models is down slightly but the percentage is equally skewed.

HP-Windows7-business-desktops

Screen capture from HP Small and Medium Business site, taken 21-Jan-2014.

Dell isn’t quite as unbalanced, but you can still choose from more than 60 discrete Windows 7 options in the Desktops and All-in-Ones and Laptops and Ultrabooks sections. You'll even find high-end Windows 7 machines under the Alienware brand, traditionally aimed at gamers but certainly fit for business use. 

Here’s the raw data. 

Table: Which operating systems are available on Dell and HP business PCs? 

Operating System HP Dell
Laptops/Ultrabooks/Tablets    
 Android    1   0
 Chrome OS    4   0
 Windows 7 65 38
 Windows 8.x  17 85 
Desktops/All-in-ones/Workstations    
 Android    0   0 
 Chrome OS   0   0
 Windows 7  31  23
 Windows 8.x    4  36 

Your options get even more interesting if you visit some of the big online sites that specialize in serving the commercial channel, businesses and educational institutions. HP and its other archival, China's Lenovo, sell extensively through commercial sites.

Take CDW, for example, one of the biggest business-focused resellers around. I went to CDW's Computers section this morning and searched for downgrade in the Desktop computers category. That produced 378 results, all with Windows 8 Pro licenses downgraded to Windows 7 Pro.

First on the CDW list is the HP Pro 3500, a solid if slightly staid desktop PC with a 3.2 GHz Core i5 (Ivy Bridge), 4GB of RAM, and Windows 7 Pro 64-bit.

HP-windows-7-downgrade-at-cdw

If you want something beefier, you can get the EliteDesk 800 G1, with a Core i7 4770 (Haswell), also downgraded to Windows 7 Pro 64-bit.

In fact, at CDW 9 out of first 10 machines on the list of desktop PCs with Windows 7 preinstalled as a downgrade are from HP. Out of the top 20, 14 are from HP, with Lenovo getting 5 models and Acer getting a single mention.

These aren't crappy machines, either. In all, CDW has 69 configurations available with Core i7 CPUs and Windows 7 downgrades, including a nice-looking Lenovo small-footprint PC, the ThinkCentre M93p 10AB, which has 8 GB of RAM, a 128 GB SSD, Bluetooth 4.0, and a Windows 7 downgrade.

Even the consumer-friendly Newegg, a favorite of PC hobbyists and DIY system builders, has lots of choices available: Search for Windows 7 downgrade and you get a list of 27 desktop and notebook PCs with Windows 7 pre-installed, ranging in price from $398.00 all the way up to more than $3,900 for an HP EliteBook Mobile Workstation with a Haswell Core i7, 32 GB of RAM, twin 256 GB SSDs, and AMD FirePro graphics.

It's true that PC retailers aimed at consumers tend to push the newer, touch-enabled Windows 8 devices. But don't assume that means you can't track down a Windows 7 box. At the most consumery retailer of them all, Best Buy, you can still find PCs running Windows 7. When I searched at BestBuy.com in the Desktops and All-in-ones category, the filtering tool told me it has 369 Windows 8 machines to choose from, as well as 227 Windows 7 options, including choices from third-party sites that sell through Best Buy.

Personally, if I were going to buy a Windows 7 PC today I would look for one that includes a Windows 8 Pro license and has been downgraded to Windows 7 Pro by the OEM. That configuration gives you the flexibility to upgrade to Windows 8.1 (or, presumably, 8.2 or 8.3, if those versions arrive in the next year or two) for free. If you buy a PC with a Windows 7 license and decide later that you want to upgrade, you'll have to pay dearly for the privilege.

The bottom line: Windows 7 never went away. It continues to be widely available today, just as it was before Microsoft released Windows 8. Under Microsoft's normal sales lifecycle, OEMs would be prohibited from building and selling new PCs when the two-year anniversary of Windows 8 rolls around in October 2014. We'll see what happens then, however. I won't be surprised if Microsoft extends that date.

Topics: PCs, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, Windows, Windows 8

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122 comments
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  • .

    Can't go wrong with a business machine. As a plus they generally don't come with OEM crapware installed.
    statuskwo5
    • disconnect between desktop and tablets

      Plus, no matter how much Ed Bott and others ridicule the idea that consumers WANT Windows 7, they do. Microsoft screwed up by trying to force the flat look, touchscreen-centric OS onto non-touchscreen monitors.

      I have a 27" monitor that sits back out of arm's length. I do NOT want to touch my screen. I want DESKTOP MODE only. I want some depth to my graphics. I want a start menu, quick launch bar -- not the mono bar. (I specifically enable the quick launch bar on Win7.) I want the fly-out programs menu, not the little scroll box even in Win7. (I even install Classic Shell on Win7 to overcome its GUI limitations.)

      Yes, with Win8 you can use Classic Shell to force desktop-mode only and emulate a Start Button, start menu. But the FLAT graphics look is still hard to use. It's a very ugly, non-friendly GUI. But WHY should I have to use a 3rd party software to GET BACK what I have in Windows 7?

      I've "configured" half a dozen computers for friends and family who were VERY frustrated with Windows 8 and now even 8.1. When I finished working on them, they were more usable, but I still come away with disdain for the amateurish job Microsoft did.

      I'm not talking about UNDER THE HOOD. Yes, there are vast improvements technically. It's really just the GUI which hinders work on non-touchscreen desktops. And I know there will be half a dozen Win8 acolytes who will jump in and say I'm stupid for feeling this way, but I'm not the only one. HP's research also shows a significant amount of consumers want Windows 7. They want NEW computers, but they want a friendlier GUI for desktops.

      Windows 8/8.1 is probably a fantastic tablet OS, but it's just not a great desktop OS -- compared to Windows 7.

      The reason BUSINESSES continue to buy Win7 for their computers are the SAME reason I hate Win8.
      ChazzMatt
      • Sigh

        When have I EVER "ridiculed the idea" that people want Windows 7?

        I have a consistent record of writing about it and emphasizing that computer buyers have a choice between two fully supported Windows versions today. I've gone out of my way to show people how they can exercise those options.

        So pardon me if I get pissed off when people like you write crap like this, which distorts that record.
        Ed Bott
        • Interesting Article because it highlights how bad things are for MS

          I have struggled with Windows 8.0 and 8.1 and the GUI is truly awful, but with Start-8 I can just about live with. What I cannot tolerate are the massive compatility issues. Try simple things like installing the USB phone drivers for Samsung Kies and they just don'work, yet on my Win-7 build, works first-time. This is not just isolated, try HP's printer-scanner software, again 8 nothing works.....
          In summary with SEVEN YOU'RE IN HEAVEN, BUT EIGHT JUST AIN'T GREAT! :)
          andrew.cowan@...
          • wow - nice rymne

            Ya, Sometimes business people tend to be more conservitive when it comes to upgrading their OS's.. And I dont blame them, the trouble is , is that Microsoft has had problems like this before and survived them. It will be interesting to see if Win 8 sales finaly takes off, or if this is just a switch-off point for even the business comunity. The MS compeditors will have to make a very strong case against the current software MS is running and that might not be easy.
            verbok-5
          • I'd be blaming the device manufacturer

            ...not Microsoft. It's always been an issue that with Windows that hardware manufacturers are responsible for drivers for their hardware. Windows 8 has been out for quite a while and the third party hardware manufacturers have had plenty of time to get their drivers sorted out. That said, I have not had any driver issues with windows 8/8.1. So, saying "nothing works" because you personally have a couple of things that don't work doesn't really hold water.
            cornpie
          • try HP's printer-scanner software,

            I wouldn't compare HP's scanning software with any thing. I use a special HP negative scanner for archiving purposes. It doesn't even work with any HP computer. However with a clone and Identical OS it works fine. HP in some cases isn't even compatible with itself.
            csumbler
          • so....

            You are putting the blame on Microsoft for driver problems that are supplied [or not] by the manufacturer. I guess some people like yourself continue to forget that Microsoft develops very few drivers [except the "base" generic drivers].
            As for Windows 8.x itself, I use the desktop almost exclusively. Haven't seen an incompatibility issue. Once again, if some software from Adobe [for example] doesn't work, blame Adobe. It is THEIR software that doesn't work. If they don't fix them blame them!
            Gisabun
        • I remember

          the way you were a cheerleader for Vista and expressed disdain for people who wanted to keep XP. And you wrote an article where you said that turning off services in Vista was stupid.

          Yet, Microsoft chose Server 2008 for Windows 7 blueprint, specifically for the intelligent services manager which turned off services not needed, and even those used were often on a delayed basis, so they didn't all turn on at once like lighting up a Christmas tree.

          You never acknowledged you were wrong about that.
          ChazzMatt
          • proof

            I consider this article to be disdainful of people who don't like Windows 8 -- trying to compare the skepticism of XP to Windows 8, when by the time this article was written YOU KNOW it's not the same.

            http://www.zdnet.com/windows-8-is-the-new-xp-7000006095/

            Here's you trying to cheerlead for Windows 8:
            http://www.zdnet.com/just-how-much-do-people-hate-windows-8-7000013319/

            Here's you being wrong about Vista services:

            http://www.zdnet.com/blog/bott/fixing-windows-vista-part-4-get-smart-about-services/448
            "The single most common bogus tip I read is the one that advises Vista users to disable "unnecessary" services. This tip starts with the reasonable argument that Windows Vista just has too damn many services running, and each service you shut down will free up memory and CPU cycles and put the zip, zing, and zoom back in your desktop. One popular website even lists several levels of recommended service configurations."

            Yet, Microsoft took that very approach with the intelligent services manager in Windows 7 -- turning off unnecessary services which Vista did not.
            ChazzMatt
          • left out this paragraph

            "Here's the reality: On an otherwise healthy PC running Windows Vista, disabling most built-in Windows services is extremely unlikely to have any noticeable effect on memory usage, startup or shutdown time, or system performance. "

            Yet somehow Microsoft did improve all those with the intelligent services manager on NT 6.1. The impression you gave in that article was that Vista was just fine and people who complained didn't know what they were talking about.
            ChazzMatt
          • There were a number of areas where people complaining...

            ...really didn't know what they were talking about. I'm not saying that was always true but it was in a lot of cases and memory usage was a very common area where there were lots of misconceptions.

            Here is the scenario: User is running Windows XP on his laptop with 2 GB of RAM. He gets used to looking in his task manager and seeing a certain percentage of RAM in use and a certain percentage available. The our hypothetical user upgrades to Vista. Now when he looks in his task manager he sees much more memory in use and much less available when running the same applications. So he (and many or most others) jump to the conclusion that Vista was a memory pig. In fact it was just managing memory differently. In reality it was caching a lot more in memory which improves performance for anything that's cached and it could always dump old stuff out of memory if it needed to.

            The big problem I had with Vista in its early days was with third party driver compatibility. So much so that I actually did go back to XP for a while. But after giving it some time for the drivers to be worked out I came back and really didn't have any problems after that. Was it as good as Windows 7? Well, no, but wouldn't you expect 7 to be better than the version it replaced?

            I also went through the "turning off services" phase. I found it made no practical difference. I do still turn off some services in very narrow and specific circumstances. I don't turn off any built in Windows services. About the only thing I turn off these days is for third party products that seem to go wild with services I don't use (such as any recent Roxio or Power DVD product).
            cornpie
          • great research

            One angry dude with OCD. Do you also document every bad thing your relatives do to you?
            paul2011
          • Turning off services in Vista WAS stupid

            The fact that Microsoft re-engineered the way services work in Windows 7 is proof that stupid end-user tricks wouldn't solve the underlying performance issues. That was a fact.

            And I was a cheerleader for Vista? Wow. I did a whole series on the things people had to do to FIX Vista, for cryin' out loud.

            But haters gonna hate.
            Ed Bott
        • Ed...

          You write for a blog. Do you really expect 100% of the respondents to totally understand you or even agree with you on such an issue. Opinions are like ..., everybody has one. I feel pretty much the same way; but, I still read to see if you can jack me out of shape once in a while.
          Alienwilly
        • Ed's suggestion for Win8 with a downgrade is the way to go

          If you really want Win7, be sure to get a Win8 license included if you can. That way, when Win9 comes out and you are back enamored with Windows again, you can do a step by step upgrade (Win7 to Win8 to Win9) and not have to wipe the box.

          As for me, I happen to love Win8.1. It suits my needs very well.
          Flydog57
          • clean install is always better

            why would you want to upgrade, especially upgrade an upgrade (7>8>9), just back up you're data, list you're programs (you want to keep) and start from fresh with a clean installation. everyone serious with computers knows that upgrades will often lead to bugs and a retention of settings that will lead to bugs. i agree that if you're going to get a 7 machine (windows 8 is crap for a desktop of even laptop) get it with a 8 to 7 downgraded license, who knows, maybe MS will get their head out of their behind with windows 9 and you may have a benifet to having a license for the newer, but crappy windows 8. don't get me wrong, windows 8 is great for a tablet and a user that doesn't do a whole lot aside from facebooking and taking pictures/video, other then that 8 simply does not make since, it is very counter intuitive, hard to navigate because its convoluted with menus to access menus and setup to be "simple" (I think command line is quicker then some of the things you need in 8 (and sometimes is the only way)). anyway, 8 is a mistake. I hope MS realizes this and at least gives the option for a choice in GUI experience in 9 based on what you are using for UI/IO hardware (and just preference) .
            jason98661
          • No matter what the OS, a clean install ...

            ... on "bare metal" (or an empty VM) IS always better. And, if you are paying attention, not that much of a hassle.
            M Wagner
          • Double Upgrade

            That's probably the worst idea I've ever heard.

            As it is, upgrading an OS leaves a ton of artifacts and problems. Anyone who upgraded from Vista to 7 probably had some sort of problem, regardless of whether or not they knew it was the upgrade's fault.

            Upgrading to 8 from 7 isn't a great idea either, because it's even more different than Vista -> 7 was...and you think it's a good idea to do a double upgrade? That's a terrible idea.

            Buy an external, or do it the old fashioned way and burn some DVDs. Put all your important data on them, go through folder by folder if you worry about forgetting something. Then do a hard wipe. Delete everything, and start over with W9.
            Polantaris
          • Buying Windows 8.x Pro and then ...

            ... exercising your "downgrade rights" to Windows 7 gives you the most flexibility because you will have the opportunity to upgrade for free Windows 8.x OR Windows 9 when the time comes.

            You do not have to install over the old code, you only have to have the old media (or the keys for the old media) to do an upgrade onto bare-metal.
            M Wagner