Windows 8 is a one way street for consumer PC users

Windows 8 is a one way street for consumer PC users

Summary: If you buy a Windows 8-powered HP consumer PC, or from any other PC vendor, you'll get no help from them if you decide you'd rather have Windows 7. And Linux? Forget about it!

If you want Windows 7, XP, or Linux, buy a Windows 7 PC, not a Windows 8 PC.

PC companies call it downgrading, but many users just call it being sensible. You buy a new computer, and instead of using the bleeding edge operating system it came with, you move to an operating system you trust. With ordinary Windows 8 on Hewlett-Packard (HP) consumer PC, or any other vendor's retail PC, though, you're stuck with Windows 8.

HP's Windows 8 FAQ reads, "Downgrading is supported only for HP commercial desktop and notebook products." That is to say systems that come with Windows 8 Pro. In any case, "HP does not recommend downgrading on any HP consumer desktop and notebook products. After October 26, 2012, HP consumer desktop and notebook products will ship only with Windows 8."

Why? Because "Windows 7 will not be supported on these new platforms, and no drivers, apps, or Windows 7 content will be available through HP. If users choose to downgrade their HP consumer desktop or notebook system, HP will continue to support the hardware but if there is an issue where HP diagnostics are required OR it is determined that the loaded software or upgrade operating system is causing the issue, HP may suggest returning the system to the original Windows 8 OS that shipped with the computer."

In short, if you downgrade  anyway,  HP is saying you'll be your own. Good luck with that.  

HP isn't the only company taking this path. Lenovo doesn't spell it out as clearly, but it doesn't require too much close reading to see what you can't downgrade from consumer Windows 8 to Windows 7 on their PCs and laptops either.

Oh, and XP? It's history. Even if you have a business Windows 8 PC with Windows 8 Pro, you can only move to Windows 7 Professional or Windows Vista Business.

None of this will be surprising to Windows professionals. Microsoft spelled this out in their new Windows 8 licensing agreement in August . Small businesses that want new PCs and small office/home office (SOHO) users that are trying to squeeze every dime from their hardware purchases may be caught by surprise though. In fact, I know they are because I'm already hearing from users who ended up with Windows 8 by mistake or mis-adventure, and they're not happy about being "stuck" with it. 

Of course, if you move to Linux instead, you really are on your own. Sure, HP supports Linux on its servers, but it's always been of two-minds about Linux on the desktop. True HP supports SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop (SLED) and Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) on workstations and it's certified Ubuntu on some HP desktops and laptops, but trying to buy a HP Linux-powered desktop if you're not looking for several hundred desktops at a time isn't easy. Of course, if you install Linux yourself, you'll be doing it without an HP warranty safety net.

That could be a bigger problem that it used to be. All vendors Windows 8 PC now come with Microsoft's UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) Secure Boot. This "security" system makes it much harder to boot Linux, or any other operating system for that matter, on a Windows 8 PC.

Thanks to a lot of hard work, it is possible to boot the newest versions of Fedora and Ubuntu on Windows 8 imprisoned systems. Other and older Linux distributions though will be almost impossible to boot or install on Windows 8 systems.

If you want to avoid the Windows 8 trap to move to an older version of Windows, you'll need to buy a more expensive business PC with Windows 8 Pro. Or, you can factory-upgrade many Windows 8 consumer PCs to Windows 8 Pro for an additional $70. If you were to upgrade your PC yourself from Windows 8 to 8 Pro), for less money, I doubt very much that HP would support trying to move from such a configuration to Windows 7..

Windows RT, Windows 8 on ARM processors, can not, of course, use any other operating system. Windows RT UEFI blocks alternatives and there are no other versions of Windows for these devices.

The bottom line is that if you want a Windows 7 PC, or one that you can easily run Linux or another operating system on, you should avoid buying any Windows 8 PC. Fortunately Windows 7 PCs should stay on sale until at least October 2014.

Related Stories:

Topics: Windows, Hardware, Hewlett-Packard, Linux, Operating Systems, Ubuntu, PCs

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  • Way to go stevie

    ... Writing an article about something that the FOSS community bitched about nearly a year ago. Top-notch reporting, really. Hey! I have an idea... you should tell everyone how much your mother loves Ubuntu again. We all love that story.
    Big Sparky
    • Windows 8 is Windows 7

      Plus a whole lot more. Seriously downgrading makes absolutely no sense. Next topic please.
      • @hubivedder, You can explain that to

        “Seriously downgrading makes absolutely no sense”

        Microcenter is offer downgrade rights on three HP Probook's i3,i5, i7 notebooks and one
        Dell Inspiron 660 i3 desktop from Windows 8 Pro.
        • they may offer downgrades

          But you don't need them
          Windows 8 desktop is Windows 7 + more
          • More of

            a waste of screen space don't you mean? You seem to forget hobbyists out there may not be able to afford upgrades to their other software for Windows 8 support, they'd be happy with Windows 7, which just works.

            Better drop an example so you don't think I'm making this up. Cakewalk SONAR X1 (Essentials/Studio/Producer). Win8 is supported in X2, which is a payable upgrade.
          • what?

            go to the microsfot compatabilty center and read the list you dumb .no wont go there
          • There is no need to update any Windows 7 applications.

            If it ran under Windows 7, it will run under Windows 8. In general, the only thing which forces you to upgrade applications (or their associated hardware) is a Windows kernel re-write.

            * The Windows NT 5.x kernel was found in Windows 2000 / XP and application code was interchangeable.

            * The Windows NT 6.x kernel is found in the Windows Vista / 7 / 8 and application code is interchangeable.

            In fact, most application code available today will still Run on Windows XP SP3. That will probably change come April 2014.
            M Wagner
          • Please

            Don't call NT as kernel, as it is not a kernel but server-client operating system what has a microkernel.

            Calling NT as kernel is like calling Linux microkernel. Both technically totally wrong.
          • Bullshit to anybody who says programs that run on 7 will run on 8

            Don't know where you get your information but it is NOT from the real world. Sorry. I speak from experience and lots of it being long term tester of all releases. Will a program designed for Windows 7 work on Windows 8? HIGHLY LIKELY. Now for the real question:

            Will all programs that used to run under Windows 7 run under Windows 8? NOWHERE NEAR AS LIKELY.

            I'm talking about programs designed for Windows 98, Millennium, XP. Programs from 2003 or so for which I've found no reason to upgrade due to unnecessary cost like my MYOB Premier version 7. The compatibility layer in Windows 7 allowed me to install and run. After upgrading to Windows 8, it simply will not, crashing with an error. No matter what combination of switches you through on the compatibility tab, it will crash at some point before you can do any work. Even the installer will not run for a complete re-install no matter what you do. The only way it will run is through the (rather excellent) built in Hyper-V but I'm not happy in that this costs me an XP license. It really should be built in like it was with Windows 7 (XP mode).

            This is not the only example. If you do some research, you'll find quite a few more of these programs on Google. There appears to be no work-around but virtual machining it.

            So, be careful about your strong viewpoints. To say Windows 8 will run everything is simply not true.

            From what I gather it has something to do with the video subsystem changes in Windows 8 but even though every comment seems to lean towards this on Google, I cannot actually confirm or deny this as a true statement.

          • Reason to upgrade.

            "Programs from 2003 or so for which I've found no reason to upgrade due to unnecessary cost like my MYOB Premier version 7."

            Well, now you've found a reason to upgrade. Just like large businesses struggle with legacy applications, so do small businesses.

            Put another way, your accounting software is now 9 years old. Even at the most conservative estimate, that means you've had at least three years to plan for the eventuality that a modern computer isn't going to run that software, and the developer of that software isn't going to support your version. The fact that you didn't plan to keep your critical business software current is your own planning shortfall.

            The fact that your 9-year old accounting software could run on Windows 7 in the first place is more a positive testament to the support Microsoft has provided you.

            Again, you had lots of time to plan - that you didn't do so is your fault.
          • Second That - Windows 8 WILL NOT RUN everything Windows 7 wil.

            Not even close - without exceeding hacks that is. I've been setting up my newly purchased PC which has windows 8 - and 80% of the development software I'm moving has "Windows 8 - COMPATIBILITY ISSUES". The most surprising was that of Visual Studio 2005 - I mean really?? Microsoft's corner stone has compatibility issues from 8yrs ago??
          • Atta Man tell it like it is.

            Either the pundits are on the Microsoft paystub or hope to be. I hear there will soon be lots of jobs over at Microsoft. What were they thinking? Did they really think that most of their clients are silly journalist that only word smith and facebook all day? Idiots. Windows 8 is a dog for serious computer nerds. I have many, many top of the line PC video games (for real men only) that will not play on 8. They require 3 1K$ graphics cards to look good and more ram than a hemi. Please. Liars and theives all of you that misled your readers. MS had to stack the deck and mislead the public to sell 8 this xmas. Tablets don't serve everyone well.
            Tech-Diversity is the key and blackmailling your client base to your vision is not acceptable. If you play first shooters with a touch you are an idiot and I will enjoy downing you any game you laggie newbie.
            Many people found sales guys saying no win7 available just to make a sales quota. Should have told people MS is giving away the farm in an attept to sell the defunc metro interface. Many pi$$ed people dudes. I know I get their calls here at the (unnamed) tech center, everyday.
            MS needs to know that the tablet should be marketed as an add on and not as a replacement. Sorry but we don't all care for Xbox gaming.
            Advertising pops are killing the phones and tablets. Unless someone reels them in, surfing is becoming a nightmare as everyone online attempts top max profits.
            That's this old clowns opinion and like behinds we all have one.
            Enough of my time wasted here with the lemmins.
            Mikki Dean
          • Have you played with WIn 8?

            I bet you dont! Cuz I haved and I installed all my Win 7 Programs and didnt encounter any compatibility issue.... besides, Win 8 drivers got all my hardware right...

            I think downgrading its a waste! In Win 8 you got the new "Metro" and the old Win 7 desktop..
          • Mr Tweep.

            I have and I think you play stuff like Barbie chess and yes it plays well on 8
            Mikki Dean
          • That would make it Windows 7 SP2 /s

            “Windows 8 desktop is Windows 7 + more” -hubivedder
          • Microsoft learning a thing or two from Apple..

            ..namely, that you can charge a nominal fee for a service pack, just so long as you don't call it a service pack.
          • The Windows RT component of Windows 8 ...

            ... is a lot more than a Service Pack. It represents a paradigm shift.
            M Wagner
          • Well then which is it?

            Is Windows 8 a major upgrade or not?
          • stupid question

            Anyone that actually spend any time with the operating system knows it is indeed a major upgrade. Unlike Apple, without breaking backwards compatibility.
          • Shift?

            Yes, to lunacy.
            Mikki Dean