How to skip Windows 8 and continue using Windows 7

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.
Written by Ed Bott, Senior Contributing Editor

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:

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