How to uninstall Windows 8 and restore Windows 7 (step-by-step)

How to uninstall Windows 8 Developer Preview and restore Windows 7

To uninstall Windows 8 and restore Windows 7 is not a straightforward process, but it is not impossible either. Follow the step-by-step from this Pureinfotech article to rollback Windows 7.

As many of you know Windows 8 Developer Preview uninstall is not supported by Microsoft at this time, however if you are not afraid, you can manually restore Windows 7 after you install Windows 8. But I have to warn you that there must be a good reason to why uninstalling Windows 8 is not yet supported. This step-by-step process, which I am about to describe, worked for me and I hope it works for anyone that needs the help, just proceed with caution at your own risk.

In my opinion, Microsoft should have alerted the end user about not being able to go back to the previous version of Windows once they start the setup for the upgrade by simply putting a dialog box. Although, if you were following all the Windows 8 Developer Preview presentations, Microsoft many, many times said that you cannot go back to a previous version of Windows, and if you are planning to test the new operating system, you should try it in a spare machine to experience the full capabilities of the operating system or you should use a virtual machine. Also in the download page, at the bottom, the company noted that you cannot uninstall the Windows Developer Preview.

However if you upgraded from Windows 7 to Windows 8 Developers preview instead of doing a custom install, and you want to go back, you should know that not everything is lost just yet, this tutorial is going to guide you through step-by-step to restore Windows 7.

Important: Before you start, make sure you backup all of your important data and have in hand the installation media for any program that you may want to reinstall later — this is just in case something doesn’t go as expected, because there is a reason for Microsoft not to support this process at this time.

Uninstall Windows 8 and restore Windows 7

  1. First, while in Windows 8 Developer Preview, go to Computer, in the Hard Disk Drives area, double-click Local Disk C:, and determine whether the Windows.OLD folder exists.

    Important: If the Windows.OLD folder does not exist, you can’t continue with this process to restore the previous Windows installation to this computer.
  2. Right-click the Windows.OLD folder, and click Properties to determine whether the Windows.OLD folder is smaller that the free space available in the Local Disk C:.

    Note: If the Windows.OLD folder is twice the large of the free available space in the Local Disk C:, you may not be able to restore Windows 7.
  3. Insert the Windows 7 DVD or USB bootable drive in your computer, restart and then, when you are prompted, press any key to start the installation process.

  4. On Install Windows, select your settings for language, time, etc., and then click Next.  

  5. Click Repair your computer in the bottom-left corner of the window.

    Windows 7 - Repair your computer

  6. On System Recovery Options, click Windows 8 Developer Preview operating system, and then click Next.

    System Recovery Options - Searching for Windows installations

  7. On System Recovery Options, click Command Prompt.

  8. The Command Prompt may open on X:\Sources>. Here you need to type the drive letter of the Windows 8 installation drive. This should be C: but this wasn’t my case. I actually had to test letter-by-letter, until I landed in the correct drive letter, which for me was D:. How did I know that it was D:? Because each time I tried different letters I got the message: The system cannot find the drive specified. Then when I successfully landed on D:, I typed the command dir and all the Windows 8 installation files, plus the Windows.OLD were there. 

    Uninstall Windows 8 - Windows 7 Command Prompt

  9. Type the following commands and press Enter on each line:

    ren Windows Windows.8
    ren "Program Files" "Program Files.8"
    ren "Users" "Users.8"

    Uninstall Windows 8 - Windows 7 Command Prompt - REN Command

  10. Type the following commands and press Enter on each line to move the contents of the Windows.OLD folder:

    move /y D:\windows.old\windows D:\
    /y "D:\windows.old\program files" D:\
    move /y D:\windows.old\users D:\
    Important:Change D:\ in the command described above with the drive letter that applies to your Windows 8 installation drive.

    Uninstall Windows 8 - Windows 7 Command Prompt - Move

  11. Go to the Windows 7 installation media drive. This step is a bit tricky. At the beginning I thought that X:\ was the drive letter for the Windows 7 installation media, but it turned out that it wasn’t. You’ll need to scan once again, like in step 8, for the drive letter of the CD/DVD-ROM drive; in my case was E:\. You’ll know if it is the CD/DVD-ROM drive, because when you type the command dir you’ll see these files and folders: boot, bootmgr, setup.ext, sources, upgrade, etc.

  12. Type the following command to restore the boot sector for the previous Windows installation and press Enter:

    boot\bootsect /nt60 D:
    Important: Replace “D:” with drive letter of the Windows 8 Developer Preview installation.

    Uninstall Windows 8 - Windows 7 Command Prompt - Fix boot

  13. Use the Exit command to close the Command Prompt and click Restart. Don’t forget to remove the Windows 7 DVD or USB bootable drive from your computer. And you are now done! You just uninstall Windows 8 and restore Windows 7.

If everything went well, but you forgot to backup some of the files, you may find them in the renamed folders, open the Run command and type: C:\Users.8 to find documents and files, and C:\Windows.8 to find the previous installation files of Windows 8. Also note that applications installed while you had Windows 8 may stop working after the process.

Now that you are back to Windows 7 you can just be done, but if you want to tweak the system a bit more, you can remove the Windows Developer Preview entry from the boot menu. To do this, go to Start, type and open the Run command, type msconfig, navigate to the Boot tab, select Windows Developer Preview (recovered) (C:\Windows.8), click Delete, Apply and then OK. 

Windows 7 msconfig

To reclaim the space used by the Windows 8 installation, you’ll need to repeat steps 3 to 6. If you get the message that there are some problems found, just click Cancel — in the next step we’ll make that go away –, then click Command Prompt and type the following:

rd windows.old /s /q
rd windows.8 /s /q
rd "program files.8" /s /q
rd users.8 /s /q
rd /$windows.~bt /s /q

Now click Restart to finish

I noticed that after you do this, Internet Explorer, Windows Explorer, and Windows Media Player pinned links might break, but don’t worry these applications still in your system, just remove the blank pinned links, open the applications and pinned them back to the taskbar, if you need to.

Remove Windows 8 installation

Last, if you didn’t like to see the label Windows Developer Preview (C:\Windows): Current OS; Default OS, as the label for Windows 7 in the msconfig, you can easy change this back to the label Windows 7 by downloading and installing an application called EasyBCD. Launch the application, click Edit Boot Menu, select Windows Developer Preview, click Rename and type Windows 7, and finally click Save Settings.

EasyBCD - Edit Boot Menu in Windows 7

I hope this helps to anyone that found themselves in this situation where uninstall Windows 8 Developer Preview and restore Windows 7 is necessary. Just remember to never install or upgrade to an operating system that has not been officially released and doesn’t have any official support.

Be the first to leave a comment or leave questions about how to uninstall Windows 8.

Update: This guide should also work to uninstall Windows 8.1 and rollback to Windows 7.

About the author

Mauro Huculak is a Windows How-To Expert who started Pureinfotech in 2010 as an independent online publication. He has also been a Windows Central contributor for nearly a decade. Mauro has over 14 years of experience writing comprehensive guides and creating professional videos about Windows and software, including Android and Linux. Before becoming a technology writer, he was an IT administrator for seven years. In total, Mauro has over 20 years of combined experience in technology. Throughout his career, he achieved different professional certifications from Microsoft (MSCA), Cisco (CCNP), VMware (VCP), and CompTIA (A+ and Network+), and he has been recognized as a Microsoft MVP for many years. You can follow him on X (Twitter), YouTube, LinkedIn and Email him at [email protected].