How to Uninstall Windows 10

Don’t like Windows 10? You can return to your previous operating system

Windows 10 on a computer screen
Microsoft

If you upgraded your computer to Windows 10 and have since decided you don’t like it, you can return the PC to its previous operating system. How you remove Windows 10 depends on how much time has elapsed since you switched, though. If it’s within 10 days, a Go Back option makes it easy to revert to Windows 8.1 or even Windows 7. If it’s been longer than that, or if the installation was a clean one and not an upgrade, it’s a little more complicated.

Take Appropriate Precautions

Before you downgrade to Windows 7 or revert back to Windows 8.1, you need to back up all the personal data you have on your Windows 10 machine. Remember, whether or not that data would or could be restored during the reversion process isn’t important. It’s always better to err on the side of caution when performing tasks like these.

There are many ways to back up data before you uninstall Windows 10. You can manually copy your files to OneDrive, to an external network drive, or a physical backup device like a USB drive. Once you’ve reinstalled your older OS, you can copy those files back to your computer. You can also use the Windows 10 backup tool if you like, although be wary about using this as the sole backup option. You might run into compatibility issues with an older OS while trying to restore.

In addition, you may want to back up program installation files for the applications you want to continue using. Third-party applications won’t be reinstalled during the reversion process. If you downloaded them from the internet, the executable files may be in your Downloads folder. You can always re-download the program files, though. You might have older programs on DVDs too, so look for those before continuing. If any of these programs require a product key, find that as well.

Finally, locate your Windows product key. This is the key for Windows 7 or 8.1, not Windows 10. This will be on the original packaging or in an email. It could be on a sticker on the back of your computer.

If you can’t find it, consider a free product key finder program.

How to Revert to a Previous Operating System Within 10 Days of Installation

Windows 10 keeps your old operating system on the hard drive for 10 days after installation, so you can revert to Windows 7 or downgrade to Windows 8.1. If you’re within that 10-day window, you can revert to that older OS from Settings.

To locate the Go Back to Windows option and use it:

  1. Open Settings. (It's the cog icon in the Start menu.)

  2. Select Update & Security.

    Screenshot of Windows Settings with Update & Security highlighted
  3. Select Recovery.

    Screenshot of Windows Update settings with Recovery highlighted.
  4. Select either Go Back to Windows 7 or Go Back to Windows 8.1, as applicable.

    You might notice these options don't show up in the screenshot below because of the 10-day time limit.

    Screenshot of the Recovery options in Windows 10
  5. Follow the prompts to complete the restoration process.

If you don’t see the Go Back option, it may be because the upgrade took place more than 10 days ago, the older files were erased during a Disk Cleanup session, or you performed a clean installation instead of an upgrade. A clean installation erases all of the data on the hard drive, so there's nothing to revert back to. If this is the case, follow the steps in the next section.

How to Remove Windows 10 and Reinstall Another OS

If the Go Back option isn’t available, you have to work a little harder to get your old operating system back. As noted earlier, you should first backup all of your files and personal folders. Be vigilant here; when you perform these steps, you’ll either be returning your computer to factory settings or installing a clean copy of your previous operating system. There won’t be any personal data (or third-party programs) on the machine after you finish. You’ll have to put that data back yourself.

With your data backed up, decide how you’re going to perform the installation of the previous operating system. If you know there’s a partition on your computer with a factory image, you can use that. Unfortunately, there might not be any way to know that until you follow the steps outlined here. Otherwise (or if you aren’t sure), you need to find your installation DVD or recovery DVD, or create a USB drive, that contains the installation files before you start.

To create your own installation media, download the disk image for Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 and save that to your Windows 10 computer. Then, use the Windows USB/DVD Download Tool to create the media. This is a wizard and guides you through the process.

With your data backed up and installation files at hand:

  1. Open Settings.

  2. Go to Update & Security > Recovery.

  3. Under the Advanced Startup section, select the Restart Now button. Your PC will reboot and start up from a disc or device (like a USB drive).

    Screenshot of the Recovery options in Windows 10
  4. Select Use a Device.

  5. Navigate to the factory partition, the USB drive, or the DVD drive as applicable.

  6. Follow the on-screen prompts to complete the installation.