Windows 8 is set to launch on October 26 and many PCtablet and laptop users have already installed the Consumer Preview or the Release Preview. But Windows 8 is a big change from Windows 7, and won't be for everyone: particularly those who wish to continue using only mouse and keyboard.

 What happens if you've installed Windows 8, but want to go back to Windows 7, or even Windows XP (we're assuming no-one is keen on returning to Vista)? Here we explain your options if you wish to uninstall Windows 8, in a variety of circumstances.

Before we start it is worth pointing out that Microsoft makes it very clear that rolling back a Windows 8 installation is not a simple task. The upgrade to Windows 8 is made fantastically easy, but the pay-off is that uninstalling takes some doing.

On the download page for the Windows 8 Release Preview Microsoft says: "If you decide to go back to your previous operating system, you'll need to reinstall it from the recovery or installation media that came with your PC, which is typically DVD media.

"If you don’t have recovery media, you might be able to create it from a recovery partition on your PC using software provided by your PC manufacturer. Check the support section of your PC manufacturer's website for more information. After you install Windows 8, you won’t be able to use the recovery partition on your PC to go back to your previous version of Windows."

And although Microsoft hasn't explicitly said so, we expect that the situation will be the same with the final release of Windows 8.

So if you are considering overwriting your Windows 7 install just to try Windows 8, think carefully. If in doubt, install Windows 8 alongside your current operating system, or not at all. And whatever else you do, back up everything on your PC before you make the move. You'll never regret backing up.

For more on the changes in Windows 8 and how to use them visit Windows 8 Advisor. For detailed advice on installing Windows 8 Release Preview, read our article: How to install Windows 8.

Windows 8

Delete Windows 8 from a second drive partition

Congratulations if you took notice of this warning, and created a second partition in order to install Windows 8 on that partition. This dualboot option means your original installation of Windows 7 or XP remains on the primary drive and you can play at using Windows 8 without committing. If that is the case it is pretty easy to uninstall Windows 8 while retaining your old operating system and data. (For more, see: How to dual boot Windows 8.)

First of all, back up your entire PC (see: How to back up your PC and laptop). Be especially careful to copy off any files and folders that you need to keep, and any that are in your Windows 8 partition.

Once you are done boot into the OS you want to keep - we're assuming it is Windows 7. Go to Start, Run, msconfig (or search 'msconfig' in the search bar, and click the .exe that appears). Navigate to the Boot tab, and highlight the Windows 8 boot option. Click 'Delete'. Then highlight the Windows 7 boot option. Click 'Set As Default'. You can now close msconfig.


Now you have deleted Windows 8 from your PC's Boot process, you can delete the Windows 8 data. Go to Start, Control Panel, Administrative Tools, Computer Management. Find 'Disk Management' in the lefthand pane, and click it.

Find the partition you created for the Windows 8 install. Right-click on it and select 'Delete Volume'. Once this is done, if you right-click on the empty volume and select 'Shrink Volume'. Close the module, and reboot the system. Your Windows 8 partition is now no more.

Uninstall Windows 8 if you installed it over Windows 7

If you installed Windows 8 after formatting or deleting your Windows 7 installation, the only way to go back is to wipe over the Windows 8 install. You need to do a clean install of Windows 7, which will wipe your PC. So you will need Windows 7 installation media (and a product key). And you need to back up all your files to a separate drive. Your PC will be wiped clean in the move.

Boot using the Windows 7 DVD or USB drive. Then format the Windows 8 partition, and install your copy of Windows.

Read our How to install Windows 7 from a USB flash drive for detailed instructions on creating, booting from and installing an OS from a Windows 7 USB stick.