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3 ways to get a new Windows 7 PC in the Windows 8 era

Brad Chacos | March 11, 2014
You can still buy or build a PC with Windows 7, or possibly downgrade from Windows 8. It just takes a little extra legwork.

Roll your own PC
First, the bad news: The deadline has passed for buying standalone, boxed OEM copies of Windows 7. Everyday folks simply can't get them from Microsoft anymore.

Now, the good news: E-tailers apparently stockpiled Windows 7 licenses by the bucketful before Microsoft cut off access. Finding boxed copies of Windows 7 online is dead simple. Even better, Windows 7 Home Premium still sells for its recommended $100 MSRP. Unlike hardware pre-stuffed with Windows 7, there's been no price inflation on the software front.

Considering that you can still find boxed copies of Windows XP online, expect to see Windows 7 on sale for awhile, though its cost is sure to creep up as availability dwindles over time. Just be sure to confirm what you're buying. Some third-party sellers offer "open box" copies of Microsoft's operating system. Steer clear of those.

While despondent Windows 8 owners can install a fresh copy of Windows 7 on their PCs, this option is more likely to appeal to folks cobbling together a DIY computer from the power supply on up. Be sure to check out PCWorld's guide to best PC building practices and our tips on avoiding common PC building mistakes if that sounds like you.

Downgrade Windows 8 Pro
If you've already purchased or built a Windows 8 Pro computer and found you loathe Live Tiles, all is not lost. Microsoft's rarely invoked downgrade rights can be tapped to transmogrify your PC into a Windows 7 Professional system.

Downgrade rights are a tricky beast, however.

You'll need to have Windows 8 Pro installed, and your PC must have run on Windows 8 Pro from the get-go—basic Windows 8 installations upgraded to Windows 8 Pro after the fact don't get downgrade rights. You'll also need a product key and an installation disc for Windows 7, which Microsoft and most PC makers will not help with. (Good thing you can still buy boxed copies of Windows 7 on sale!) Oh yeah, the process requires jumping through some complicated hoops. And did I mention that some PC builders refuse to support boxed consumer computers that have been downgraded to Windows 7?

Yes, there's a reason downgrade rights are typically used by big businesses alone. (Though businesses tend to use Windows 7 rather than Windows 8, but I digress.) 

Nevertheless, downgrading has its upsides over simply nuking Windows 8 and installing a fresh copy of Windows 7. Namely, you can upgrade back to Windows 8 at no cost if you change your mind in the future. Like I said earlier: If you're on the market for a new PC, buying a computer that already has Windows 7 Professional pre-installed using Windows 8 Pro's downgrade rights essentially lets you have your cake and eat it too. Those systems are out there.


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