Q. Who can install the downgrade software?
A. A system builder (when authorized by the end user) or the end user can install the software.
A Windows 7 Professional or Windows Vista Business media disk is needed to facilitate the downgrade from Windows 8.1 Pro.
A Windows Vista Business or Windows Vista Ultimate media disk is needed to facilitate the downgrade from Windows 7 Professional or Windows 7 Ultimate to Windows Vista Business.
A Windows XP Professional media disk is needed to facilitate the downgrade from Windows 7 Professional or Windows 7 Ultimate to Windows XP Professional.
Get more information about Windows life cycle and Windows product availability policies.
Q. Where does the system builder or end user get the Windows 7 Professional, Windows Vista Business, or Windows Vista Ultimate media disk to perform the downgrade?
A. The downgrade media can be media associated with any prior legally licensed version from the OEM system builder or retail channels. Additionally, end users who are licensed separately through Microsoft Volume Licensing programs may provide their Volume Licensing media and key to a system builder to facilitate the downgrade on their own systems.
Q. Do I need separate media for each downgrade?
A. No. Media associated with one prior legally licensed version of Windows can be used for multiple installations. Multiple sets of media are not necessary for each PC being downgraded. As long as each PC acquired by the end user included a legitimate full Windows 8.1 Pro, Windows 7 Professional, or Windows 7 Ultimate license, this confers upon the user the right to downgrade to the versions specified in the license.
Q. Do I include the media in the box with the end user's system?
A. No. While system builders may help end users facilitate their downgrade rights, they may not provide the downgraded media with the system, because it is not the product licensed with the system. They should, however, ensure that the PC includes the Windows 8.1 Pro, Windows 7 Professional, or Windows 7 Ultimate edge-to-edge recovery media, as appropriate. The end user will need this software to upgrade to Windows 8.1 Pro, Windows 7 Professional, or Windows 7 Ultimate when ready.
Q. Will the downgraded software require product activation? If so, what product key should be used to activate the software?
A. Once the downgraded software is installed, the PC will prompt for a product key in order to activate the software. The product key associated with the original Windows software should be used for activation. If the product key has been previously activated, which is likely if the media came from a prior legally licensed version that has been activated in the past, the software may be unable to activate over the Internet, due to the hardware configuration change when installing this media onto the Windows 8.1 Pro, Windows 7 Professional, or Windows 7 Ultimate system. When this happens, the appropriate local Activation Support phone number will be displayed, and the person performing the downgrade will need to call the Activation Support Line and explain the circumstances to a customer service representative.
Once it is determined that the end user has a valid Windows 8.1 Pro, Windows 7 Professional, or Windows 7 Ultimate license, the customer service representative will provide a single-use activation code that can be used to activate the software.
Q. Clarify again why product activation may fail?
A. Product activation is an anti-piracy technology that associates the hardware configuration of the PC with the software. If the Windows product key used when downgrading has been activated in the past, it will be associated with a different hardware configuration and may register an activation failure when used on the new PC. If activation fails, call the local Activation Support center for help in activating.
Q. What are the end-user benefits of downgrade rights?
A. With downgrade rights, end users are allowed to acquire Windows 8.1 Pro, Windows 7 Professional, or Windows 7 Ultimate, but continue to use an earlier version of Windows until they are ready to upgrade. When they are ready for Windows 8.1 Pro, Windows 7 Professional, or Windows 7 Ultimate, they already have the license.