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 Understanding downgrade rights

Important: the information on this page is intended for system builders and the downgrade rights that apply to their customers. If you are a customer of a direct OEM, please contact your OEM for more information about downgrade rights. If you are a direct OEM, please contact your Microsoft Account Manager.

Downgrade and down-edition rights are an end-user right that Microsoft offers to customers for certain OEM products which meet the technical requirements for a Windows software downgrade. Downgrade rights are documented in the Microsoft Software License Terms that customers accept upon first running Windows and Windows Server software. Thanks to downgrade rights, end users who have acquired a later version of the software (such as Windows 8.1 Pro or Windows Server 2012 R2 Standard) can use an earlier version of the software (such as Windows 7 Professional or Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard) until they are ready to migrate to a later version technology.

If a product includes downgrade rights, the license terms for that product will indicate which earlier versions of the software may be used.

Downgrade rights for Windows Server software

Downgrade rights for Windows software

The following OEM versions of Windows software are eligible for downgrade rights.

Windows 8.1 Windows 7
Windows 8.1 Pro includes downgrade rights to:
  • Windows 7 Professional
  • Windows Vista Business
Windows 7 Professional and Windows 7 Ultimate include downgrade rights to:
  • Windows Vista Business and Windows Vista Ultimate
  • Windows XP Professional, Windows XP Tablet PC Edition, or Windows XP x64 Edition
Note Other OEM Windows 7 versions (for example, Windows 7 Home Basic and Windows 7 Home Premium) do not include downgrade rights.

Steps for an end user to downgrade Windows software

To downgrade Windows 8.1 or Windows 7 software, end users must:

  • Purchase a PC preinstalled with Windows software.
  • Accept the Microsoft Software License Terms.
  • Perform the downgrade process to the eligible downgrade product using the media/key from a genuine, previously licensed OEM or retail product.

The downgrade process

Follow these steps to downgrade to an earlier version of Windows software:

  • Use genuine Windows media and a corresponding product key for the version of Windows that is eligible for downgrade. The media/key should come from a previously licensed product from the OEM or retail channel.
  • End users who are licensed separately through Microsoft Volume Licensing (VL) may provide their VL media and key to a system builder to facilitate the downgrade on their own systems.
  • Insert the downgrade-eligible version of Windows media and follow the installation instructions.
  • Enter the product key.
  • If the software was previously activated, it cannot be activated online. In this case, the appropriate local Activation Support phone number will be displayed. Call the number and explain the circumstances. When it is determined that the end user has an eligible Windows license, the customer service representative will provide a single-use activation code to activate the software. Please note that Microsoft does not provide a full product key in this scenario.
  • Activate the software.

For scenarios involving large volume downgrades, end users are encouraged to consider VL which provides the benefits of reimaging rights and volume activation, which can make the process of downgrading much easier.

Authorizing a third party to exercise downgrade rights for an end user

Because downgrade rights apply to end users, they are not designed for third-party facilitation, which has many complications. Also, such facilitation is not suitable for carrying out on a large scale.

Downgrade rights for Windows Server software

The following OEM versions of Windows Server software are eligible for downgrade and down-edition.

Windows Server
2012 R2 SKUs
Windows Server 2012 Windows Server
2008 R2
Windows Server
2008
Windows Server
2003 R2, 2003
Windows
 Server 2012
R2
 Datacenter


Datacenter Standard Datacenter Enterprise
Standard
Datacenter Enterprise
Standard





End users may
downgrade to any other version
as long as they
have the
appropriate media and keys.

Windows
Server 2012 R2
Standard


Standard Enterprise
Standard
Enterprise
Standard

Windows
Server 2012 R2
Essentials



Includes downgrade rights to an earlier version of: Windows Small Business Server Essentials
Windows Server 2012
R2
Foundation


Includes downgrade rights to an earlier version of: Windows Server Foundation

Steps for an end user to downgrade Windows Server software

To downgrade Windows Server software customers must:
  • Purchase a Server system licensed with Windows Server software.
  • Accept the Microsoft Software License Terms.
  • Perform the downgrade or down-edition process to the eligible downgrade/down-edition product using the media/key from a genuine, previously licensed OEM, retail or Volume Licensing Server product.

To perform a downgrade to an earlier version of Windows Server software, end users must follow these steps:

  • Use the Windows Server media and a corresponding product key for the version of Windows Server that is eligible for downgrade.
  • The media/key should come from a previously licensed version.
  • The media and key used to perform the downgrade must be from the same channel (example: retail, OEM, or VL).
  • End users can use the following media types for their downgrade:
    • Retail (full packaged product)
    • System builder media
    • VL software media in accordance with the Microsoft OEM Volume Licensing License Terms.
  • Install the downgrade-eligible version of Windows Server media.
    • Follow activation guide to install the software.
    • If activation fails, follow the trouble shooting wizard or call your local Activation Support call center and explain your circumstances.
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