So, you have upgraded to Windows 8 from your old environment, but having trouble with your favorite application or hardware devices not working, and want to go back to old days. Bad news is, there’s no official way to uninstall upgraded Windows 8 (as of 2012/12/29). What they say is if you want to go back to old Windows, you have to use recovery media provided by manufacturer, or clean install old version of Windows.
Losing a lots of stuffs this way? Well, there’s a chance you can go back to old Windows environment if you have Windows.old folder under system drive (usualy C:).
Though, please note that I’m not sure how effective my recovery technique are, and not sure if all of the applications / hardware are going to come back. Still, you can give a try before cleaning up everything and setting back to factory default.
Be sure to make backups of all important files, and do at your own risk, and be prepared for worst case that all data gets lost.
Other than technique I’m going to show you, you can find info where manually recovering files from Windows.old folder (example as below) by searching Google with keyword such as “windows 8 windows.old bootsect”.
However, as I know of , doing such recovery technique on Windows 8 environment which you upgraded from Windows 7 keeping all apps and data will do severe damage and makes unrecoverable. This is because some files are moved from Windows.old folder to new folder, and no longer exists in Windows.old folder.
Above technique might be effective for Windows 8 which upgraded from old version without keeping datas, but if you upgraded keeping old Windows apps and data, do not follow above technique.
When I tried above technique, old Windows does boot up, but causes blackout after Windows 7 logo, or shows error at boot loader, or desktop shows up without background, or document folder gone, Start menu icon broken, etc.
For your reference, I’ll just leave keyword for people who still want to try above technique.
- Do “bootsect /nt60 c: /force”
- Delete c:\$Windows.~bt before booting old Windows or data will corrupt
- Some files are moved under c:\users and some files are moved under windows.old\users
Ok, let get to work. There’s 2 condition required for my techinique to work. Check if below folder exists in your system drive (example, C: drive).
- c:\$WINDOWS.~BT (hidden folder)
To check if those folder exists, press “Win + X” key in desktop, then launch Command Prompt. Enter command
cd \ dir /ah
and see “$WINDOWS.~BT” folder is listed.
Windows.old can be seen from explorer.
What I’m going to do is, if Windows 8 fails during installation, it will roll back to previous environment. So, by manually kicking rollback process, you can recover to previous environment. Files required for rollback process exists under $WINDOWS.~BT folder, and (part of ) old files exists under Windows.old folder.
I’ve tried with environment upgraded from Windows 7, but have not tried with other case, so I’m not sure if this works with other versions of Windows. Please try at your own risk.
First, you need to launch command prompt in maintenance mode. Call settings charm, click Power icon. Hold down “Shift” key and press “restart”. This will bring up troubleshoot menu.
Follow “Troubleshoot”, “Advanced Options”, then “Command Prompt”.
System will reboot and command prompt will show up. Enter account and password when asked.
In command prompt, go to system drive (C: in example), and check folder.
c: dir /a
Rollback info is written in $WINDOWS.~BT\upglayer.ini file, and there’s a command to kick rollback process.
Enter the magic word. When entering, type up to “$W” and pressing Tab key will auto complete path.
Rollback process will start and old Windows environment will start to recover.
It will return to command prompt after rollback so exit by typing
and turn off your PC.
Turn PC back on, and old Windows boots.
After boot, message Windows 8 failed to install will show up. Close window and wait for a while. It will ask to restart computer, so restart.
After restart, desktop appears and it seems to be recovered, but in my case, Explorer shortcut was broken. Just unpin and Pin explorer to fix.
Since License info is lost during upgrading to 8, you will need to do activation again. Right click my computer, open property.
Re-activate expired Windows license.
This seems to put back old Windows environment, but I only tried this with cleanly installed Windows 7 environment upgraded to Windows 8 for investigation.
Therefore, I noticed broken Explorer shortcut and need for reactivating license, but there may be other software, files, or settings that might not able to be recovered.
Give a try if only option you got left is reset to factory default.
It would be helpful if you leave comment if you have tried and succeed or not.
This post is also available in: Japanese