How to “downgrade” from a Windows 11 PC to Windows 10

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Most new computers today come preinstalled with Windows 11. The device is designed to work with Microsoft’s latest operating system, and most models designed for the consumer market do not offer the option to install older Windows 10 (computers designed for the enterprise market) sometimes offer this option, but the price of this business-class PC is usually higher.)

If you don’t really like Windows 11, can you buy one of these new PCs and go back to Windows 10? Well kinda.

Although you can easily upgrade your Windows 10 PC to Windows 11, while keeping your installed apps, settings, and data files, you can’t do the opposite. If you want to “downgrade” from Windows 11 to Windows 10, you need to do a clean install, which requires backing up and restoring your data files and reinstalling all your apps. But your license for Windows 11 will suffice to activate Windows 10 (and vice versa), which means you still have the option to upgrade to Windows 11 later, after Microsoft (one hopes) has fixed the things that are bothering you now.

If this is a new PC with Windows 11 preinstalled, you may want to think carefully about whether you really want to do this. You are likely to encounter some glitches and hardware incompatibilities when installing Windows 10, and these issues can be more annoying than any you encounter with Windows 11.

On the other hand, if your PC was originally designed to run Windows 10, your chances of successfully installing Windows 10 are much better. In any case, you should make a full backup of your system before moving forward. (For recommendations on third-party software, including some excellent free options, see “Best Backup Software (2022)”.)

The best way to perform a clean install is to download a Windows 10 recovery image that is specifically designed for your computer model. See this article for instructions on how to find out if this solution is available for your computer: “How to get a free Windows (or Linux) recovery copy for your factory computer.”

If you cannot find a recovery image, you will have to download and install Windows 10 manually. To create a bootable installation media, you will need a USB flash drive with a capacity of at least 8 GB. Microsoft Media Creation Tool will scan and format the drive, so make sure it doesn’t contain any important files.

Caveats aside, here’s how to proceed.

  1. Insert the USB flash drive into your Windows 11 computer and disconnect any nonessential USB devices; then go to https://aka.ms/downloadwindows10.
  2. Under “Create Windows 10 installation media,” click Download Tool Now.
  3. Run the Media Creation Tool Installer and follow the prompts to create a bootable Windows 10 installation media using a USB flash drive. Leave the drive connected to your Windows 11 computer.
  4. Go to Settings > System > Recovery, and under the Advanced startup heading, click Restart now.
  5. In the Windows 11 Recovery menu, choose Use a device and select the USB drive. When you see the prompt to boot from the USB drive, click the spacebar to start Windows setup.
  6. Follow the prompts to install Windows 10. When you get to the step where you are asked to enter a product key, click I don’t have a product key and then make sure to choose the version (Home or Pro) you want. “Reduce” from.

When the installation is complete, you should boot into Windows 10, and the operating system should automatically activate. You will need to install the latest updates, and you may need to download some drivers from the PC maker’s website. Once you restore your data files and reinstall any apps, you can get back to work.


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