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ThinkCentre (Skylake): Can't downgrade windows 10 to windows 7

2016-05-07, 7:46 AM

I just set up my M700 Thinkcentre today.  I ordered it with Windows 10 because they wanted me to pay a downgrade price for windows 7.  Because I already have a copy of Windows 7 Professional, I thought I could save my money and install my copy of Windows 7 on this machine.

 

I already disabled the boot security and was able to boot from the optical drive, but the loading of the disk couldn't complete, like I've read elsewhere.  Is it even possible for me to downgrade to Windows 7?  I really need to do this because I have several programs that are not compatible with Windows 10.  Furthermore, Windows 10 just deletes these programs without my permission.  Other annoying bugs like the start menu failing haven't been fixed in a long time, apparently.

 
Mod:  edit Subject line with system type

 

Larry

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Re: Can't downgrade windows 10 to windows 7

2016-05-07, 12:32 PM

On my somewhat older ThinkCentre, I had to change the BIOS boot setting to 'Legacy' for it to boot a Win 7 install DVD. 

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Re: Can't downgrade windows 10 to windows 7

2016-05-07, 14:50 PM

Thanks, I'll try that, but it is booting the CD now that I disabled the security boot.  The loading of the Windows 7 disk hangs during the little "dance" of the Windows flag near the beginning.

 

Larry

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Re: Can't downgrade windows 10 to windows 7

2016-05-07, 15:41 PM

OK,

 

I am about to throw a $1000 machine out the window right now out of frustration.

 

I contacted Lenovo support to see how I could downgrade my Windows 10 to Windows 7 Pro.  The first agent I talked to said that wouldn't be covered under the premium support and I'd have to pay.  She then transferred me to another Thinkcentre support number and I could barely hear the guy.  I'll try to call again, but this is not going well.

 

Larry

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06-13-2013

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Re: Can't downgrade windows 10 to windows 7

2016-05-07, 19:24 PM

I don't know what the BIOS Setup utility on an M700 looks like.  But there should probably be an option for "UEFI/legacy boot" BIOS behavior.

 

This is not a "security boot" option found in the "Security" tab, but is generally found in the "Startup" tab.  Set this to "legacy only" and set "CSM support" to "NO".

 

You should then be able to install a retail Win7 from retail install media.

 

NOTE: my new Thinkpad P70 came with Win7 installed (through "downgrade rights from Win10"), and I might have paid the small price for that.  But the machine came configured using UEFI BIOS, which Win7 is capable of running with apparently.

 

In order to install Win7 on a machine using UEFI BIO (i.e. without having to revert to "legacy" BIOS) you simply must install it from a USB media which has been prepared properly, i.e. UEFI/GPT.  This can be done easily if you have an ISO for your Win7, and then using a utility such as RUFUS or the MS Boot Media Builder tool

 

The real advantage of this (and using a UEFI approach to installing Win7) is that with the UEFI BIOS that came on the machine (with Win10 pre-installed), the Windows license key is already imbedded in the firmware.  This is the same key used for Win10 originally by Lenovo, and is also the same license key available for installing Win7 (through "downgrade rights").  So you don't need to have your own retail Win7 license key.  You can use the machine's OEM license key, usable for either Win10 or Win7 (through downgrade rights).

 

The UEFI install media will detect this machine-imbedded license key. During the Windows install you won't even be prompted for manual entry of it (as you are during a "legacy BIOS install").  In other words, the machine comes already pre-licensed in the hardware for either Win10 or Win7. And doing a proper UEFI BIOS install of either Win10 or Win7 will pick up that imbedded OEM machine license key automatically.

 

So, rather than try to use your old Win7 retail install, just download a Win7 ISO (that's your responsibility), and use RUFUS to build yourself a little USB pen drive install media (it will ask you to point to your ISO file) in UEFI/GPT form (that will be an option which you will select).  The net result of using that USB drive as your install media will be (a) you won't need to manually enter your old retail Win7 license key, but rather the machine's built-in OEM hardware license key good for Win10 or Win7 will automatically be picked up, and (b) you can install directly to a GPT-formatted HDD spinner or SSD (rather than to an MBR-formatted drive, as old retail Win7 forced).

 

UEFI BIOS and GPT-partitioned drives is the right way to go forward in the new world.  Win10 does that, and your Win7 can also do that.  You just need to use UEFI/GPT install media and your new machine with UEFI BIOS enabled, and you'll get it all automatically.

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Re: Can't downgrade windows 10 to windows 7

2016-05-07, 19:35 PM

One more thing, about your failed attempt to install Win7 onto your HDD (presumably).

 

How did you "prepare" that HDD?  If it's the same HDD that came from Lenovo with Win10 pre-installed, it would have been partitioned using GPT (rather than MBR), and with no free space.  Retail Win7 DVD-based installation media is only aware of MBR-partitioning and "legacy BIOS".  So I'm sure it would have had a problem even trying to find a target drive to do the install on.

 

Did you use Partition Wizard Free (standalone boot media) to delete all partitions from the Lenovo-provided factory drive first, so that your Win7 retail install attempt would have an "empty" drive to discover and then partition using MBR as it wanted to?

 

To really understand why your Win7 install attempt using "retail Win7 install media and license key" wasn't successful, you need to provide more details about your pre-install preparation steps, knowing how your M700 machine with Win10 pre-installed probably looked when it arrived from Lenovo.

 

But as I posted earlier, my real suggestion to you is to not use your old retail Win7 install media and license key.  My suggestion is to download a Win7 install ISO, create a UEFI/GPT Win7 install media using RUFUS, and then try your Win7 install again.  You still are going to have to wipe out or shrink your existing Lenovo-delivered HDD GPT partitions to make room for Win7 to be installed on it (or have a second drive for your Win7 target).  But it should work.

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Re: Can't downgrade windows 10 to windows 7

2016-05-08, 2:37 AM

Thanks,  I've calmed down a little now.  I had been really frustrated with shipping delays from Lenovo, delivery delays (by a week) from UPS, then I found out just how bad Windows 10 was.  I thought that it would be mostly annoying, but i found it was actually functionally deficient for my needs.  Incredible.

 

I'll try your ideas later tonight or tomorrow.  I did use my disks to replace an ACER OS.  I seem to recall I had to completely format the drive first, including the MBR.  (It had gotten some malware from advertising from a legitimate website....  that was annoying too.)  In the ACER system, I was able to boot the computer from the Windows 7 disk.  The trouble I had was moving on to installing the Windows 7.

 

On this M700 ThinkCentre, I'm not even able finish booting from the CD.  I'll read your replies later tonight and try it out.  Again, thanks for your help, I do appreciate it!

 

Larry

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Re: Can't downgrade windows 10 to windows 7

2016-05-08, 3:57 AM

I appreciate your anxiety, when you have problems doing something you thought you should be able to do without a problem.  But you have to keep an open mind.  I'm very much biased towards Win7 myself, which is why I ordered my P70 with Win7 pre-installed on a 500GB HDD spinner. I had expectations of installing my own 512GB Samsung 950 Pro NVMe drive (purchased on Amazon rather than from Lenovo) into one of the two M.2 PCIe slots in the laptop, and then cloning my Win7 over from HDD spinner to the 950 NVMe using Macrium Reflect, and then re-purposing the HDD spinner as a "data" drive.  Seems easy, sensible, plausible, and I've done that before on other desktop machines (e.g. three different Lenovo M93p desktop machines for friends and family).

 

Well, it didn't go quite as planned during my early attempts.  I was unfamiliar with UEFI BIOS, and I had never been exposed to drives partitioned with GPT as opposed to MBR.  And then there was 950 Pro NVMe drive, which Win7 doesn't really know much about!  Turns out there was a Samsung driver required, that I didn't know about.

 

Anyway, it took me a week or so, but eventually I emerged victorious.  Little achievable steps, learning along the way.

 

The major next project was to use the P70 as a platform for learning what Win10 was all about.  I cleared away about 80GB to be unallocated on the 950, and planned to install Win10 there as a second bootable Windows on the Boot Manager menu.  I've done that before, shouldn't be too hard. And that way I can learn about Win10 from scratch, including installing it from scratch.

 

Well, my first mistake was burning a Win10 installation boot DVD from an ISO I downloaded that my nephew (MSDN member) pointed me to, including providing me with a retail Win10 Pro license key which I assumed I would have to enter during the install.  Well, turns out the Win10 installer could not see the 950 NVMe device, since the boot DVD was unprepared for GPT partitioning on that drive.  That's when I first learned about the need to prepare proper installation boot media which understood UEFI/GPT, hence my research and discovery of RUFUS.  I used it to build me a bootable USB drive, pointing to the ISO my nephew had provided me.

 

Well, once I had the right boot media, I had no problem whatsoever!  It found the space on the 950 partitioned with GPT, did the Win10 install and read the OEM machine license key for Win10 (never asking me for the key my nephew had provide me), added Win10 to my boot menu that already had Win7 on it, and it was all over before I knew what to say.  The next week or so was spent learning about Win10 (and deciding what I liked and what I didn't).

 

I had used Start8 from Stardock on a several Win8.1 laptops I had prepared for friends, and was pleased to learn that they also have a Start10 for Win10.  I could not survive in a Win10 environment "native", i.e. without the comfortable old functionality of the Win7 Start button and Start menu. That's what Start10 does for Win10, if you're not familiar with it you should give it a spin.  It only costs $5, so what do you have to lose??  I've got my Win10 set up along with a classic desktop (I don't use Metro, or tiles, or any of this new stuff... it's just plain old normal Windows dekstop for me). Coupled with Start10 you wouldn't really ever know you weren't running Win7 (well, that's a bit of an overstatement of course).  My Win8.1 systems are the same, thanks to Start8.

 

For sure, the thing we all probably miss most about Win7 is the loss of the Win7 Start button/menu and related functionality. Well, Start10 brings it all back.

 

One more discovery was about fingerprint login.  Although my W530 laptop has fingerprint hardware, that machine doesn't have dual boot to Win10. I only run Win7 on it.  But I fully expected to be able to use fingerprint login on my P70, both for Win7 and also for Win10.  Well, turns out not quite true.  Yes, you can use fingerprint login in either Windows, but the hardware stores the fingerprint data (there's an item in the BIOS Security tab to "clear" it if you need to) and the hardware works with the software in Windows to support the feature.

 

Well, turns out the fingerprint software from Lenovo is different for Win7 and Win10 (I don't know why it needed to be different, from different vendors, but it is).  Consequently you can't have fingerprint login functionality active in BOTH Win7 and Win10 at the same time in the same dual-boot machine (e.g. as I have, through Boot manager).  You can only be using it in one or the other at a time, because of the hardware assist involved and the fact that the fingerprint data actually stored in the hardware is different in Win7 and Win10.  Since I actually live in Win7 99.99% of the time (and only really enter Win10 periodically, to apply Windows updates) I've decided to use fingerprint login in Win7 only, and not Win10.

 

Bottom line: it's all a new world, and we have lots to learn.  Obstacles and mysteries will arise along the way, but these are just challenges that should be dealt with by research, asking questions, searching for info and others' experiences and solutions on the Interweb, and solving each problem that presents itself.  If something's broken and you don't fix it, it's still broken. But once you fix it, you won't face it again.  I almost never accept a "workaround" to these challenges.  That's not the goal.  I'd rather "solve" a mystery and have everything then working perfectly, as expected.

 

So all in all, encountering my new P70 with its UEFI BIOS and GPT partitioning on the HDD spinner provided by Lenovo, and then working with the brand new 950 Pro NVMe device, well this was the motivation for a great learning experience since January... including installing learning about Win10, which really isn't so bad if you'll just install Start10.  In fact it's pretty fast and slick.

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Re: Can't downgrade windows 10 to windows 7

2016-05-08, 5:26 AM

Thank you for your comments.  It is a helpful reminder that I have to accept learning new things for new benefits.  I'm also a teacher, so it's ironic I'd have a little explosion like I had.  Although, there were a number of things that happened previous to my experience with Windows 10 that certainly didn't help.

 

Incidently, I could actually get used to the new start menu.  It is quite customisable.  Anything I'd miss from it is more in the annoying category rather than the critical functional category.  I was quite dismayed to see my Windows 10 installation removing my installations of WordPerfect and Creative Cloud.  When I did more research, thinking that maybe I should upgrade my WordPerfect, I read about people losing hardware drivers, common name brand virus scanners, and other instances of Adobe products.  Then I read that only certain updates of Windows 10 were doing this, and you couldn't pick and choose the updates.  As far as I was able to see, there is no workaround for these.  If you have an installation of windows 10 that removes "unstable" installations, you're pretty much stuck reinstalling it everytime it removes it.  (There is, apparently a way to restore it, but I could not tell if that was just returning to a restore point or not.)

 

So, now to learn about UEFI.

 

Larry

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Re: Can't downgrade windows 10 to windows 7

2016-05-08, 7:42 AM

OK, here's where things stand:

 

I tried to download the Win7 ISO.  The site asked for a Product Key, so I tried the one from my Windows 10, but it did not verify.  According to the FAQ, systems with preinstalled OS will not verify.

 

Next I tried the product key for my Windows 7 Pro.  This one did verify.  However, I then had to choose a language.  They have about 20 languages, but none were English!  That put an end to that idea.

 

Lastly I tried changing the CSM to disable the UEFI.  I then was able to get to the Windows 7 screen to begin the installation of Windows 7.  However, the keyboard and mouse inputs were disabled.

 

I may have to order a disk from Lenovo.  They're not giving me any paid support for this, probably because I didn't order the machine with Windows 10 + downgrade rights.  I should have.

 

Larry

I'm exhausted, it's after midnight now.  Time for some sleep

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