How to remove operating system from laptop

One of the most common reasons for deleting your operating system and reformatting your computer is that you plan to sell or give away your computer. In this situation or in others you may want the PC's hard drive clean and ready for another operating system to be installed. If you have your Windows installation disc, you can perform this task very easily, without the need for third-party software.

Turn on your computer. As it boots up, press the boot menu key several times until you see the boot menu appear. The boot menu key differs from computer to computer, but in all cases it is displayed on the screen of the computer as you boot it up. The key is commonly 'Delete, 'F1', 'F2', 'F11' or 'F12'.

Put your Windows installation disc into the CD drive on your computer. Choose the "Boot from CD" or "Boot from DVD" option, then press the ''Enter'' key.

Wait for the initial setup page to appear. If you are using Windows XP, press the "Enter" key and then press the "F8" key. If you are using Windows Vista/7, press the "Install" button, check the "I agree" box and then click the "Next" button.

Choose which drive you wish to format with the arrow keys (XP) or the mouse (Vista/7), and then choose the "Format" option.

Confirm that you want to format the drive and wait for the formatting to finish. At this point, you can exit the installation if you want to leave the computer clean and ready for an operating system to be installed. You can also continue the installation if you want to install Windows back onto the computer.

  • Before you uninstall Windows, make sure to back up any important data you want to transfer to your new Windows installation.
  • With a fresh Windows installation, you can easily revert to your previous OS from Settings > Update & Security > Recovery.
  • Without a fresh Windows installation, boot from Windows Installation Media like a USB drive and reinstall your copy of Windows 10 manually.

If you upgraded your computer to Windows 10 and then decide you don’t like it, you can return the PC to its previous operating system. How you remove Windows 10 depends on how much time has elapsed since you switched. If it's within 10 days, a Go Back option makes it easy to revert to Windows 8.1 or even Windows 7. If it's been longer than that, or if the installation was a clean one and not an upgrade, it's a little more complicated.

Before you downgrade to Windows 7 or revert back to Windows 8.1, you need to back up all the personal data you have on your Windows 10 machine. Remember, whether or not that data would or could be restored during the reversion process isn’t important. It's always better to err on the side of caution when performing tasks like these.

There are many ways to back up data before you uninstall Windows 10. You can manually copy your files to OneDrive, to an external network drive, or a physical backup device like a USB drive. Once you've reinstalled your older OS, you can copy those files back to your computer. You can also use the Windows 10 backup tool if you like, although be wary about using this as the sole backup option. You might run into compatibility issues with an older OS while trying to restore.

In addition, you may want to back up program installation files for the applications you want to continue using. Third-party applications won't be reinstalled during the reversion process. If you downloaded them from the internet, the executable files may be in your Downloads folder. You can always re-download the program files, though. You might have older programs on DVDs too, so look for those before continuing. If any of these programs require a product key, find that as well.

Finally, locate your Windows product key. This is the key for Windows 7 or 8.1, not Windows 10. This will be on the original packaging or in an email. It could be on a sticker on the back of your computer.

If you can't find it, consider a free product key finder program.

Windows 10 keeps your old operating system on the hard drive for 10 days after installation, so you can revert to Windows 7 or downgrade to Windows 8.1. If you're within that 10-day window, you can revert to that older OS from Settings.

To locate the Go Back to Windows option and use it:

  1. Open Settings. (It's the cog icon in the Start menu.)

  2. Select Update & Security.

  3. Select Recovery.

  4. Select either Go Back to Windows 7 or Go Back to Windows 8.1, as applicable.

  5. Follow the prompts to complete the restoration process.

If you don't see the Go Back option, it may be because the upgrade took place more than 10 days ago, the older files were erased during a Disk Cleanup session, or you performed a clean installation instead of an upgrade. A clean installation erases all of the data on the hard drive, so there's nothing to revert back to. If this is the case, follow the steps in the next section.

If the Go Back option isn't available, you have to work a little harder to get your old operating system back. As noted earlier, you should first back up your files and personal folders. Be vigilant here; when you perform these steps, you'll either be returning your computer to factory settings or installing a clean copy of your previous operating system. There won't be any personal data (or third-party programs) on the machine after you finish. You’ll have to put that data back yourself.

With your data backed up, decide how you're going to perform the installation of the previous operating system. If you know there's a partition on your computer with a factory image, you can use that. Unfortunately, there might not be any way to know that until you follow the steps outlined here. Otherwise (or if you aren't sure), you need to find your installation DVD or recovery DVD or create a USB drive, that contains the installation files before you start.

With your data backed up and installation files at hand:

  1. Open Settings.

  2. Go to Update & Security.

  3. Click Recovery.

  4. Under the Advanced Startup section, select the Restart Now button. Your PC will reboot and start up from a disc or device (like a USB drive).

  5. Select Use a Device.

  6. Navigate to the factory partition, the USB drive, or the DVD drive as applicable.

  7. Follow the on-screen prompts to complete the installation.

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