How to restore Windows 7 after installing the Windows 8 Developer, Consumer or Release Preview
(Text only version - for printing a hard copy)
Upgrading to Windows 8 – You have two methods: 1) Installing Windows 8 by booting from the Windows 8 Preview Build installation disc (Screen Shots) and performing a "Custom"/Clean install. 2) Booting to Windows 7 and inserting the Windows 8 Preview Build disc and when prompted run the setup.exe file (Screen Shots).
Method 2 is not a supported path for “Upgrading” !. This is because during the upgrade from 7 to 8, Windows 8 actually moves (removes) each of your application’s folders and files from the Windows 7 C:\Program Files and C:\Program Files (x86) folders and installs them in the equivalent Windows 8 folders, therefore leaving nothing in the Windows 8 “Windows.old” to recover.
You have two recovery documentation choices: 1) Text only version, use this link to print a hard copy of the instructions. 2) Text with supporting screenshots link, provides the additional visual aid needed to make the recovery process as easy as possible.
The steps used to restore Windows 7 are in part partially based on Microsoft’s Knowledge Base article kb971760. “How to restore a Windows 7-based computer to a previous Windows installation by using the Windows.old folder”.
Concept: The basic concept is relatively simple.
1) Copy the Windows.old from the Windows 8 partition to an external USB drive (or second internal hard drive). Copy the files located in the documents folder to the USB drive.
Note: If the Windows.old folder does not exist, you cannot follow the steps in this article to restore Windows 7 to your computer.
2) Reinstall Windows 7 using a technique know as a “Keyless Install”.
3) Copy the Windows.old folder back to the root (C:\) of your freshly installed version of Windows 7.
Note: The amount of free space on the Windows 7 partition (after installing Windows 7) must be large enough to hold the “Windows.old” folder when you copy it from the USB drive back to the Windows partition.
4) Using your Windows 7 installation DVD, boot and open a command prompt to replace the current Windows 7 folders with the equivalent folders contained inside the Windows.old folder.
5) Create a new user account and copy your documents from the USB drive to the new account.
What you will need:
1) The Windows.old folder located in your Windows 8 partition.
2) An external USB drive (preferred) or a second internal hard drive.
3) Your original Windows 7 installation DVD or your System Repair Disc (if you created one).
4) EASEUS Todo Backup - A free Image and file backup utility that is able to copy the Windows.old folder from your Windows 8 partition to your USB drive (in the form of an image file) without choking on file and folder permissions. Retains original file permissions within the Windows.old folder. http://www.todo-backup.com/products/home/free-backup-software.htm
Note: October 4th, 2012
The original article was created for users who had installed the “Preview” build of Windows 8, at which time Todo Backup version 3 was available. Since that time new builds of Windows 8 and Todo Backup have been released. Currently Todo Backup is at version 5 and Windows 8 has been released to manufacturing (RTM) and the RTM/Retail version will be available as of October 26th, 2012.
The results of Recovering Windows 7 after installing the Windows 8 “Release Preview” using EaseUS Todo Backup version 5 were entirely successful.
(May 7th, 2012)
After weeks of testing this proceedure for recovering Windows 7 after installing the "Comsumer Preview", I must report that what worked reliably for recovering the "Developer Preview" using the steps listed below, does not work consistantly for the "Consumer Preview". Something has changed, most likely with the Windows.old file but I'm unable to pinpoint what changed resulting in a failure to restore Windows 7 most of the time.
You are free to try this proceedure but please follow the steps that including creating that all important Windows 8 backup before you start. Should the recovery process fail you can always restore your Windows 8 backup and try again.