I need to plan downgrading from Windows 7 Professional to Windows XP Professional.

I have gone through the links: http://www.microsoft.com/OEM/en/licensing/sblicensing/Pages/downgrade_rights.aspx#fbid=M8oYed8_Y3m and http://www.microsoft.com/OEM/en/licensing/sblicensing/Pages/what_to_do_downgrade_rights.aspx#fbid=M8oYed8_Y3m

I have a few questions unanswered, so need help of experts who have gone through the downgrade process before..

  1. The site mentions that during first time activation of the downgraded OS, the microsoft call centre executive will give a one time use activation code. But if I need to reinstall the downgraded OS (XP) - say format and clean install, what activation key or code do I give at the time of reinstall?

  2. Can downgrade be done for both OEM and Pre-Loaded versions of Windows 7 Professional? And in each case, the installation media for Windows XP should be OEM or Full Pack, or can be any legal media?

  3. During downgrade, will Microsoft issue a new key?

Note: I am planning to buy a Lenovo Desktop, and need to plan whether to buy pre-loaded Windows 7 or buy the machine with DOS and purchase Windows 7 OEM pack separately. The final objective is to be able to downgrade to Windows XP without paying anything extra, as there are some business critical apps which will run only on XP.


EDIT 1: 4. The article also mentions: "To downgrade Microsoft Windows 8 or Windows 7 software, customers must: Purchase a PC preinstalled with Windows software".

So if I purchase a PC with only DOS installed and buy Windows 7 Professional OEM license separately, am I not eligible for downgrade?

  • 1
    Why not just use Windows XP Mode which is included with Windows 7? – Nathan C Jun 11 '13 at 16:30
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    Your organization realizes that Windows XP comes off extended support in August, right? Perhaps your time would be better spent planning a migration away from decade-old technology rather than clinging to this particular brick pretending it's a life preserver? – voretaq7 Jun 11 '13 at 16:34
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    @AllSolutions Software licensing questions are off topic on Server Fault, my interpretation of that includes your question - this is really something you should be discussing with Microsoft. That said, you have two excellent answers below (which I specifically waited for before closing this question). If you would like to discuss this further please open a discussion on Meta – voretaq7 Jun 11 '13 at 16:53
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    Yikes. A new XP install in 2013. – MDMarra Jun 11 '13 at 17:02
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    Your company (and everyone else) were supposed to start planning to move away from XP several years ago. A new install is worse than irresponsible; it is very high risk. – Michael Hampton Jun 11 '13 at 17:11

Here are where the answers generally came from: http://www.microsoft.com/OEM/en/licensing/sblicensing/Pages/licensing_faq.aspx#fbid=Ea6S5dihcdH

1: For the first time activation it will work the same way as any first time activation. Online activation should work but if not the one time key will be displayed to you to provide to the telephone automated system or operator. If activated more than once though more than likely you will need to use the telephone system.

Q. Will the downgraded software require product activation? If so, what product key should be used to activate the software?

A. Once the downgraded software is installed, the PC will prompt for a product key in order to activate the software. The product key associated with the original Windows software should be used for activation. If the product key has been previously activated, which is likely if the media came from a prior legally licensed version that has been activated in the past, the software may be unable to activate over the Internet, due to the hardware configuration change when installing this media onto the Windows 8 or Windows 7 system. When this happens, the appropriate local Activation Support phone number will be displayed, and the person performing the downgrade will need to call the Activation Support Line and explain the circumstances to a customer service representative.

2: Yes. It can be done with any legal media except OEM. OEM media is tied to the specific workstation since the license is "tied" to the motherboard of the workstation

Q. Can a PC with an OEM Windows operating system have its motherboard upgraded and keep >the same license? What if it was replaced because it was defective?**

A. Generally, an end user can upgrade or replace all of the hardware components on a computer—except the motherboard—and still retain the license for the original Microsoft OEM operating system software. If the motherboard is upgraded or replaced for reasons other than a defect, then a new computer has been created. Microsoft OEM operating system software cannot be transferred to the new computer, and the license of new operating system software is required. If the motherboard is replaced because it is defective, you do not need to acquire a new operating system license for the PC as long as the replacement motherboard is the same make/model or the same manufacturer's replacement/equivalent, as defined by the manufacturer's warranty.

The reason for this licensing rule primarily relates to the End User Software License Terms and the support of the software covered by those terms. The End User Software License Terms are a set of usage rights granted to the end user by the PC manufacturer, and relate only to rights for that software as installed on that particular PC. The system builder is required to support the software on the original PC. Understanding that end users, over time, upgrade their PCs with different components, Microsoft needed to have one base component "left standing" that would still define the original PC. Since the motherboard contains the CPU and is the "heart and soul" of the PC, when the motherboard is replaced (for reasons other than defect) a new PC is essentially created. The original system builder did not manufacture this new PC, and therefore cannot be expected to support it.

3: No. MS will not issue a new key because there is no need. The activation key may be different but the actual product key is what is used for the downgrade.

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  • Regarding reinstall of Windows XP due to format, which activation key or code I will enter, as the original code was for one time use! – AllSolutions Jun 11 '13 at 16:52
  • You will enter the activation code that Microsoft gives you while you are on the phone with them. You will need to call every time you reinstall a downgraded system and Microsoft will provide you a new activation code. From a practical standpoint this activation code serves as your "product key" for the Windows XP installation (and Windows Activation). – voretaq7 Jun 11 '13 at 16:59
  • Thanks. This clarifies. I think I have got answers for Point 1 and 3. – AllSolutions Jun 11 '13 at 17:02
  • Point 4 is a legal question, you need to ask Microsoft. We cannot answer this for you since we aren't authorized to set the terms of Microsoft's licensing. (Basically it's OK if Microsoft tells you it's OK -- preferably in writing.) – voretaq7 Jun 11 '13 at 17:12
  • I understand .. but since it is so very difficult to get Microsoft to give in writing, I wanted to know whether anyone on this forum has actually experienced this and could confirm this. Anyway .... can you answer Point 2. – AllSolutions Jun 11 '13 at 17:19
  1. You would just call again and they will walk you through it.

  2. This type of licensing question is off-topic here and should be directed to Microsoft.

  3. Yes.

  4. This type of licensing question is off-topic here and should be directed to Microsoft.

Seriously, just use Windows XP Mode. It's a Windows XP virtual machine. Unless your application has some weird hardware dependencies, it will work.

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  • Your answer contradicts with Travis above. Who is correct? – AllSolutions Jun 11 '13 at 16:53
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    The only one we differ on is question 3. If what you're doing is supported then Microsoft will help you; whether they issue you a new key or not won't matter because all you should care about is if it works and it's supported. Frankly, what you're proposing is going to take a lot of support from Microsoft but you seem to be reluctant to talk to them about it. You need to be asking them these questions. If you don't want to talk to them now, how useful do you think they'll be later when you need help? – longneck Jun 11 '13 at 17:38

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