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Sat May 18, 2013, 03:54 PM

 

Downgrading Windows 8 to 7 is getting harder every day.

I've now done about 8 downgrades on various hardware.. 2 for us in the shop, and 6 for clients of the shop. So far it's been a snap. Just edit BIOS to boot with 'legacy BIOS' instead of 'UEFI', reformat the drive 1 partition NTFS with a GParted LiveCD, and reboot into the Windows 7 installation DVD.

On Dell hardware.. most of what we do as a 'Dell Partner'.. the rest is as easy as it gets. Reboot and 3/4 of the time the Driver Update Dance is a waste of time. It's all there and ready to go.. plug-n-play.

Two days ago, though, I got a commercial-grade HP ENVY dv6 (Core i7) and the owner hadn't used it at all because, well, Windows 8 is unusable. 'Let's do it,' he said, when I suggested a downgrade.

Turns out there's NO so-called 'Downgrade Path' for the latest line of HP computers. They have an exclusive contract with Microsoft and have practically hardwired their machines to *only* run Windows 8. They urge the world not to downgrade, even if they have Windows 8 Pro installed on them (for which Microsoft itself has provided a downgrade path).

Well, I don't use the Downgrade Path anyway. Linux is a Windows Tech's Best Friend. The specs said Legacy BIOS would boot Win7 on the HP ENVY dv6, so I forged ahead. I backed up the client's data and wiped the drive. 'Snap snap', I thought, as everything seemed to be going according to plan.

Then I tried to load Windows 7. A lot of our clients are professionals and retirees and they want their machines fixed, and we get some modicum of carte blanche to get things done. The Downgrade Path, I'm sorry.. it's for amateurs. What we do is purchase licenses on the fly, and we keep some handy for various versions and OEMs to speed things up. Basically, this means I can try several versions of Windows 7.. Home Edition, Pro, Ultimate.. using Trial Licenses to see which is going to work best with *that* hardware, and when I get it working, I pop in the Windows license #s and voila.. it's ready for a couple days worth of updates and driver tweaking and blahblahblah.

Failure on all three counts. Ultimate wouldn't install at all. Pro installed.. finally.. but for the *strangest* reason I could not fathom, I was unable to Activate it. Fuck. Our policy is not to waste time, so I stopped banging my head against the wall, rebooted into GParted, zeroed the drive overnight from the command line using 'mkntfs', and installed Home Edition in the morning.

Turns out that did the trick. There was a hidden reserved partition that HPs version of a Legacy BIOS kept.. I guess.. telling the Windows 7 installer to create, and as a result, even though I could load Win7, I couldn't license it!

Right about the time I was thinking, 'I guess Microsoft just doesn't want our money if we're only buying Windows 7' .. light appeared at the end of the tunnel.

I've whittled the list of missing drivers down to one PCI controller' and one SM Bus controller by using Windows 8 and HP Presario i7 Windows 7 drivers. Plus I went to Intel for the graphics chipset and updates. It's like the bad old days of installing XP on a Vista-made Toshiba.

Hard to make a profit this way, but it's a public service.

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Reply Downgrading Windows 8 to 7 is getting harder every day. (Original post)
Phillip McCleod May 2013 OP
d_r May 2013 #1
Phillip McCleod May 2013 #2
d_r May 2013 #5
DainBramaged May 2013 #3
Phillip McCleod May 2013 #7
hobbit709 May 2013 #4
Phillip McCleod May 2013 #6
Phillip McCleod May 2013 #8
hobbit709 May 2013 #10
Phillip McCleod May 2013 #11
Phillip McCleod May 2013 #9

Response to Phillip McCleod (Original post)

Sat May 18, 2013, 04:34 PM

1. I wonder if this is going

to make it harder to install linux on these newer hardware

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Response to d_r (Reply #1)

Sat May 18, 2013, 09:05 PM

2. nothing to worry about there..

 

for now just turning on 'Legacy BIOS' will still work to install the old way.. but yeah you need to zero the drive on HP's at least.. to force the hardware to ignore the old partition structure. that's new. on dells and 1 lenova i've tried it on.. the 'quick' format was enough to install Windows 7. Linux would've been easier, but who uses *that* OS?

as for UEFI itself.. it will be an improvement over BIOS once most hardware has >1TB hard drives, since BIOS *can't boot to a 2TB drive* (!!!) eventually BIOS will have to go the way of RS-232 serial ports..

linux of course, can easily boot from EFI/UEFI. it's what Macs have been using all along.. the dual-booting MacBook i'm writing this post on uses rEFIt chain-loader to boot into either Mac's EFI bootloader, or SysLinux (i could've used the GRUB and have in the past).

IOW, Linux is already UEFI ready. in fact.. here's how-to boot into Arch Linux (my preference) using a machine's built-in firmware UEFI loader..

https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/UEFI_Bootloaders#Using_UEFI_Shell

..YOU CAN'T DO THAT WITH WINDOWS 7.

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Response to Phillip McCleod (Reply #2)

Sun May 19, 2013, 09:03 AM

5. thanks for info :) nt

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Response to Phillip McCleod (Original post)

Sat May 18, 2013, 09:35 PM

3. Too much work for to little reward

on an hourly basis, it's trashcan fodder.


Newegg, your best source to end WIN8 frustration.


WIN 8 is banned from my work, I refuse to help anyone who was stupid enough to buy a PC with it. And those lovely office ladies who don't take advice and still buy WIN8 hate me more than ever now. Most returned the crap or threw it in closets.



8.1 appears soon. It won't save this piece of shit.

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Response to DainBramaged (Reply #3)

Sun May 19, 2013, 11:23 AM

7. on an hourly basis.. i can't argue with you.

 

it's more of a *public service* than anything. we have 6 very loyal new customers.. we took pity on them, even though they didn't bother to do *any* research. impulse purchases that blossom into buyer's remorse.

we save their sanity and they are grateful in return.

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Response to Phillip McCleod (Original post)

Sun May 19, 2013, 07:51 AM

4. Lenovos aren't any better

I had one model where I couldn't change it to legacy BIOS at all-no such option. Was able to trick it by using an external DVD drive to boot and install. It would not boot from the internal drive on any other OS.
Then I couldn't get it to install the wifi driver for a piece of crap Broadcom adapter-Lenovo actually listed 8 different drivers on the website, NONE of them worked.
I put Linux Mint 13 on it-all the hardware worked and customer is quite happy.

And you're right about Toshiba and Vista. I had one that the customer wanted downgraded to XP. Same problem with Broadcom-they don't want to give you any help at all. Finally by changing search terms online, I got a link to a Toshiba-Europe site that had ALL the XP drivers listed, even for US models. Toshiba-US would not list any drivers for XP on that model even though 6 months earlier, before Vista came out the exact same model was sold with XP.

As far as hidden partitions go, my Acronis Disk Director gets rid of them no problem.

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Response to hobbit709 (Reply #4)

Sun May 19, 2013, 11:11 AM

6. yeh the lenova i downgraded *did* require the driver dance..

 

..not as bad as the HP, but i did have to manually find and install i believe the graphics chipset and ethernet IIRC. probably it wasn't quite as new as the one you had.. i know they're not going to keep putting 'legacy BIOS' on forever .. so i might as well start getting used to doing it the EFI way.

the repartitioning bugaboo was odd.. GParted is a mindless partitioning monster and has worked like a charm with the quick format for every past downgrade i've done. I've never had that problem before.. never had to zero the drive to get it gone. when Win7 setup loaded the zeroed drive partition it complained about GPT partitioning.. just like my Mac will when i'm adding and removing linux partitions.. on the Mac i later have to sync the GPT and MBR since OS X boots from a hybrid.

i'm guessing that the first 2 times with the quick format it didn't work because the UEFI firmware uses a GUID partition table (GPT) instead of the MBR.. no hybrid.. but Win7 only knows BIOS/MBR. so the quick format maybe didn't do the trick because that didn't actually wipe out the GPT partition from the EFI's point of view?!? Win7 wrote its MBR and booted fine, but the firmware could still 'see' the GPT.. and the hidden partition data.

so maybe zeroing the drive wiped out that old GPT once and for all .. and the EFI firmware had nothing to go on on reboot.. and so at last Win7 setup complained about GPT and let me reformat the drive.. but only after complaining that the single NTFS partition was probably an OEM recovery. it didn't know what else would possibly want to use a GPT, maybe?

i dunno .. but confusing the fuck out of Win7 Setup did the trick, for now.

it's a theory.

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Response to hobbit709 (Reply #4)

Sun May 19, 2013, 11:29 AM

8. i *wish* i could convince customers to let me install linux.

 

it'd be cheaper for them and the profit margin would go up for us.

i can't even convince my boss to let me convince customers to try it..

..yet.

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Response to Phillip McCleod (Reply #8)

Sun May 19, 2013, 11:57 AM

10. The good part for me is that I'm my own boss.

Most people are so used to Windoze that they don't want anything else-even though any Linux distro would do everything that 99% of would use a computer for.

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Response to hobbit709 (Reply #10)

Sun May 19, 2013, 12:44 PM

11. yep.. the same ones who are *proud* to call themselves..

 

..'computer illiterate'. they get freaked out at the very thought of learning something new.

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Response to Phillip McCleod (Original post)

Sun May 19, 2013, 11:51 AM

9. here's some info that explains a lot..

 

turns out it *is* possible to boot Win7 (x64) from UEFI with a GPT instead of MBR.. you just have to do a little pre-config. set to 'Legacy BIOS' same as before, but then boot the Win7 Setup DVD using the *UEFI* bootloader option, not the BIOS (both will have a 'Boot from DVD' entry in the boot list).. see the screenshots in the link below.

the link also explains the GPT vs. MBR thing pretty well. if you boot the Setup DVD using UEFI, then it writes a GPT. if you boot the DVD using Legacy, it writes an MBR. snip-snap.

http://blogs.technet.com/b/askcore/archive/2011/05/31/installing-windows-7-on-uefi-based-computer.aspx

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