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Consumer Windows 7 and Windows 8 Sales Ending This Week

Friday, Oct. 31, will mark the end of retail sales of consumer editions of Windows 7 and Windows 8.

Sales of Windows 7 Home Basic, Home Premium and Ultimate editions through original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are scheduled to end that day. While it might be possible to purchase a new PC in a retail store with those editions of Windows 7 preloaded, Microsoft isn't issuing any more of those licenses to OEMs after Oct. 31.

However, Microsoft has extended the time in which you can purchase a new PC from an OEM that's preloaded with the Windows 7 Professional edition by at least a year.

Retail outlets also will stop selling Windows 8 boxed copies on Oct. 31, but new PCs with Windows 8 preloaded by OEMs will be available for at least a year. Typically, retailers and OEMs will be selling new machines with Windows 8.1 preloaded. Windows 8.1 is the OS that gets the new features these days, while Microsoft's Windows 8 development is more at the dead end stage.

Windows 7 Pro OEM Sales Extension
Microsoft's policy is to provide a year's advance notice on when it will stop issuing Windows 7 Pro licenses to OEMs. That's explained at its Windows lifecycle page. So far, though, the end-of-sales date is listed as "not yet established." In essence, what that means is that Windows 7-preloaded PCs can still be bought from OEMs at least until October 2015. Only when Microsoft actually specifies a date on that page will the clock start to tick down for Windows 7 Pro OEM licensing.

The extension of this sales date to October 2015 for Windows 7 Pro-preloaded PCs likely was done by Microsoft to accommodate the needs of businesses. However, 2015 is also the year when Microsoft plans to introduce its new Windows 10 operating system into the market. Microsoft has hinted that Windows 10 will be designed specifically to address the needs of business users.

Downgrade Rights
Organizations wanting Windows 7 can also take the option of buying Windows 8/8.1 and exercising their downgrade rights. Windows 7 currently is the most popular OS in use, with about 52.7 percent of the OS market, according to Net Applications' data. In contrast, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 have a six percent market hold each.

Downgrade rights are a bit tricky. Microsoft explains the concepts in this licensing document (PDF).

Retail copies of Microsoft's boxed Windows 8/8.1 software, which are called "full-package products" by Microsoft, don't have any downgrade rights. On the other side of things, Microsoft's volume licensing customers have full downgrade rights to any prior versions of the OS.

Downgrades have to stay within the same edition family. For instance, Windows 8.1 Pro users can't downgrade to a higher edition OS, such as Windows 7 Enterprise, or to a lower edition. They can only downgrade to the Pro version.

Downgrading Windows 8/8.1 becomes more complex for those who purchased the OS preloaded on a PC by an OEM. Those users have downgrade rights only if the downgrade rights were specified in their "OEM License Terms," according to Microsoft's licensing document. To find that out, Windows 8/8.1 user have to consult their PC's documentation.

It turns out that some OEMs will include the downgrade media with the machine. However, they aren't obliged to do that, according to Microsoft's support page on downgrading from Windows 8.

If owners of a Windows 8/8.1 Pro OEM PC do have downgrade rights, then they can only downgrade to two earlier Windows versions. For example, they can downgrade to either Windows 7 Pro or Windows Vista Business.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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