Windows 7 SP1 means end of XP downgrade rights

Microsoft's work on SP1 means "clock is ticking" on demise of rights, says analyst

The clock is ticking on the demise of some downgrade rights for Windows 7, an analyst said Thursday.

Last year, Microsoft said that customers could downgrade new machines purchased with Windows 7 Professional to the older Windows XP Professional for a limited period. The deal ends 18 months after the introduction of Windows 7 -- in other words, in late April 2011 -- or when Microsoft launches Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1), whichever comes first.

Nearly two months ago, Microsoft acknowledged it's working on Windows 7 SP1 . It has not yet set a release timetable, however.

"So the clock is ticking down on that offer, after which time the only option for non-Software Assurance customers to deploy Windows XP is to use Windows XP Mode," said Al Gillen, an analyst with IDC, referring to Windows 7 Professional's built-in virtualized version of Windows XP.

Corporations that subscribe to Software Assurance (SA) -- MIcrosoft's annuity-like upgrade guarantee program -- or purchase Windows through volume licensing plans have downgrade rights from any edition, including Windows 7, to any previous version going as far back as Windows 95.

Calling SP1 an "important milestone for customers" because of the impending end of downgrade-to-XP rights, Gillen noted that the service pack will have relatively little impact on enterprise plans to deploy the new operating system.

"Historically, classic customer deployment behavior for new Windows client operating systems was to wait for the first service pack to arrive," Gillen said in a research note published yesterday.

That's no longer the case, he said, echoing opinions expressed earlier by other analysts, including Michael Cherry of Directions on Microsoft and Diane Hagglund of Dimensional Research.

"The Windows patching process ... has changed the rules of the game for many customers," Gillen argued. "The continuous stream of patches, over time, delivers a significant portion of service pack content."

Recent surveys conducted by IDC with IT professionals and end users showed that budget limitations and application compatibility were the biggest concerns about migrating to Windows 7, not the lack of a service pack.

Although Microsoft originally wanted to limit Windows 7-to-Windows XP downgrade rights to just six months after the release of the former, it quickly backtracked last June after another analyst, Michael Silver of Gartner Research, called the plan a "real mess." Instead, said Microsoft, it would allow downgrades to Windows XP until 18 months went by, or until it released Windows 7 SP1.

Although consumers may have little reason to want to downgrade Windows 7 -- the operating system has received favorable reviews and by all accounts has been a huge success -- businesses often want to standardize on a single operating system edition to simplify machine management.

Several major computer makers continue to sell new PCs with a factory-installed downgrade to Windows XP from Windows 7 . Dell, for example, offers downgrades on some Latitude notebooks as well as its Vostro line of business desktops.

Once Microsoft releases Windows 7 SP1, customers will be able to downgrade only to Vista Business.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld . Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is .

Read more about windows in Computerworld's Windows Knowledge Center.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags windows xpwindows downgradeMicrosoft WindowsWindows 7vista

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Gregg Keizer

Computerworld (US)
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Lexar® Professional 1000x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

D-Link PowerLine AV2 2000 Gigabit Network Kit

Learn more >

ASUS ROG Swift PG279Q – Reign beyond virtual world

Learn more >

Crucial® BX200 SATA 2.5” 7mm (with 9.5mm adapter) Internal Solid State Drive

Learn more >

Xiro Drone Xplorer V -3 Axis Gimbal & 1080p Full HD 14MP Camera

Learn more >

D-Link TAIPAN AC3200 Ultra Wi-Fi Modem Router (DSL-4320L)

Learn more >

Gadgets & Things


Learn more >

Lexar Professional 2000x SDHC™/SDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1000x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Lexar Professional 2000x SDHC™/SDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

ASUS VivoPC VM62 - Incredibly Powerful, Unbelievably Small

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1000x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Lexar Professional 2000x SDHC™/SDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1000x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Best Deals on PC World

Latest News Articles


GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy


First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni


For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell


The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi


The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott


My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.


Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?