UPDATE: This post was originally written before the January Preview was released (Build 9926). The January build is (usually) much simpler to rollback since Microsoft included a convenient mechanism this time.
If you are trying to rollback the 9926 (or later) build, please try the instructions in this post first: How to Rollback January Preview (9926) from Surface tablets
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably tried the Windows 10 Technical Preview and have decided it’s not ready for production quite yet and/or you aren’t ready to go all in.
So now, your search engine query on “how to remove Windows 10 Technical Preview” brought you to this page and you’re hoping that you will find clear and accurate instructions on how to restore your computer back to Windows 8.1, right?
That’s OK, pre-beta software like the Windows 10 preview can be buggy and unpolished; so, it’s not surprising that you might have changed your mind after installing it. You’re also in luck since this post happens to have precisely the instructions to remove Windows 10 preview that you’re looking for.
Remove Windows 10 Technical Preview: Before you Begin
Hopefully, you created a USB recovery drive as recommended in my Windows 10 Technical Preview First Impressions post and on the Technical Preview download page. You needed to have created a recovery drive because the Technical Preview actually overwrites the existing recovery partition.
If you didn’t preemptively create a USB recovery drive, don’t worry too much as you can get a copy at the Microsoft Support site.
Now you might think all you have to do is boot from the USB recovery drive and reload Windows 8.1 but you would be wrong.
It turns out that your Surface will detect that the Technical Preview is installed and complain that you’re using the wrong version of the USB disk. There doesn’t seem to be a way to tell it to overwrite the Preview in favor of the older version of Windows.
To get around this little snag, you need to blow away the disk partition table, so that the recovery process thinks your Surface has a blank disk. Here is how to do exactly that:
Remove Windows 10 Technical Preview: Step-by-Step
Just to make sure this is crystal clear, this process will completely wipe your Surface. Essentially, it will turn it into a really expensive paving stone if you’re not careful; so, make sure you really want to go back to Windows 8.x before you start.
Also, unlike most of my posts, I couldn’t include good screenshots because this all happened in the recovery environment.
OK, now that the disclaimers are out of the way…
Disk Wipe Process
- Insert your USB Recovery drive then boot from USB (power+volume down)
- Pick Advanced recovery options
- Choose Command Prompt (you may need to provide a login at this point)
- In the Command Prompt window, type diskpart
- Next, type list disk (two words)
- Figure out which disk number designates your Surface’s internal drive. It will almost certainly be the larger one.
- Type select disk (n) (where “(n)” is the internal disk number)
- To make absolutely sure you have the correct disk, type list partition. If you have the correct disk, there should be multiple (5ish) entries.
- Once you’re 100% sure you have the right disk, type clean to wipe the partition table (this is the point of no return)
- Restart your Surface and boot from USB (Press and hold the volume-down control while you press and release the power button)
Operating system Restore Process
- Select the appropriate language and keyboard layout
- Tap Troubleshoot then Reset your PC
- If prompted for a recovery key, select Skip this drive at the bottom of the screen.
- Choose the target operating system you wish to reset. This refers to the current operating system installed on Surface
- Select Yes, re-partition the drives, on the next page tap Next
- Choose Fully clean the drive
- Select Reset.
Your Surface will restart and the Surface logo will display while the reset process completes (this can take a while, especially from USB).
Now your Surface will be in its original (out of the box) state, unfortunately, you will need to re-install a lot of updates and probably many of your programs.
When you log in into your newly reset Surface with your Microsoft password, your list of programs will be available but you will have to re-customize everything else, i.e. passwords, pin, etc.
Moral of the story? It’s easier to install the Windows 10 Tech Preview than to remove it.