Rollback to Windows 8.1 on your Surface

Rollback to Windows 8.1 on your Surface

You were excited. You jumped onto Windows 10 as soon as it was ready to install on your Surface.

After the upgrade, you started using it and now you are……disappointed. It doesn’t feel quite as touch friendly as Windows 8.1 and it feels a bit like a desktop OS with touch features just tacked on.

It’s OK that you don’t like it. Windows 10 is a big change from Windows 8.1 and some people feel that Windows 8.1 is a far superior operating system for a touch devices like the Surface tablets. But, what can you do now? You’ve already done the upgrade. Are you stuck with Windows 10?

No. You are not. It turns out that Microsoft built a mechanism into Windows 10 to allow you to easily rollback to Windows 8.1 on a Surface. But, you’d better hurry. You only have about 30 days from the time you performed the upgrade to do it.

IMPORTANT: You will lose the applications you’ve installed since upgrading to Windows 10. Your data should be preserved by the rollback process but you should backup all your data files as a precaution. My motto, derived from many years of experience in the IT field is: “always have backups”.

Rollback to Windows 8.1 on your Surface: How To Do It

Microsoft has actually made the rollback process pretty easy and painless. Unfortunately, there will be some things that won’t follow you back to Windows 8.1.  Basically, you’ll lose all the applications you’ve installed since upgrading to Windows 10 – yes, I’m repeating this because it’s important.

In case you’re wondering: yes, this process will work on other Windows computers as well.

There are a few things you can do before you begin the rollback to ensure it goes smoothly and you don’t lose anything important:

  • Make sure your Surface has a full battery before trying the rollback.
  • Make sure you remember what your username and password was in Windows 8.1 (it should be the same as it is now but this could be a concern if you changed accounts since then).
  • Make sure your data is backed up to an external hard drive and/or OneDrive.
  • If you don’t already have one, make sure you make a USB Recovery Drive (we’re not going to do anything with it in this process but it’s good to have, just in case).

Once you’ve addressed the items above, you can perform the actual rollback to Windows 8.1 by following these steps:

  • Plug your Surface into power if it’s not already.
  • Swipe in from the right of the screen to being up the Action Center. Tap the All Settings Button.

Rollback to Windows 8.1 on your Surface-Action Center

  • When the Settings window appears, select Update and Security.

Rollback to Windows 8.1 on your Surface1

  • The Update and Security screen will open. Select the Recovery tab.

Rollback to Windows 8.1 on your Surface2

From there, all you have to do to start the rollback is tap on the Get Started button under the Go Back To Windows 8.1 section and follow the instructions. They will lead you through the process.

Be aware that it will take a bit of time (20 minutes or more) so be patient.

Rollback to Windows 8.1 on your Surface: After The Rollback

Keep in mind that after the rollback, you may have some things that aren’t working as well as they should. For example, these are some of the common issues after a rollback:

  • Your Surface may repeatedly tell you to re-authenticate with your Microsoft account. You may receive errors when doing so.
  • OneDrive may have problems synchronizing
  • Some of the Modern programs on the Start Screen may have weird names. For example, one time I noticed the Mail App became “Microsoft.WindowsLive.Mail” after a rollback to Windows 8.1.
  • Your icons may not look right and things like your wallpapers may be missing
  • Your additional login options (PIN & Picture Password) may not function.

Every rollback is different. You may experience no problems, similar ones to the above, or you may experience completely different problems. If you do experience issues, you should look at this article on How To Convert your Microsoft Account to a Local Account and Vice Versa. By converting your account to a local account and back, you can effectively reset it and clear up most or all of the problems that resulted from the rollback process.

If you decide that you want to return to Windows 10 at a later date, you will be able to do easily. Just follow the steps in my Manually Start Windows 10 Upgrade article. Be aware, though, the free upgrade to Windows 10 offer will end in June of 2016.

A personal note: I am not advocating that you do this. I simply want you to have these steps, if you absolutely can’t live with Windows 10. I, also, do want to say that any new OS takes getting used to and encourage you not to give up easily. And, if you’re waiting for the Surface Pro 4, it will most definitely come with Windows 10 – so it may be a good idea to start using it now. Personally, between Joanna and myself, we have all of the Surfaces models. So, we upgraded my Surface Pro 2 and Joanna’s Surface 3 to Windows 10. We left the Surface Pro 3 with Windows 8.1 and, of course, the RT devices are still using Win 8.1RT.


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