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.



  • Thanks Tim that was encouraging to read, the fact that windows made the turnback available shows they were thinking ahead. I’m staying with 10 though, as you said it takes time to get used to any changes.
    Say I do have a question if I may. I have just not long had my Pro 3 and have recently connected to a bluetooth speaker so I can use my device in a classroom setting. My problem now is I can’t get my internal speakers to come on when I’m not connected to the bluetooth speaker. Any ideas what I have to do to be able to use both the internal speakers when I want to or the bluetooth when needed.

    • Windows will only let you use one audio device at a time and, I’m guessing, the bluetooth speakers got set to default.

      If you Tap and hold (right-click) on the volume icon in the system tray you’ll get an option for playback devices. Just pick which device you want to function when you want it to work.

  • The only issue, why i’m considering this is that with W10 The Surface 2 pro awakes all The time and very offen The fan then starts after a while…

    • Take a look at this article ( I’ve heard of some people having problems with the audio card making requests and waking the machine. You can cuse the powercfg /requests command to see if that (or another) device is what’s waking your SP2 and, if so, use the /requestsoveride switch to tell your machine to ignore it.

      This solution seems to help about 50% of the folks. Another thing to try is to change where you leave your Surface. Since it has a capacitive touch screen, it’s possile something is casting enough EM radiation to wake it (one guy I spoke with said that the florescent lights at work were the cause of his woes).

      Lastly, give it a good full AV/MalwareBytes scan just in case someone slipped some malware on there and is using it as a zombie node for something (which might also explain the fan spinning up).

  • Hey, thanks for this article. I’m ripping my hair out after Windows 10 upgrade on my Surface Pro 3. I literally have to just set my SP3 down and walk away. I use it as a digital artist and I have to say Windows 10 is an absolute no go! For those who run Illustrator, my touch features disappeared after the upgrade although I laughably still have the touch features on my desktop. I am on way back to Windows 8.1 on my Surface. I also have two Surface 3’s that my boys use for school. They’re not liking Windows 10 much either. I am running Windows 10 on two desktops. I can’t say I care for it but will leave them running Windows 10.

    • Yea widows 10 absolutely destroyed the tablet experience. In 8.1, desktop apps launched on the desktop and tablet apps launched full screen. What’s wrong with that? Now you have to choose whether everything is windowed or everything is “full-screen” except that it isn’t really full-screen because there’s a taskbar. No thanks. Oh and let’s not forget, if you want to set your display brightness when watching netflix or something when you move from one room to another….. Forget it. 10 is a shameful on a touch screen as 8 was with a mouse.

  • Thank you for the honest appraisal. I also went back to 8.1. Its not just a matter of lack of touch, but also the endless updates that cannot be turned off that drain the battery life. Privacy issues are particularly worrying as well. Keep up the great work.

  • […] Rollback to Windows 8.1 on your Surface […]

  • Before I do a roll back to 8.1, do you know if there are any updates to fix the problem with one one on surface 3, which will not default to Oenone desktop? Thanks Marina

    • I don’t know abut that specifically but, they rolled out a lot of fixes last week, maybe they included one to address your issue. When I tried to do it, it popped right up and asked me if I wanted it to be default.

      Also, Windows tends to do a “last one there wins” approach to file associations. You could try uninstalling desktop OneNote and reinstalling it.

      You can do that under Programs in Control panel. Just look for Office 365 and select Change instead of Uninstall.

  • I tried Windows 10. HATED IT. What I hated most was the fan running continuously. I rolled back to 8.1, but it still seems to run a little hot. Any ideas?

  • I fixed it.

    Disable the following two services:

    IP Helper (used with IPv6 — if you’re not using IPv6, you don’t need this)…..

    Diagnostic Tracking Service (this one dropped CPU usage immediately for me)

    • Miles, Check OneDrive. It might be trying to resync all of your files. That could cause it to run hot. Also, If you open task manager, is anything using a lot of CPU/Disk/Network?

  • When I decided 10 wasn’t for me I simply chose to use the reset this pc option. That worked fine as well. But these options won’t work after 30 days anymore?

    So let’s say next month I decide to go Windows 10 after all, I can’t roll back to 8.1 anymore? Not even with “reset this PC?”?

    • I apologize for the late response. I was working on the Forum and totally missed your comment.

      If you still need an answer to this; No, at this point, reset your PC will just give you a “clean” copy of Windows 10.

      If you want to go back, you need a Windows 8.1 recovery disk and you’ll need to completely wipe and rebuild your Surface.

Leave a Comment

It's Prime Day! Exclusively for Prime members.Shop Deals Now