Downgrading and Re-imaging Microsoft Products- Basic Info

Alot of people want to "downgrade" Microsoft products and this is were we get alot of confusion and a lot of "unhappiness" so I want to address this below as best I can, the right to downgrade is based on the channel you purchase your licensing through and the product itself

Bear in mind that ANY licenses purchased through Volume Licensing have full downgrade rights, its a benefit of the programme!

Windows Desktop OS – Windows Vista

When you buy a PC preloaded with the Windows Desktop OS, it is normally OEM

OEM has limited downgrade rights, Windows Vista BUSINESS and ULTIMATE OEM have downgrade rights to Windows XP Pro 32/64bit or tablet pc edition, you may use any legal media to downgrade from OEM Vista Business/Ultimate to XP Pro including Volume License Media/Key

If you own OEM Windows Vista and its not Business/Ultimate then you have no downgrade rights granted under your edition of Vista, you could attach Software Assurance<SA> within 90days of OEM purchase giving you the rights of Volume licensing listed below

If you purchased Windows Vista any edition as a boxed product, so FPP – then you run the version supplied, again no downgrade options unless you attach SA,

If you purchase Windows Vista Business UPGRADE license in Volume Licensing, you may downgrade to XP Pro, 2000 and 98, attach SA and you can go to Win 3.x if necessary


Did you know – Attaching SA to FPP/OEM Windows OS gives you Windows Vista ENTERPRISE and 4 Virtual OSE, the license also takes on the rights of VL

Did you know – You may re-image the Windows Desktop OS using VL media, you need to have the same version of the OS, so if you purchase Windows Vista Business OEM, you may re-image to Windows Vista Business VL


Desktop Applications – Office

OEM Office has NO downgrade rights

FPP Office has usually NO downgrade rights, always check the EULA

VL Office can be downgraded to any prior version of Office, so if you purchase Office 2007 VL, you may run Office 2003 or 2000 if you need

Did you know – Office VL permits you to run any number of copies of Office, any number of components and any prior version of Office, per licensed device

Did you know – OEM Office may not be re-imaged with VL media unless you attach SA, attaching SA gives Office OEM the same rights as VL including the right to transfer the license off the original device – see Re-imaging brief for more info

Did you know – OEM Office or FPP Office post 2003, cannot be used on a Terminal Server


Server – Windows Server OS

OEM Windows Server 2003 can downgrade to 2000 or NT4

OEM SBS 2003 Premium can downgrade to SBS 2000 or SBS 4.5

FPP Windows Server normally has downgrade to 1 prior version, always check the EULA

VL Windows Server can downgrade to ANY prior version of Windows Server



If you purchase licenses via Volume Licensing so Select/EA/Open etc then the license keys will be available at the online portal, MVLS or eOpen, if you purchase volume licensing for Windows 2008 server, the Win 2008 Server key will be available AND the Windows 2003 Key will be available, if not, the Activation centre will generate a VL Key for your use

If you purchase Windows 2008 Server via OEM and you wish to downgrade to 2003 the OEM can pre-install 2003 for you or you may use any legal media to re-image, VL media will work with VL Keys which you can get via the MVLS or eOpen portal or Product activation team

More detail on VL Keys and were they are required


Did you know – The Product activatiton centre will be able to assist you with downgrade keys and help with media fulfilment – 0800 0188 354 UK

More info on the LICENSING BRIEFS section



  1. Dear Emma,I was wondering: if a user has an SBS2003 premium right now and buys the SBS 2008 Premium SKU, can he exercise his downgrade rights and keep the SBS2003 instance, install an SQL 2005/2008 server on a secondary machine (disabling its built in SQL-functionalities) and upgrade the SBS 2003 server tot a 2008 at a later time?

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