If any word most accurately describes Windows 8, it's "divisive." Microsoft's finger-first, device-agnostic reimagining of Windows draws haters like flies and has played some part—how large a part is up in the air—in driving PC sales off a cliff since its launch. Even so, Microsoft isn't backing down, and Windows 8 and its Live Tiles are darn near ubiquitous in stores.
Don't think you're a hostage to Microsoft's hubris, however.
While Windows 8 indeed lurks inside the vast majority of consumer PCs sold today, Windows 7 is by no means dead and gone. In fact, PC purists pining for the halcyon days of Windows 7 have a wealth of ways to acquire a PC powered by their operating system of choice. It just takes a little digging.
Buy a prebuilt PC
Simply waltzing into a Best Buy and asking for a Windows 7 PC won't get you far. "We don't carry Windows 7 anymore. It was phased out last year," a blue-shirted salesperson told PCWorld at a Dedham, Massachusetts, store—and that was 13 months ago. A recent check at a Walmart in New Hampshire was similarly fruitless.
If you want a new Windows 7 PC, you'll have to turn to the Internet.
Best Buy's website offers around 100 new Windows 7 desktops and all-in-ones. Newegg and Amazon each have hundreds. Individual PC builders also sell Windows 7 PCs. The phasing-out of consumer Windows 7 PCs means they're already often priced somewhat higher than comparable Windows 8 machines, though.
Act fast if you want a consumer computer packing Windows 7. The end-of-sales date for computers with Windows 7 Home Basic, Home Premium, and Ultimate is October 31, 2014; beyond then, you'll only be able to purchase business-focused laptops and desktops powered by Windows 7 Professional, and those can cost numerous pretty pennies.
In fact, many Windows 7 PCs available today already stick to the Professional version, which is helping to drive Windows 7 PC prices higher: Virtually all Windows 7 computers sold directly by Dell, Lenovo, HP, and other mainstream PC makers reside in the business category. Boutique PC builders, such as Origin and Falcon Northwest, also offer Windows 7 as an option for their built-to-order rigs. But those custom, drool-worthy computers start out expensive and only go up—way, way, way up—from there.
If you're shopping for a prebuilt PC, consider searching for one that has Windows 7 Professional installed using the downgrade rights from a Windows 8 Pro license. (Just search for "Windows 7 downgrade" on your e-tailer of choice.) That way, if you ever decide to upgrade to Windows 8 or 8.1, you won't have to pay for a new Windows license—but we'll talk more about downgrade rights in a bit.
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