How to get a new PC without Windows 8

You don't have to get the awkward Windows 8 if you buy a new PC -- if you know where to look

To say that Windows 8 frightens a lot of people is an understatement. The latest version of Windows marries two very different operating systems and, as InfoWorld's review explains, combines the traditional Windows 7 and the new Metro aka Modern UI in a very unsettling way. Reviewers and pundits consistently pointed out the awkward UI during Windows 8's year-long public beta, and PC makers noticed. Several promised that they would continue to offer Windows 7 after Windows 8's Oct. 26 release -- shades of the Vista debacle.

Many people got Windows 8 PCs for Christmas, and we've heard many stories of those who really regretted it. If you're in the market for a new PC, can you really get one running Windows 7 without going through the onerous "downgrade" hoops that Microsoft imposed on people who wanted to keep Windows XP after Vista's release? And can you get Windows 7 on home-oriented PCs, or must you buy small-business models as Microsoft required XP buyers to do after the Vista release?

The good news is that the major PC makers are in fact selling Windows 7 PCs -- and not just a couple outdated models. (If you already have a Windows 8 PC you want to have run Windows 7, my colleague Woody Leonhard explains how.)

For starters, Dell has a nice array of Windows 7 PCs available; the trick to finding them is to go not to the Dell Web pages for its individual product lines but to its overview pages, such as for laptops and desktops. On those overview pages, you'll see sorting options in the left column; check the Windows 7 option to see the available Windows 7 PCs.

Hewlett-Packard's has offerings as well, though its website is not as Windows 7-friendly as Dell's. Just as with Dell, you need to go to the overview page for desktops or laptops. In the left column, you'll see filters. But instead of there being just one Windows 7 filter to check, you'll find one each for the many versions of Windows 7, which makes it harder to see all your options.

You also can get Windows 7 PCs from Best Buy, the only major consumer electronics store left in the United States. (Well, there's the Apple Store, but it doesn't sell Windows PCs!) During the Vista period, physical retailers like Best Buy sold just Vista PCs, so those wanting XP had to order PCs online. This time, it's different. Still, the PCs on the Best Buy store shelves at stores are mainly Windows 8 units, but you can order from a broad selection of Windows 7 PCs at the Best Buy website. As you drill down to Windows systems, you'll see the Windows 7 filter in the left column. Use that to choose a Windows 7 PC that you can have shipped to you or that you can pick up in your local store. Just remember to start online to get a decent selection of Windows 7 PCs at Best Buy; you'll see models from Acer, Asus, Gateway, HP, and Samsung.

Beyond Dell, HP, and Best Buy, your options quickly dwindle. Lenovo may sell more PCs globally than anyone else, but its Windows 7 selection is pretty bad at its online store: a bunch of anemic, netbook-like Windows 7 Home models and a couple overpriced midrange models. At least you can filter Lenovo's offering by Windows version -- Acer's online store also has a paltry selection of anemic Windows 7 PCs, which are interspersed with its Windows 8 models and thus hard to find.

Finally, you can always get a Mac and install Windows 7 on it. Macs tend to run Windows faster than equivalent PCs, as various publications' tests (including my own) have shown, due apparently to Apple's optimized Windows drivers. Online sellers like still sell Windows 7 installation DVDs you can use to run Windows on a Mac. Of course, this is the priciest way to get a Windows 7 PC: Apple has no low-end models, so you'll pay the price of a premium PC, plus the full price of Windows on top of it. Still, a MacBook Air running Windows 7 will outrun pretty much any Ultrabook on the market, and the new iMacs are simply stunning.

This story, "How to get a new PC without Windows 8," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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