While Windows phone fans have been waiting impatiently for the Windows 10 Mobile upgrade on their existing Windows Phone 8.1 handsets, the truth is, this may not be an ideal upgrade for many. The good news? If you find that Windows 10 Mobile isn’t working well for you, you can roll it back to a stock Windows Phone 8.1.x install.
A few weeks back, when Microsoft announced that it had finally released the Windows 10 Mobile upgrade for existing phones, fans were elated: We’ve been waiting months, after all, for an upgrade that was originally scheduled for November 2015. But then reality struck: Microsoft is supporting this upgrade on a suddenly limited list of recent and/or high-end Windows phone handsets, angering many fans who had held onto devices that Microsoft had previously said would work.
Sign up for our new free newsletter to get three time-saving tips each Friday — and get free copies of Paul Thurrott's Windows 11 and Windows 10 Field Guides (normally $9.99) as a special welcome gift!
"*" indicates required fields
But here’s the thing. When Microsoft did announce this upgrade, I started resetting my own Windows phone handsets back to their original Windows Phone 8.1.x images so that I could test what the real-world upgrade experience was like. And in doing so, I was reminded of something that I suspect will belatedly occur to many other Windows phone fans: Windows 10 Mobile is in fact, far less elegant, full-featured, and reliable than Windows Phone 8.1. And while the allure of the new is strong, the older OS is in fact a better fit on many of these devices.
Put another way, you may get upgrader’s remorse: After waiting months for the Windows 10 Mobile upgrade, you may discover that you wish you hadn’t performed the upgrade.
Well, here’s the good news: You can go back to Windows Phone 8.1. And this capability will never be taken away, Microsoft confirmed on Twitter recently. If you have a handset that originally shipped with Windows Phone 8.x, you will always be able to roll it back to the version of the OS that originally shipped with that phone (or at least an 8.x variant of some kind). Microsoft will not force you to stick with Windows 10 Mobile.
The trick? Just use the Windows Device Recovery Tool that I’ve written about previously. This excellent tool supports Lumia, HTC, LG, BLU, MCJ and AlcatelOne handsets—in other words, every Windows Phone 8.1 handset that is supported for the Windows 10 Mobile upgrade—and, humorously, the HoloLens and its clicker. And it lets you download and install an original Windows Phone 8.1 image on your phone, wiping out whatever is there now.
That last bit is of course important: It will wipe out your phone and basically perform a clean install of the Windows Phone 8.1 OS (for phones that shipped with that OS). So you’ll want to make sure everything is backed up first.
The Windows Device Recovery Tool is a must-have utility for your digital toolkit, and is of particular use for those who have installed Windows Insider builds on their phones. But for those who waited for the Windows 10 Mobile upgrade and then regretted it, the Windows Device Recovery Tool can help you recover from a horrible mistake.