Dualbooting Windows 7 and Windows 8

The Windows 8 Consumer Preview ISO image became public a few days ago, which is available here, so I am sure a lot of people are interested in trying it out on their development systems without replacing their current Windows 7 installation.

If you've ever dual booted a system before, the procedure for doing it for Windows 8 is not all that different. In summary, all you need to do is create a new partition for Windows 8, install it on that partition, and then edit your new boot menu if you want to keep Windows 7 as the default OS.

Step One: Download and burn the Windows 8 Consumer Preview

• Assuming that you downloaded the Consumer preview ISO image from the link above, you can use the “ Microsoft Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool to either burn the ISO image to a DVD disc or a USB drive. The tool is free, and very small, and installation instructions are available in the site itself and are very simple. Of course if you prefer to use other burning software like ImgBurn, you can do that too.

Step Two: Create a New Partition

• Before you start, make sure to make a backup of your data and files. We will be creating new partitions and installing a new OS, so anything could go wrong, and you don't want to lose your everything. For paranoid people like me, I like taking "bare metal" backups of my systems with a wonderful open source and free tool called Redo Backup. A bare metal backup takes a complete image of your hard drive, with all of its partitions. That way, I am able to restore my entire system the way it was exactly if needed. Going into more details about backups however is another topic.

• When you're ready, from within Windows 7, we will create some space for Windows 8 by using Windows' Disk Management. Click on the Start Menu and right click on "Computer", then click "Manage", and in the window that appears, click on "Disk Management" in the left sidebar.

• Find your system hard disk in the graphical list that appears in the bottom pane. Right-click on it and then click "Shrink Volume". 20 GBs is a reasonable size that is not too small and not too big for the new Windows 8 partition, so shrink it down so you have at least 20GB of space left on the end of the drive, and click OK. Of course if you think you need more than 20 GB (if you are going to do intensive development and/or testing), or less than 20GB (if you don’t have enough space on your Windows 7 partition), then please feel free to choose a different size.

• Then, click on the "Unallocated" block of that drive that appears and click "New Simple Volume". Click Next on the next few windows until you reach the "Format Partition" window. Here, give it a volume label you'll recognize (like "Windows 8") and click Next. It should format the drive for you. Now you're all set to install Windows 8.

Step Three: Install Windows 8

• Now reboot your system, and go into your BIOS settings (for most systems, you need to press F2 or DEL). Now make sure your computer is set to boot from CD or USB as a first priority (depending on what medium you have decided to use earlier). This may be different from system to system though. Now reboot.

• Now you should boot into the Windows 8 installer. It looks very similar to the Windows 7 installer, so it should be familiar. Pick your language and hit "Install Now”.

• Enter the Product Key available on the Windows 8 Consumer Preview download page.

• Now choose "Custom" when asked what type of install you'd like to perform. Then find the new partition you created on the list of drives shown. Make sure it's the right one, because remember, you are about to write over whatever is on it.

• Hit "Next" and let the installer do its thing. When you're done, your computer should reboot into Windows 8. It'll probably reboot one more time after it does, then you will see the Windows 8 Start screen.

Step Four: Make Windows 7 the Default OS Again

• You'll notice when you first boot up into Windows 8 the new graphical boot menu that will let you choose between Windows 7 and Windows 8. Windows 8 will be the default, meaning if you don't manually choose Windows 7 from the menu, your computer will boot into Windows 8 after 3 seconds, unless you interrupt it. If this is not something you want, follow the steps below to make Windows 7 the default OS again.

• On the boot menu, click on the button at the bottom that says "Change Defaults or Choose Other Options", and hit "Choose the Default Operating System". From there, you can pick Windows 7 from the menu. From now on, your computer will boot into Windows 7 by default

Thats it. Enjoy using the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, on your dualboot system.


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anonymous's picture

It could be a same feature like dual boot of windows xp and windows 8.

anonymous's picture

Thanks for sharing your info. I really appreciate your efforts and I will be waiting for your further write ups thanks once again.

Rami R. (Intel)'s picture

Thanks Richard and Felix for your comments.

Maybe I was lucky, but until now i personally haven’t experienced any issues with dualbooting Win 7 and Win 8 Consumer Preview, on at least 5 different kinds of systems. But I agree with you, it doesn’t always turn out to be easy. Different or new hardware may cause all kinds of unexpected issues. and cause the Windows boot loader to behave mysteriously :)

You are also right, in that you'd better use a completely different hard drive if you have a desktop, but on a laptop, ultrabook, or tablet, you won’t have this luxury. Thanks for this addition.

That’s why I emphasized backing up :) especially bare-metal backing up. This way if anything happens to your boot loader, you don’t have to think twice. Just restore.

So to answer Felix's question. That's actually a tough one if you take cost out of the equation :) I honestly haven’t used Acronis much (because of this exact reason), but I’d suspect that Acronis would provide industry-grade capabilities and features, and maybe even better image compression, but I felt that Redo Backup is super simple with its UI. Anyone can just download it, burn it, and instantly use it and take full backups of their systems.

Hope this helps. Thanks again.

Felix Lurie (Intel)'s picture

Hi Rami and welcome to ISN!

Great article on Win8, but I would have an off topic question for you, if you don´t mind. Have you worked with Acronis backup tools? If yes, what would you prefer - Acronis or Redo Backup? (for ease of comparison, assume they both don´t cost anything)

anonymous's picture

Great post but this doesn't always work out as easily or as well as most people are making it sound. I ran into nothing but issues with Windows 8 not seeing the Windows 7 install at all. Then had to essentially repair my initial install just to get it working again. Add to that the fact that once you remove the Windows 8 preview you are stuck with a messed up boatloader and I'd say there are better options for setting up a dual boot.

I'd use a second drive is available. Totally disable your Windows 7 drive and load Windows 8 independently. It won't be a true dual boot but with most systems you can control the options for which drive to boot from from within the bios. Most boards even have a boot drive selection option which you can pop up prior to the operating system loading, which means you won't need to change anything in the bios at all.

This option lets you run either or and doesn't affect the boot manager for either drive. So you can remove Windows 8 entirely and won't have to mess with restoring anything.

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