How To Dual-Boot Windows 7 And Windows 8 Side By Side

The Windows 8 developer preview is out for all to try, but installing it over your main Windows setup is a scary prospect. Here's how to dual boot them so you can run them both side by side.

If you've ever dual-booted a machine before, this shouldn't seem too foreign. 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 so Windows 7 stays the default OS. Here's how to do it.

Step One: Create a New Partition

First, we'll need to create some space for Windows 8 on our hard drive. Assuming you have at least 20GB of space free on your drive, you'll have to head into Windows' Disk Management to set it aside for Windows 8. Hit the Start menu and right click on the "Computer" option. Hit "Manage", and in the window that appears, click on "Disk Management" in the left sidebar.

Find your hard disk in the graphical list that appears in the bottom pane. Right-click on it and hit "Shrink Volume". Shrink it down so you have at least 20GB of space left on the end of the drive, and hit OK. Then, click on the "Unallocated" block of that drive that appears and hit "New Simple Volume". Hit Next on the next few windows until you get to the "Format Partition" window. Here, give it a volume label you'll recognise (like "Windows 8") and hit Next. It should format the drive for you. Now you're all set to install Windows 8.

Step Two: Install Windows 8

If you haven't downloaded the Developer Preview ISO yet, head over to the Windows Developer Center and download it. Burn it onto a DVD using something like ImgBurn, or burn it to a thumb drive if you don't have a DVD drive in your machine. Make sure your computer is set to boot from CD or USB, stick in your installation media, and reboot.

If you get a prompt to "Press any key to boot from DVD", then hit a key on your keyboard. You should boot right into the Windows 8 installer. It actually looks almost exactly like the Windows 7 installer, so it should seem a little familiar. Just pick your language, hit "Install Now", and choose "Custom" when asked what type of install you'd like to perform.

On the next screen, find your new partition on the list of drives. Make sure it's the right one, because you're about to write over whatever's 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'll be greeted with the Windows 8 Start screen. If you choose to enter a Windows Live ID here, make sure you have access to your email and can confirm your computer — otherwise it might not let you boot into it.

Step Three: Make Windows 7 the Default (Optional)

You'll notice when you first boot up into Windows 8 that you're presented with a new graphical boot menu that'll let you choose between your Windows 7 and Windows 8 installations. 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 three seconds of inactivity. Chances are, you don't want to make Windows 8 the default quite yet, so here's how to make Windows 7 the default.

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, but if you feel like playing around with Windows 8 that day, you can just pick it from the boot menu. Enjoy playing with the developer preview, and let us know what you think in the comments.


    Do these same steps work effectively with a Windows 8/ Windows Vista Dual-boot?

    I managed to get it running on VirtualBox pretty easily. Just give the VB the specs Win8 asks for on the download page (I used 4gb ram and 30gb hard drive). Use the Win7 machine template in the VB machine setup. I don't think I've got the VB Additions working though.

      Mine actually wouldn't work with a Win 7 template, I actually used a Win XP one and it seems to be working quite well. A trap for beginners...It seems Win 8 doesn't play well with small resolutions. I would set it to 1024x768 minimum to allow it to run properly. I found on 800x600 that most of the tiled apps on the metro view wouldn't open.

      Theres a guide out there for the Vbox guest addictions. I wouldn't bother with it as it doesn't fix the massive sluggish feeling it has running through a vm, not sure what the go is with that. Even with 4 cores and 4gb of ram assigned to it, it feels very sluggish...
      Will try the dual boot tonight..YAY

    Mine worked fine on VBox using Win7 (64bit) template. Going to do a dual-boot this afternoon to see how well it runs on this hardware. Will be installed as the sole OS on my desktop system to see how well it runs on older (albeit not too shabby) hardware.

    I got it to work with Vbox, but couldn't get audio or networking (wifi only) to work.

    Installed it on VMware 8, and it is running perfectly with audio and wifi.

    you can use daemontools or similar mounting program to install from within windows 7/vista on a different partition apparently... will be trying this out later!

    Will this boot menu also pick up Linux partitions?

      I would also love to know this, because i have dual boot Ubuntu and Windows 7 running fine right now, but after seeing this, i am very concerned about installing windows 8 dev build :/

    I installed it fine on VirtualBox, but I can't seem to get any of the apps to run. I can get IE to run via the "desktop" interface, and it accesses the net fine. But no luck on other apps.

    Any help would be appreciated.

    I was going to try the VirtualBox method to get Win8 working but i decided to do this method and everything worked a charm.

    Because i am only testing Win8 and not using it, i only allocated 60gb of space for the partition (which now seems overkill)

    The best thing is that i can reclaim the partition by formatting it and just deleting the partition when i am finished.

    install went fine, but i did not get an option to choose an OS. win7 files are all there and in tact, but no matter how i try messing with boot files, i cannot boot into 7.

    nevermind, did some fiddling with bcdedit working fine now

    If you install Windows 8 dual booted with Windows 7 and you want to delete Windows 8, can you just delete the partition or will the bootloader die or something?

      Im not entirely sure but i have found how to delete Windows 8 if you have marked Windows 7 as your default OS.

    Looking for the same answer as Raymond

    My laptop will not let me create the needed partition, says it already has max # of partitions.
    Can I install Win8 on an external, bootable HD? Will it work properly as a dual boot?

    Thanks for any help.

    I've got it running and switched win7 to defult but i now want win8 back to defult. Do I use easyBCD in win7 or something else in win8?

      I cannot get the Metro look back using the EasyBCD method, does anyone have a clue?

    Hey guys, im gonna try it sadly I dont have a 4GB+ usb on me or a DL DVD so i can still do it im just gonna use it as a USB since it's jailbroken I switch it into USB mode and it works the exact same way and it allows me to create partiotons on my ipoad/usb so I just set it to 9 GB fro the iso wish me luck!

    When I try and Make Simple Volume, it wants to convert the partition to Dynamic, which then says will not boot OS'es. Is this true?

      I have the same problem. Did you manage to get it fixed or work around it? When I try to install windows 8 on the newly created partition, it says it cannot be installed on one or more simple partitions. Grr

    Does win 8 have to be on the same physical drive as win 7, or can I allocate space elsewhere?

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