How to Dual-Boot Windows 7 & 8: A Step by Step Guide

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Microsoft’s next operating system isn’t due until sometime next year, but you can try an early “developer preview” version of Windows 8 on your computer today without erasing your primary Windows 7 installation. All you need is a modern PC with a 1-GHz or faster CPU, at least 1GB of RAM, and 20GB of free disk space.

Follow these steps to dual-boot Windows 8 with Windows 7 on your computer:

  1. Download the ISO file from Microsoft. Navigate to bit.ly/pnsrKM. Download the 64-bit version if your current Windows install is 64-bit and the 32-bit version if your current install is 32-bit. If you don’t know which you have, right-click the Computer/My Computer icon and select Properties. 
  2. Burn the ISO to a DVD or USB flash drive.
    1. To burn to DVD, simply insert a blank disc in your optical drive and double-click on the ISO file to launch Window 7’s built-in burning software. 
    2. If your computer doesn’t have a DVD drive, just take a 4GB or larger USB drive, format it with the FAT32 file system, and then use Microsoft’s free Windows 7 USB/DVD download tool (bit.ly/q9949l) to copy the install files to it.
  3. Create a new partition on your drive. You need to install Windows 8 on a separate partition from Windows 7. If you don’t have any secondary partitions with at least 20GB free, select Computer Management from the Administrative Tools menu in the Windows control panel. Then select Storage > Disk Management.
  4. A menu showing your physical disks and partitions will appear. Right-click on your C drive and select Shrink Volume. Then select the amount to shrink by and make sure it is at least 20GB.
  5. Create a new partition by right-clicking on the unallocated drive space and selecting New Simple Volume. Then enter a size of at least 20,000MB and confirm your choice.
  6. Reboot your PC and select the DVD or USB flash drive as your boot device.
  7. Click Next > Install > Accept the license terms. Click Next again.
  8. Select Custom Install, choose the blank partition you just created, and click Next. Wait while the install does its work. The system will reboot and a menu will appear.
  9. Click “Change defaults or choose other options” then “Choose the default operating system.” Pick Windows 7 so your computer will boot into Windows 7 any time you don’t choose which OS you want.
  10. Choose Windows Developer Preview after clicking the back arrow to return to the main menu. The computer will boot into the new operating system for the first time.
  11.  Give your computer a name and select a network connection.
  12. Select Express Settings.
  13. Enter your Windows Live account e-mail address. If you don’t have a Windows Live account, click the link to sign up.
  14. Add a security question. Windows 8 is now set up. Now, every time you boot up your computer, you’ll be presented with a menu that lets you choose between Windows 7 and Windows 8. If you walk away or wait 20 seconds without making a choice, the system will boot into Windows 7.
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Author Bio
Avram Piltch
Avram Piltch, LAPTOP Online Editorial Director
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of Laptopmag.com since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master’s degree in English from NYU.
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