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How to Dual-Boot Windows 7 and Windows 8 On the Same PC

If you want to try out the new Windows 8 but don’t have a CPU that supports virtualization, check out our guide on how to get all the goodness of Windows 8 along side Windows 7 by dual booting.

The scenario: you are in a situation where you have Windows 7 installed and you really want to try out Windows 8, but your PC does not support virtualization and you don’t want to have to format since Windows 8 is still in pre-beta and the chances are that there are some things that are broken. The only option you have here is to dual boot. The only thing that is required in order to dual boot is a hard drive with at least 20 Gigs of free space, it will work with a bit less but this is the minimum we recommend.

Dual Booting Windows 7 and Windows 8

To get started we need to logically separate those 20 Gigs from the space that Windows 7 is currently using, to do this we need to create a new partition. You can do this in the disk management MMC snap-in, to launch the snap-in press the Windows Key + R to launch a run box, type “diskmgmt.msc” into the run box.

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Once you press enter or click the ok button, a MMC will load with the disk management snap-in pre-loaded. From here you can get a nice overview of your hard drives.

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You are now going to need to shrink the C: drive by the capacity that you wish your Windows 8 drive should be. To shrink the drive right click on the C: drive and select “shrink volume”

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A dialog box will appear asking you how much you want to shrink the drive by. It asks you how much you would like to shrink in megabytes, so remember that there is 1024 megabytes in a gig so in our example we shrink 20 gigs which is20480 megabytes because 20*1024=20480.

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Once you click the shrink button Windows will shrink your drive. Once it has completed shrinking your partition, the Disk Manager will display this new space with a black header meaning it is an empty partition, you now need to give it a file system. To format the drive with a file system right click on the black space and select “New Simple Volume”.

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A wizard will launch this is going to take us through all the steps we need to format the drive. On the welcome screen you can just select next to be asked how much of the unallocated space you want to use, we recommend you leave the default which will use all the space you set aside if you alter this it may result in some space going to waste.

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In the next dialog it asks you to assign it a drive letter, you can accept the defaults and click next.

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On the format partition step of the wizard you can leave everything at defaults accept for the Volume Label which you should change to something memorable for example “Windows 8” this is important as this is the partition you will have to select at install time.

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Click next and finish to initiate the format.  Once the format is finished the once black header will now be blue and you are ready to install Windows 8.

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Installation

If you haven’t yet downloaded a copy of the Windows 8 Developers Preview you should head over here and grab yourself a copy. Once you have either burned the ISO to a DVD or used the USB Download Tool to make a bootable USB you are ready to go, simply insert you DVD or plug in your USB and boot from the device. You might have to into the BIOS and change the boot order but since you dual booting pre-beta software we’ll assume you capable of that much. If you see the words “press any key to boot from CD or DVD” quickly press any key on your keyboard to begin configuring the installation.

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Once you have selected your languages the your are ready to install Windows 8. So click the install button to get started.

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After setup has completed you will be asked to accept the license agreement, after you have read it, fill the check box and click next to move on to the installation type. You should choose the custom installation option.

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The next decision you will have to make is a critical one. Choosing the wrong partition to install on will result in data loss so make sure to choose the one that we created earlier.

 

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Once you have selected the partition and clicked next. The installation will start.

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Once the installation in complete you will be asked to give your PC a name, then click on the next button.

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The settings page that you will see next has two options, Use express settings and Customize, we’ll choose use express settings but feel free to choose custom option and specify your own settings.

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The next decision you will have to make is whether you want to log into your computer using a Windows Live ID, or create a local account. We want a local account so we’ll click the link that says Don’t want to log in with a Windows Live ID.

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Then we’ll choose local account on the next page.

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Type the name that you want to use as a log on name, also choose a strong password and a hint just incase your forget your password. When you done click next, your account will be created and you will be logged in.

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Once it has logged you in you can restart your PC to see the new OS Selection screen. By default it will boot into Windows 8 after 30 seconds of inactivity, you probably don’t want this. To change the default back to Windows 7 click the Change defaults or choose other options link at the bottom of the screen.

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Now choose the change default operating system link.

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And finally select Windows 7.

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That’s all you have to do to reap the benefits of both worlds. To get started with Windows 8, you should probably check out our guide to all the new awesomeness it brings.

Taylor Gibb is a Microsoft MVP and all round geek, he loves everything from Windows 8 to Windows Server 2012 and even C# and PowerShell. You can also follow him on Google+

  • Published 09/19/11

Comments (50)

  1. Vrymel

    How can I “uninstall” Windows 8 if I dual-boot Win7 and Win8. I’m afraid that I couldn’t boot into windows 7 again. What is the safe way to uninstall Windows 8?

  2. Stanley

    Actually it would be better to create a VHD and install Win8 there. Win8 has a boot loader built in that will allow you to dual boot with the VHD.

  3. Rem

    @Vrymel: If you are dual booting it only takes formating the partition that has Win8 and then expanding the orginal partition back to the full HD

  4. Andrew

    So I formatted my entire HD and installed Windows 8 then Windows 7. On the first boot I got to choose between 7 and 8 (with 7 bootloader) but after rebooting it goes directly to Windows 8. Any thoughts?

  5. Ray Cooke

    I have 4 accessible drives in my PC therefore loaded Win8 onto it’s own 250gig drive. I was not at all impressed with it or the crude attempt to copy parts of better independant software to Microsoft so just formatted the drive to go back to my Win7 Ultimate.
    It would not boot at all ! Not even in safemode.
    I ended up using ‘spotmau’ to recover all my files and reinstalling 7 again on a clean drive. ie I deleted the partition on my original C drive and reformatted to make sure.

  6. Muhammad Usman

    Same question … After I’ve installed windows 8 in dual-boot how can I uninstall it without destroying my Windows 7…. How to Geek ??

  7. Duncan

    Curiosity killed the cat. You’d be better off leaving well alone till the boys and girls at MS have got their act together and have at least a half baked OS to release and SP2 or 3 has been released. I tried Win 7 wondered what all the fuss was about and back on XP now. Life is too short wasting time with MS OS.

  8. Goldenbarstewart

    To Ray Cooke – You should have tried the Windows 7 repair disk first – solves most star-up problems.

  9. brian

    can i install win 8 on a separate drive or does it have to be on with the c drive after you have partitioned it?

  10. Jack

    @brian

    I have it dual booted on 2 machines, one is installed on a logical partition, and the other is on a separate hard drive. It doesn’t matter.

    So yes it can be on a separate drive.

  11. jaggysnake

    to all who want to remove there windows 8 install with win 7, boot into windows 7 and in the start menu type “msconfig” click on the boot tab and you will se all the OS availble on your hard drive. highlight win8 and hit the deleate button. then your free to formate the partition and merge it back int to the original partion

  12. williamknight57

    I have tried 3 times to get 8 to install every time I try it gets to Installing windows, says copying files, but at that point goe’s from to 0% to 100% instantly it isn’t that fast is it

  13. Kola
  14. GraveDigger27

    I tried using the virtualization method described earlier but it wouldn’t create the virtual drive on my laptop so I may give this method a try. One thing to make sure of BEFORE you do anything is have a complete backup of your current system (I prefer to use a disk imaging program like the free version of Macrium Reflect) so I can get back to my current configuration if something goes south. Playing with the latest versions of Windows operating systems (or installing Linux distributions) can play havoc with your computer. I’ve done both in the past (beta tested both Windows Vista and 7 as well as tried multiple versions of Linux…) and would recommend this to only experienced users who are comfortable with installing and uninstalling operating systems.

    Be sure to have a recovery CD available as well – it doesn’t do any good to have a current backup if you don’t have a way of restoring the system either…

  15. Bob Dawes

    I followed the instructions and got Win 8 dual booting with XP. I have added the drivers and even installed some apps without any problems. Then I helped a friend add Win 8 to his Win 7 PC and took my eye off the ball for a minute and the Win 8 partition got renamed “C” and the Win 7 to “F.” Now it will only boot to Win 8 even though the Win 7 partition is there. When I try to change the boot option in Win 8 the only choice I get is Win 8 and not the “older versions of Windows” choice.

    Are there any easy ways to interchange the drive letters?

  16. Frank Henderson

    Couldn’t I use this method to dual boot win7 with ubuntu? Since I use ubuntu practically all the time I would only need a minimum of space for win7, maybe 75gig out of the 500gig drive on my laptop. Is there a better way?

  17. Bob Dawes

    You have to do the dual boot a little different with as boot.ini file in the root of C for a Linux/Windows combination.

    I’ve got Puppy Linux, XP and Win 8 all booting on the same computer. First, I get a selection of Win 8 or Earlier Versions of Windows and when I choose the latter I get a choice between XP and Linux. I could even go further and have a choice between different flavours of Linux when I choose Linux.

  18. Roger

    I Tried out this , but it didn’t work , the usb tool for windows7 doesn’t work with windows 8 . and each time i

    tried to boot from it , it gave me an error and said press alt+ctrl+del to reboot.

  19. Frank

    Most of you need to realize unless you really know what you are doing with a PCs and OSs you really should not be trying to run any PRE BETA operating systems from any vendor in any configuration. This is how Microsoft and Windows get such a bad rap, from rank armature wannabes trying out things they have no understanding of.

    I really wish Microsoft would quit making previews available to the general public.

  20. Scott Nelson

    How do I formate the partition and merge it back into the original partion? I decided not to install Win.8 afer all. But, can’t figure out how to undo the new partion.

  21. A

    or you could just have a small secondary hard drive….

  22. HackToHell

    I prefer the VHD way :)

  23. Mike K

    Hi

    Anyone who is having issues with dual booting and getting a boot menu download and install EasyBCD.

    It will let you set up your boot preferences and which on comes first in the order.

    Here’s a really important note!!!!!!!

    Don’t remove Windows 8 from you computer without using EasyBCD to remove the option to boot to Windows 8 from your boot menu.

    If you remove or uninstall it without doing that, your computer wont boot at all.

    I have tried unsuccessfully to install it 3 times.
    It goes through the whole process and when it reboots at the point where I should get the options to name the computer etc, I get a black screen with an active cursor.

    I have to use f12 and then EasyBCD to get it back so it will boot to W7 again.

    Tomorrow I’m going to try and install it starting inside Windows 7 and see if that works.
    Maybe that will make it load the video drivers.

    I hate to do it that way, I really want to know it’s going to ask my where I want to put it before I mess with W7, but I do have a backup if everything goes bad.

    Mike

  24. Bernard

    I find it easier and safer to use separate hard drives for different operating systems. I also use Acronis to back up the hard drives before and after installing a new OS. If it all goes wrong I siply use Acronis to restore the complete drive. I have XP on one drive and W7 on a diiferent drive.

  25. Max N.

    Is anyone else getting the “is not a dynamic volume” error when they try to select the new partition? I keep getting it, forcing me to have to put it on my desktop.

  26. gary penwright

    i did this dual boot . everything went well

  27. fbh59

    for those who are able to dual boot win7 nd win DP(or win 8), nd if u want to remove win 8,,, follow below steps:
    (conditions apply, u ve instaled win8 on a separae partitioned drive, else u may find difficulty uninstalliing it,,, if u install in d same drive,, u cn uninstall win 8 no doubt, bt u may lose ur installed progs in win 7 or reinstall d same again aftr installing win 7 1ce again,,,,,,,
    so better try win 8 in a separate drive)

    win8 uninstallaton process:
    1–> boot in2 win7, download nd install easyBCD.
    2–>go to the disk management(else click start button, type partition, click CREATE nd FORMAT HARD DISK PARTITIONS),, u should be able to detect in wich drive u ve installed win8,,, simply delete d partition it by right clicking it,it may show a message this partition was not created by windows or contains sum other files R U SURE, click yes, just takes a few seconds
    u cn merege it bt with d same drive from wich u partitioned
    3–>run easyBCD,,, click on install vista bootloader(dnt wry its same as win7 bootloader), (newer versions may write win7 bootloader, bt vista bootloader too works).
    4–>restart,,, and ur job is done

    P.S–>IMPORTANT: DNT EVER RESTART WITHOUT INSTALLING D VISTA/WIN7 BOOTLOADER(if u deleted win8, else u will not b able to boot into any)

  28. Gilberto Medina

    When I select the partition to install windows 8, I get the following message:
    Windows cannot be installed to this disk. The selected disk has an MBR partition table. On EFI systems, Windows can only be installed to GPT disk. Can someone help me? Thanks

  29. Lew V

    @ Ray Cookie

    all you had to do to go back to using Win7 was install your Win7 CD and click “Repair Computer Now” then select “Command Prompt” off the menu. Once the command prompt opens you type “bootrec.exe/fixboot” and after that process finishes you type “bootrec.exe/fixmbr”. Reboot the computer and notice that the Win8 bootloader is gone and Win7 boots instantly as if nothing has happened.

  30. Don S

    I installed Win 8 on a separate hard drive and can boot into it. I have Win 7 on another hard drive. It was my understanding that after installing Win 8, at boot up, I would get a boot loader screen giving me the option to load the OS of my choice. However, I never get the boot loader screen and the machine boots straight into Win 8. Also, Win 8 is EXTREMELY unstable.. crashes every few minutes. I may uninstall it altogether and wait for a more stable beta release. In the meantime, any ideas on how I can get the boot loader screen at boot up?

  31. Vincent Lee

    The Windows 8 bootloader is essentially the same as the Windows 7 one. The blue OS selection screen seen above is actually the computer booting into a very early stage of Win8 (hence mouse support) and giving you a choice of OSes. If you completely shutdown Win8 (without Hybrid Boot), it will bring you back to a more familiar bootloader menu. That being said, if you want to remove Windows 8, boot into 7, delete the partition, expand your main drive back, and remove the entry from the bootloader using EasyBCD (or overwrite it with a new one)

  32. steve

    very interesting,i will try and let you know if it,s working,but what if i have a cpu supporting virt…how can be done?!…

  33. Myke

    I tried out the Windows 8 bootloader. It works GREAT! It was very smooth; but there was an extra bonu. I set up the Dual Boot on a machine that I already had Windows 7 AND Ubuntu 11…Guess what? When I rebooted the system ALL three OS’s showed up: Windows developer, Windows 7, and Ubuntu. Awesome, because I understood Windows 8 would not play nice with Linux, it never sees it, in this case. ALL three OS’s work just fine when you call them up. Thanks guys!

  34. Kotaro

    wow thanks!

    Now I can try what it feels like using windows 8!. :D

  35. Markieo

    If it says you can’t install on the selected partition make sure your HD is a Basic disk not dynamically.
    Use Easeus Partition Master to convert to basic

  36. Dennis Thielen

    When I installed Windows Developer Preview edition, it hid my Windows 7 Ultimate installation. I put the Preview on a separate hard drive. I put in my Windows 7 disc and did a quick repair. Now I have dual boot. If only I could get it to recognize Linux. The Preview boot loader has not yet successfully loaded (or acknowledged) a Linux installation. I find it in the list of installed programs, but I get no choice to boot up into it. Still working on that. Perhaps it’s best I not hold my breath…

  37. dm

    How to uninstall WDP(Windows 8) from dual-boot with Windows 7

    1. Boot into Windows 7.
    2. Download “Visual BCD Editor” and install (comes with DualBootRepair)
    3. Run “Dual-boot Repair”(DBR) – click on “Disk Management”
    4. In Disk Management delete Win 8 partition. (make your active partition the first partition on disk – Win 7 or “System Reserved”.
    4. Click on “Automatic Repair” (in DBR) and confirm.
    5. Reboot to check result.

    That’s all ;)

  38. Durban

    This has just increased both my street cred and swagger in the geek world!!!

  39. TaylorGibb

    @Durban, i hate to break it to you but in the geek world there is no such thing as swagger, its geek cred. But you might have some swagger if you have one of those little iPod/Watches. Thats both geeky and swag-like.

  40. iphoness

    This is surely a very good tutorial and I am just gonna give it a try right now. Thanks a lot for sharing it.

  41. Fatih S.

    Hello everybody, I have installed Win 8 that way and later reinstalled Win 7 on same harddisk, different partition. Now, I can’t see Win 8 on Boot Menu. Guess MBR overwritten.

    Can you help me fix that problem without re-installing Win 8 again, please?

  42. Fatih S.

    Hi again, just to tell you that I have tried “Visual BCD Editor” dm mentioned and it worked. I even got recovery partiton on list but it does not work, I am going to try fixing it, if you know how to do, please tell me. Thanks.

  43. Miss.Andrea Borman.

    Well,last year,December 2010 they stopped selling Windows XP and Windows Vista laptops in the shops in England. And now unless you are very lucky to find a last in stock Windows XP or Vista computer or laptop.You can only buy Windows 7. But Windows 7 is like all the versions of Windows we have used before and it is like Windows Vista and Windows XP. So we know how to use Windows 7. What’s more most of our Windows XP software and Vista software works in Windows 7. And you do not have to have a password to log into Windows 7 if you do not want one.Just like you don’t have to have a password on Windows XP and Vista unless you want one,which I don’t. So I never have a password on my Windows 7 or my Windows XP laptops. And that suits me fine and is something I don’t want to change.

    But this Windows 8,with the Ailian appearance does not look anything like Windows,no start menu,and it seems you have to have a password on Windows 8. To be really honest I DON’T want to ever upgrade to Windows 8 unless they make it more like Windows 7 or at least Windows Vista. At the moment on Windows 7 I can run all my Windows XP software,web browsers,Windows Live Messenger for Windows XP,even my Vista software,Windows Movie Maker 2.6,Windows Mail and more on my Windows 7.

    But will I still be able to run all of my Windows XP,Vista and Windows 7 software on Windows 8? And will I still be able to log into my own computer without having to have a password on Windows 8,like I do on Windows 7? Where on Windows 7 and Windows XP I do not have a password.
    Even if the answer is yes,you do not have to have a password on Windows 8,I still do not want to go on Windows 8 unless the get rid of that horrible ugly Metro or tile appearance. And make it look like all the other versions of Windows we know,Windows 7 or Windows Vista. Which has a normal desktop and a start menu. Which is what I and other Windows users understand.

    And I hope that if they do bring out Windows 8 that they will still sell Windows 7 laptops. I hope that they do not do what they did with Windows XP and Windows Vista. That is my dread is that by the time I need to buy a new laptop,they may stop selling Windows 7 in the shops and we are forced to buy Windows 8. which I hope does not happen.

    The truth is everything I have seen so far about Windows 8. I hate this Windows 8 and do not want to upgrade to it. I want to stay with Windows 7. Andrea Borman.

  44. MAWA

    I tried doing this to replace my linux on the other side of my HDD but every time I get to the install screen, at the part where the files are expanding it stops at 84% and won’t finish… I dowloaded the developer preview with the tools, now I guess I’ll try the version without the tools and see what happens. But to everyone that lost the dual boot screen… if you don’t want to boot straight to the one operating system try f8 or your systems equivilant for the safe mode menu and you should be able to just boot wich ever system you want from there.

  45. Zack

    i accidently made everything a simple drive! how do i fix this?

  46. Zack

    When i select the new partition it doesnt let me continue

  47. vezikon

    the pc told me that the process of the new simple volume will convert all my volumes from basic to dynamic and I won’t be able to install operating systems on them … any solution ?!

  48. Jim

    When I choose where I want to instal windows I always receiving this “setup was unable to create a new system partition or locate an existing system partition.See the Setup log files for more information.” I tried many times but nothing…Any help?

  49. Alimpan

    What I gather from many comments is that they’ve got a problem with uninstalling Windows 8. Use a third-party application, from the other OS (eg: Windows 7, XP, etc), like Partition Master (which is free) and ‘delete’ the partition in which 8 OS is installed.
    An unallocated space is displayed, where you can create a partition. After that, you can just simply merge the partition with any other ADJACENT partition, and you’re done. It will automatically move the data, even though a backup is recommended. You can also move partitions in this application, so merging won’t be a problem.

    Hope this helps.

  50. sumegh

    I dont have any partition in my HDD. using it as c: now.
    will shrinking and making a new partition affect any of my data? or will it affect at the time I uninstall and merge the partitions?

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