Microsoft

Dual-boot Windows 7 and Windows 8

Greg Shultz shows you how to prepare and configure your Windows 7 system to dual-boot Windows 8.

Since the Windows 8 Developer Preview hit the streets back in September 2011, I've written a bunch of articles on the new operating system covering such topics as the improved Windows Explorer, Windows 8 shortcut keys, Storages Spaces, and File History, just to name a few. However, I was recently reminded that there is one topic that I haven't covered for Windows 8 and that is how to set up a dual boot machine.

Up until recently, I had a machine dedicated to testing Windows 8 and just never got around to setting up a dual-boot configuration. I say recently, because just the other day that test PC died. I did some troubleshooting to try and figure out just what went wrong, but my findings were inconclusive - it could be the power supply, it could be the CPU, it could be the motherboard, or it could be the video card. Rather than stressing about it, I just decided to get another test system - I'll figure it out later.

Fortunately, my local computer store was having a clearance sale and I picked up and HP P2-1124 with Windows 7 Home Premium for around $300. I normally build my own systems, but this time I bought one off the shelf. So now, I had the perfect opportunity to explore dual-booting Windows 7 and Windows 8 Release Preview.

In this edition of the Windows Desktop Report, I'll use my new system to show you how to prepare and configure your Windows 7 system to dual-boot Windows 8. While I'll be using the Windows 8 Release Preview for this article, I've heard that the procedure should be very similar with the actual release version. Even so, I'll revisit this topic in the near future once Windows 8 is available to the general public.

This blog post is also available in the Slideshow format in a TechRepublic Photo Gallery.

Prerequisite

For this article, I'm going to assume that you have already visited the Windows 8 Release Preview site and followed Microsoft's instructions for downloading and converting the ISO file to a DVD in Windows 7. If you haven't, you should do so before you get started with this article. The process is pretty straightforward and Microsoft has documented the steps you need to follow.

Creating a System Image

The first thing that you'll want to do is create a System Image from within Windows 7's Backup and Restore. When you do, you'll end up with a complete image of your hard disk. That way, if anything out of the ordinary were to occur as you follow the steps for creating a dual-boot system, you will be able to return to your current configuration. Furthermore, I recommend that you also create a separate backup of your data. Maybe just make copies of all your data files on CD/DVD or on an external hard disk. While it may sound like overkill, having an extra backup will give you peace of mind.

To create a system image, you'll need to have a CD-RW/DVD-RW drive, an external hard disk, or access to a network drive. To access Backup and Restore, click the Start button, type Backup in the Search box, and press [Enter] when Backup and Restore appears in the result pane.

Once you have Backup and Restore up, select the Create a System Image option and choose your backup location. As you can see in Figure A, I used a DVD-RW drive on my system.

Figure A

On my test system, I'll use DVDs to create my system image.
As you can see in Figure B, on my test system all the partitions on the drive are selected by default. To initiate the operation, just click Start backup. On my test system with a 500GB hard disk, it took over an hour and required eight DVDs.

Figure B

Creating a System Image on DVDs takes a little while.
When the System Image is complete, you'll be prompted to create a System Repair disc, as shown in Figure C. This is the disc that you will use to boot your system and restore your system image in the event that you need it.

Figure C

When the System Image is complete, you'll be prompted to create a System Repair disc.

Setting up a partition

With your System Image discs safely tucked away, you'll use the Disk Management tool to make room on your hard disk for Windows 8. To launch Disk Management, click the Start button, type Disk Management in the Search box, and press [Enter] when Create and format hard disk partitions appears in the result pane. When Disk Management launches, locate the operating system partition of the drive, right click, and select the Shrink Volume command. As you can see in Figure D, on my example system, there is a 100MB system partition and a 17GB HP Recovery partition in addition to the 450GB OS, or operating system, partition.

Figure D

Right click on the operating system partition of the drive and select the Shrink Volume command.
For my Windows 8 partition, I set aside 50GB by entering 51200 as the amount of space to shrink the existing volume, as shown in Figure E. Once you've specified the size, click the Shrink button. It will take a several minutes to shrink the partition. When the operation is complete, you'll see the new space at the end of the partition and notice that it is marked as Unallocated. In order to install Windows 8 without any problems, you should covert this unallocated space into a volume with a drive letter. To do so you'll launch the New Simple Volume Wizard.

Figure E

To set up a 50GB partition, I entered 51200 as the amount of space to shrink the existing volume.
To continue, right click the new partition and select the New Simple Volume command, as shown in Figure F. When you do, the New Simple Volume Wizard will launch.

Figure F

To launch the wizard, right click the new partition and select the New Simple Volume command.
The New Simple Volume Wizard consists of five screens - the first and the fifth are shown in Figure G. As you progress through the wizard, you'll be prompted to specify the size, assign a drive letter, choose a file system, enter a name for the volume, and choose how to format the drive. For everything but the volume name, you should just go with the defaults. As you can see, I specifically named the volume Windows 8 to prevent any ambiguity in later steps. Since the partition was created from your existing partition, you can just go with the Quick format option.

Figure G

The New Simple Volume Wizard consists of five screens.
When you're finished, you'll see the new partition in Disk Manager. Figure H shows the new 50GB partition with the volume name, assigned to drive F, and marked as a Logical Drive.

Figure H

The 50 GB partition is now ready for the Windows 8 installation.

Installing Windows 8

Now that you have your partition established and assigned a drive letter, installing Windows 8 in a dual-boot configuration should be a pretty straightforward operation. Let's take a closer look.

To begin, insert the Windows 8 Release Preview DVD and reboot your system. After a few minutes, you'll see the Windows Setup screen shown in Figure I and you will specify your language settings before clicking Next.

Figure I

The first step in the installation is to specify your language settings.
Once the initial steps are taken care of, you'll see the Windows Setup screen shown in Figure J and will click the Install Now button.

Figure J

To get started, just click the Install Now button.
You'll then see a Windows Setup screen shown in Figure K and will need to make sure that you select the Custom option.

Figure K

Make sure that you select the Custom Install Windows only option.
At this point, Windows Setup will prompt you to choose the location to which you want to install Windows 8. As you can see in Figure L, on my test system it is showing all available partitions and I have selected the new volume labeled Windows 8 and assigned drive letter F.

Figure L

On my test system, I have selected the new volume labeled Windows 8 and assigned drive letter F.
After selecting the new partition on which to install Windows 8 and clicking Next, the installation will begin, as shown in Figure M. This part of the operation will take a while so go get yourself a cup of coffee.

Figure M

As soon as you click Next, Windows Setup will begin copying files to the new partition.

Dual-booting Windows 7/Windows 8

When the installation is complete, Windows Setup will reboot your system one final time and you will then see the new Windows 8 style dual boot screen shown in Figure N. As you can see, Windows 8 will automatically launch in 30 seconds if you don't choose Windows 7.

Figure N

The new Windows 8 style boot screen display for 30 seconds before launching Windows 8.

If you want to alter the amount of time before Windows 8 will run, you can click the Change defaults or choose other options at the bottom of the screen. There are actually a multitude of options that you can change and I'll cover all of them in a future article.

What's your take?

Will you configure a Windows 7/Windows 8 dual boot system? As always, if you have comments or information to share about this topic, please take a moment to drop by the TechRepublic Community Forums and let us hear from you.

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About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

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