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Keep Windows 7 and Try Windows 8 Now: Dual Boot!

There’s a lot of buzz about the forthcoming Windows 8 and Microsoft has offered a preview version that is available for download here. However, as with any learning curve, it’s nice to have a safety net. By setting your computer up for a “dual boot,” you can have your cake and eat it, too. Following these steps, you’ll be able to run Windows 7 and the Windows 8 Release Preview side by side.

If you have ever dual booted a machine before, you know that the basic steps involve creating a new partition for Windows 8, installing it on that partition, and editing your new boot menu to designate the default OS.

Because you’ll be creating/formatting partitions and installing an OS, it’s a good idea to make a backup of your data before you begin. You’ll also need to create some free space on your drive (at least 20 GB). Then, follow these easy steps to use Windows Disk Management to set a partition of 20GB for Windows 8:

Set Your Partition

  1. Open the Start Menu and right click on the “computer” option
  2. Click “manage,” and in the window that appears, click on “disk management” in the left sidebar.
  3. Find your system hard disk in the graphical list that appears in the bottom pane. Right-click on it and then click “Shrink Volume”. Shrink it down so you have at least 20GB of space left on the end of the drive, and click OK.
  4. Click on the “Unallocated” block of that drive that appears and click “New Simple Volume”.
  5. Click “Next” on the next few windows until you get to 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 ready to install Windows 8.

Installing Windows 8:

Just go to http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-8/release-preview to download. Then, burn it onto a DVD using something like ImgBurn, or copy it to a USB thumb drive.  Make sure your computer is set to boot from CD or USB, stick in your installation media, and reboot. (You may get a prompt to “press any key to boot from DVD.” If so, just hit a key on your keyboard). The Windows 8 installer should appear, and you just need to follow these steps:

  1. Choose your language and hit “Install Now.” When asked what type of install to perform, choose “custom.”
  2. On the next screen, find your new partition on the list of drives. (note: be sure and verify that it’s the right one, because you’ll be overwriting whatever’s on it.)
  3.  Hit “Next” and the installer will start.

When the installer finishes, your computer should reboot into Windows 8. (note: It may reboot an additional time and then display the Windows 8 Start screen.)

So now, you have Windows 7 and 8 installed. Windows 8 will be the default, unless you manually choose Windows 7 from the boot menu. Many people would rather have it the other way around as they are trying out the test version of Windows 8, so here’s all you have to do to set Windows 7 as the default:

  1. 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”.
  2. From there, you can pick Windows 7 from the menu.
  3. Once this is set, your computer will boot into Windows 7 by default. To use the Windows 8 trial, just pick it from the boot menu.

Windows 8 promises to be the most exciting Windows version yet, featuring a new customer interface style, an App Store, improved multi-monitor support, and new Family Safety features. The general release is scheduled for October
26th, and Windows 8 will offer integration between tablets, smartphones, and PC’s, while facilitating access to new and improved apps. You don’t have to wait for the Windows 8 release to upgrade your computer, however. If you purchase a qualifying Windows 7 PC from CTL between now and January 31, 2013, you can upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for only $14.99. For more details on this special offer, click here.