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How to Dual Boot Windows 8 Developer Preview Alongside Windows 7

Sam from Clearwater asks:

So Microsoft’s Windows 8 Developer Preview is out, huh? Is there any way I can dual boot it alongside Windows 7, or am I out of luck?

One month back, Microsoft introduced a developer preview [1] of their upcoming version of Windows Operating system, namely Windows 8. With a refreshing Metro UI. Windows Live integration and cloud computing features, Windows 8 is definitely one of the best user interface designs Microsoft has ever built for the personal computer.

However, one of the problems with Windows 8 developer preview is that you can’t install it in a separate hard drive partition. When you mount the Windows 8 developer ISO disc image and try to install Windows 8 alongside your existing operating system, Windows 8 will not show any option to choose a hard drive partition where it is going to be installed. By default, Windows 8 developer preview will be installed in your primary partition (C drive),so your existing Windows 7 installation would no longer work.

Windows 8 developer preview is still in its early Beta stages, and the operating system is not 100% stable. So instead of upgrading from Windows 7 to Windows 8 developer preview, it would be a good idea to install Windows 8 alongside Windows 7 and test it out . There are two ways to do this:

– install Windows 8 developer preview in a virtual environment using virtualization software e.g VirtualBox, Vmware Workstation etc.
– Dual boot Windows 8 without disturbing your existing operating system e.g Windows 7, Windows Vista or Windows XP.

I would prefer choosing the dual boot method because running an operating system in a virtual environment consumes a lot of system resources and the response time is usually slow and sluggish.

Here is how to dual boot Windows8 and run it alongside your existing operating system:

1. I assume you have already downloaded the Windows 8 developer preview ISO image. If you haven’t, head over to the Microsoft dev center website [2] and download the 2GB ISO image of Windows 8 developer preview.

2. Click “Start” and type “diskmgmt.msc” in the search box (without quotes). Click on the disk management utility, as shown below:

3. Windows 8 requires at least 20GB of hard drive space, so what you have to do here is shrink the C volume and separate 20 GB of hard drive space using the Windows disk management utility. Right click on the C partition and choose “Shrink Volume”, as shown below:

4. This will open a dialog box where Windows will ask you how much space you want to free up from the C partition. As Windows 8 requires at least 20 GB of free space, you have to enter the minimum amount of 20480 in the field labelled “Enter the amount of space to shrink in MB” (where 20480=20 X 1024 MB). If you want to allocate 25 GB of hard drive space for the Windows 8 operating system, enter 25600 (25 * 1024 = 25600 MB).

5. Now click “Shrink” and wait a couple of minutes until Windows shrinks the C volume and creates an unallocated empty partition.

6. Once Windows has finished shrinking the volume, fall back to the Windows disk management utility and you should see an unallocated volume under a Black header. This is the completely new partition where you would be installing Windows 8 developer preview.

Right click the unallocated partition under the Black header and choose “New simple volume”.

7. This will open a wizard where you have to format this volume and create a new system partition. Follow the wizard and choose all the default options

-File system: NTFS
-Allocation size: Default
-Volume Label – Choose any name, e.g Windows 8

Select the checkbox “Perform a quick format” and finish the wizard.

8. Now you have to burn the Windows 8 Developer Preview ISO image into a bootable DVD disc and boot from your DVD drive to install Windows 8 Developer preview on the new volume created in step 7. If you do not want to use a DVD disc, you can burn the ISO image into a 4GB USB drive and boot from your USB drive instead.

To do this, download Microsoft’s USB download tool [3] and run the program. You should see a simple wizard which will walk you through the steps of burning the Windows 8 developer preview image on your removable USB drive.

9. You are almost done. Plug in the Windows 8 bootable USB drive into any of your computer’s USB ports and restart your system. While the system is booting, enter BIOS and select removable drive as your 1st boot device.

10. Save the settings and restart your system once again.

11. Now your system should boot from your USB drive and you should see the usual install screen of Windows, similar to Windows 7.

12. Follow the installation wizard and choose “Custom” in step 3. In step 4, select the new primary partition and choose “Next”. Windows 8 will be installed and when it’s done, you will be asked to choose your default operating system, as shown below:

For example: I have installed Windows 8 Developer preview alongside Windows XP, Windows 7, Ubuntu and I can use all the four operating systems at my convenience. My previous installations were not affected at all. A complete system format is not mandatory and you can run your previous operating systems in parallel with Windows 8.

~Amit Banerjee