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Windows XP, 7 & 8 On The Same Computer?

 
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Ted from Columbus, Ohio writes:

As a volunteer instructor of “Seniors” in BASIC computer skills I find the need to have WINXP, WIN, 7, and Win 8 available in order to meet my clients needs for immediate instruction. I have limited equipment and funds available. I wondered if:
Is it possible to have a multiboot system having WIN XP, WIN 7, and WIN 8 all on the same machine?

That would solve many of my problems of availability of a needed example to demonstrate especially if I could have access to The various Microsoft Office Versions on the same machine.

Ted, I see two possible ways to solve your problem, none of them completely satisfactory, though.

1. Split your hard drive into 3 (three) partitions.

If you have enough memory available on your HDD you can create three different partitions and install the operating systems one at a time, choosing a separate partition for each one. For this, start the computer with the XP installation CD inserted and boot from it. Make a partition of about 25-30 GB and install Windows XP. After you finished, restart the computer with the Windows 7 installation CD inserted and boot. It will see your previously installed OS, usually on C:\ drive letter. Create a new partition on the available free space and set the same amount of GB (or more, if you want to, but 30 GB is enough). Probably the new partition will be D:\. Finish the installation of Windows 7 then repeat the steps, setting up Windows 8 to a newly created partition. Now you have all three operating systems on the same machine.

Disadvantages:

I cant’ provide you with step by step screenshots, so you’ll have to figure it out by yourself. However, here is a basic idea:

  • you must reboot each time you are going to use another OS; restarting the computer so often might not prove to be a good idea. After a time you could experience hardware problems
  • you have to make a complete installation for each operating system, meaning you have to install device drivers and needed applications for each one of them

2. Use Windows XP as a host and install Windows 7 and 8 through a virtual machine.

Assuming you already have Windows XP on your computer, download VirtualBox from here and install it. Then open the application and start setting up a new virtual machine.

 Set the OS you want to install.

Allocate the necessary RAM amount for the virtual machine. By default is 512 MB, but I would advise 1 GB.

Hit “Next” in the following screens until you get to the “Allocate HDD space” screen.

You don’t need more than 25 GB for a Windows installation.

Once done, the wizard closes and the main window should look like this.

Push the big, green arrow to start your virtual computer and be ready to press F12. When the virtual machine starts for the first time, you must hit the F12 functional key in order to bring up the boot menu. Make sure you have the installation CD inserted and press “c” to boot from it. Install Windows 7 as you would on a real computer. Of course, the device drivers and applications must be installed, too.

Repeat the above steps, create a new virtual machine and install Windows 8 in the same way. You now have three operating systems up and running: XP is the host, the real OS, while 7 and 8 are virtual and you may quickly switch between them. To get back to XP, simply minimize the VirtualBox window. To switch between 7 and 8 you must “reboot” the virtual machine.

Disadvantages:

  • your computer will become quite slow, but you won’t need to restart it every time you wish to use another OS
  • occasionally, you might experience system crashes, especially when you open web browsers both in the host OS and the virtual one.

I really hope this is useful for you.

~Adrian

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