Windows 8 Home ScreenMany of you are probably eager to try out the Windows 8 Consumer Preview which Microsoft released this month. The consumer preview has the same minimum requirements as Windows 7, so if your PC is currently running Windows 7 then you should be able to install it and dual boot Windows 8 with your current OS.

However since this is only a consumer preview, and not actually the final RTM version of Windows 8, it is best to install it as a second operating system and not to replace your current installation of Windows 7.

This guide will show you how you can dual-boot your computer with Windows 8 and Windows 7. This will allow you to choose which operating system you want to use at start-up. In case you are not comfortable with installing the OS as dual-boot, you can Install Windows 8 in Virtual Box and try it out.

Partitioning Your Hard Drive

The first thing that you are going to have to do is to create a partition on your hard drive. This will be where you are going to install Windows 8. By creating a partition, it allows you to install a different operating system onto it and it won’t affect your current operating system. In the past, it could be rather tricky to partition a hard drive, but thankfully in Windows 7 there is a built-in tool to manage this for you.

The access the partition manager click Start –> Right Click My Computer –> Manage

Partition Manager

Then select Disk Management from the menu on the side

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Once you are in the partition manager you should see all your hard drives, as well as any external drives you have currently connected. You are now going to shrink your existing hard drives size to make room for a new partition. Here’s how to do it

  1. Right Click on the hard drive you want to install Windows 8 on (make sure there’s enough free space, Windows 8 needs at least 20GB) and select Shrink VolumePartition Drive
  2. You’ll then have to wait a bit while Windows figures out how much space is available. It will then ask you to enter the amount of space you’d like to shrink the drive by. This is when you enter the size in MB of the new partition that you’re gong to create and will install Windows 8 on. Remember that Windows 8 will require at least 20GB to install. I went for 40GB (40000MB) in my example.Partition Drive
  3. Once you hit shrink, Windows will get to work and when it’s done you will see that there is a new unallocated volume on your hard drive.
  4. The next step is to right-click on this and select New Simple Volume.sshot-6
  5. All you have to do then is just fill in some information like the drive letter you want to assign to it and also the name (I went with “Windows 8”).
  6. You’ll now see the newly partitioned drive you just created.Drive Partitioned

Installing Windows 8 Consumer Preview

Now it’s time to get onto business and start installing Windows 8. First off you need to make sure that you have a copy of the Windows 8 Consumer Preview (You can download it here if you haven’t got a copy already). You’ll have to have it on either a USB flash drive or DVD, (Use Microsoft’s tool to mount the ISO image on the USB or DVD Drive). Alternatively, if you downloaded the setup file from Microsoft you can run that. The instructions and procedure will be the same.

Installing Using Microsoft’s Setup Tool:

Microsoft has said that using the setup tool is the easiest way to install the Windows 8 Consumer Preview on your computer. The tool will automatically download the necessary files and formats your install media. Follow the instructions below to use the setup tool.

  1. Go to Microsoft’s site and click “Download Windows 8 Consumer Preview.” This will download a small EXE file on your PC.
    Download-Windows-8-button
  2. Open this file and the Setup tool start.
  3. The tool starts checking your computer to see if it is compatible with the Consumer Preview. It will take a few minutes for the check to complete.Apps-and-devices-Compatibility-Windows-8
  4. Once it’s completed, the tool will tell you if it expects any software issues. If you’re installing on a new partition, it won’t matter if there are any incompatibilities, so long as you meet the minimum requirements, but if you’re going to do an upgrade to your current OS, you should check which apps or devices won;t work. Click “Next.”Windows-8-Compatibility-Report
  5. The tool will say that it’s ready to download Windows, and it will grab a product key. Be sure to write it down somewhere just in case you need it later. Click next.
  6. The Consumer Preview will now be downloaded to your computer. On our speedy office connection, the download took us less than ten minutes to complete. You can also click the pause bottom in the bottom right corner if you want to take a break from downloading.
  7. You’re just about ready to install.

Installing from a USB or DVD:

Restart your machine and boot from either a USB or DVD. Sometimes this happens automatically, other times you’ll have to hit F12 before the Windows logo appears when you boot up (varies depending on manufacturer) to enter your boot menu and then you can select which device you’d like to boot from. Alternatively, if you’re using Microsoft’s setup file, just run it from Windows 7.

  1. Now you’ll find yourself in the familiar Windows installation setup, it’s very similar to Windows 7’s in fact.Windows 8 Installation
  2. First off choose your installation language, time and currency format as well as your keyboard layout
  3. Then click Install Now

    Windows 8 Installation
  4. You’ll be asked to enter your product key at this stage. The product key to use the Windows 8 Consumer Preview is DNJXJ-7XBW8-2378T-X22TX-BKG7J.Windows 8 Installation
  5. Then accept the Users license agreement

    Windows 8 Installation
  6. At the next step, it is critical that you SELECT Custom and NOT Upgrade. If you choose to upgrade, then your existing installation of Windows 7 will be removed.Windows 8 Installation
  7. Now you will be asked to choose which hard drive you want to install Windows 8 on. Choose the one that you created earlier when we partitioned your hard driveWindows 8 Installation
  8. After that it’s just a matter of letting Windows 8 install and do its thing, it will take a while and probably restart a couple of times. Let it work away and grab you a well-deserved cup of tea.Windows 8 Installation

Windows 8 will ask you to fill in a few details and let you sign in with your Windows Live account so that everything gets nicely synced up. This will import your contacts, Facebook, Twitter and SkyDrive details if you have them set up.

Windows 8 Installation

Windows 8 Home Screen

After that, you can play around with Windows 8 to your heart’s content! Each time you turn on your computer you will be presented with the screen below asking you which OS you want to boot into. If you click on Change defaults or choose other options at the bottom, you can specify Windows 7 or Windows 8 as the default OS, as well as changing the length of time the screen is presented to you.

Windows 8 Boot Menu

Round Up

So that’s all there is, now you should be successfully dual booting Windows 8 Consumer Preview and Windows 7. If you follow all the steps outlined in this post you shouldn’t have any problems. If you have any questions or issues, feel free to leave them in the comments below and I’ll do my best to help you out.

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