Windows 8 Home ScreenSometimes you may want to be able to dive in and out of different operating systems without actually having to restart your machine and choose which one you want to boot into. This is where virtualization technology comes in. It’s possible to install an operating system on a virtual machine and run it alongside another OS, allowing you to easily switch between them.

This guide will show you how you can install the Windows 8 Consumer Preview in a virtual box. I did this on a Windows 7 machine, but it should be the same process on Windows Vista and XP.

Setting Up The Virtual Machine

For this guide we’re going to be using VirtualBox so if you choose to use different virtualization tools, this process could be slightly different. You can download the latest version of VirtualBox from here.

  1. Once you’ve installed and launched VirtualBox you’ll see the screen below. Click on New to create a new virtual machine.
    Virtual Box
  2. You’ll then be asked to type in the name of the virtual machine, and also to choose what operating system it is you plan on installing. Fill in the details the same as I have below
    Install Windows 8 In Virtual Box
  3. The next step is where you allocate how much of your computers RAM you are going to allocate to your virtual machine. The amount you should dedicate varies depending on how powerful your machine is. In my case I gave the virtual machine 2GB of RAM, I think this is the minimum amount you should dedicate if you want it to run smoothly.
    Virtual Box
  4. Now you will be asked to decide if you want to set up a new virtual hard disk or use an existing one. I created a new one as I don’t have any others set up, chances are you don’t either. It will also ask you what type of virtual hard disk you want to create. This doesn’t really matter so I left it at the default option.
    Virtual Box
  5. It will then ask you if you want to have a fixed or dynamically expanding drive. Some people claim that using fixed drives are faster than dynamically expanding drives, so you may want to choose that option. However I choose the dynamically expanding drive since this way the drive won’t be taking up the full size I allocate to it unless it’s required.Virtual Disk
  6. Now you need to select how big you want the virtual drive to be in size. It will need to be at least 20GB in size as this is what Windows 8 requires to install. It’s up to you how big you want to make it.Virtual Box
  7. Simply click next and finish off the wizard and your virtual hard drive will be created.

Installing Windows 8

The next step now is to actually install Windows 8 in the virtual machine that we’ve just created.

  1. Select the virtual machine you’ve just created and click Start
    Virtual Machine
  2. You’ll then find yourself in the first run wizard. It will ask you to select where you have the Windows 8 ISO image saved. This could be either locally on your computer, or on a DVD. Select the appropriate location and the installation will start. (Download Windows 8 ISO files here)First Run Wizard
    Install Windows 8
  3. Once you’ve done that, the Windows 8 set up will start as normal. Start off by choosing your language and keyboard inputWindows 8 Installation
  4. Then once you’ve clicked Install Now you’ll be asked for the Windows 8 Consumer Preview Product Key. It’s DNJXJ-7XBW8-2378T-X22TX-BKG7J.Windows 8 Installation
  5. You’ll then have to accept the license agreement continue.Windows 8 Installation
  6. It will then ask you if you want to perform an Upgrade or Custom installation, choose Custom InstallationWindows 8 Installation
  7. Now you will have to choose the new virtual hard drive that you created as the installation location, it should be the only one available to you.Windows 8 Installation
  8. All you have to do is let the installation complete and you’re done.Windows 8 Installation

Conclusion

Now whenever you want to boot up Windows 8 alongside Windows 7 or another Windows OS, all you need to do is open up virtual box and start the Windows 8 Virtual Machine that you have created. It’s that simple.

You may want to mess with some of the options in Virtual Box to optimise the performance (i.e.. allocate more memory for graphics) otherwise you should have a perfectly working virtual machine running the Windows 8 Consumer Preview.