For numerous reasons, you might want to have Windows 8 and Windows 7 on the same PC.
There are two common techniques for installing multiple operating systems on one machine. Here’s how to choose between the two.
Living in a dual-Windows environment
Take a poll of experienced Windows users, and you’ll find few who are ambivalent about Microsoft’s newest operating system. Typically, there’s one group that loves the new “Modern” (née Metro) interface and another that dislikes it intensely. Love it or hate it, many veteran Windows users are simply trying to learn to live with it.
If you’re still in the discovery phase with Windows 8 — still trying to decide whether to commit to it — or you’re making a slow and careful migration to the new OS, having both operating systems on the same system makes good sense. And there are two ways to do it: install one Windows on a virtual machine or create a dual-boot system with each Windows on a separate partition. (Yes, some PC users might want to install Windows 7 on a machine that already has Win8.)
Whether you use a virtual machine or dual-boot, each technique has its particular pros and cons. For example, using a virtual machine is typically less risky. As far as the host Windows (the one that boots when you power up your system) is concerned, you’re just installing another application. On the other hand, virtual machines can have daunting compatibility problems.
A dual-boot approach usually provides better compatibility, but setting it up entails resizing partitions and changing how your PC boots.
In this first article of a two-part series, I’ll explain what you need to know before choosing either a dual-boot setup or a virtual machine. The descriptions assume you’re adding Windows 8 to an existing Win7 system. But the instructions apply to the other way around, too — or if you’re adding Windows 8 to a Vista Computer.
Installing Windows 8 on a virtual machine
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