There are two techniques for running Windows 7 and Windows 8 on the same system: dual-boot and virtual machine.
We reviewed virtual machines in a previous article; here’s how to set up a dual-boot machine.
Virtual machines have some key limitations
In the April 4 Best Practices, “Two ways to put Windows 7 and 8 on the same PC,” I discussed dual-boot systems versus virtual machines (VMs) for running two or more operating systems in one box. I also reviewed the pros and cons of two popular VM applications: VMware Player (info) and Oracle’s VirtualBox (site).
Setting up a VM is far easier than creating a dual-boot configuration. But as I pointed out in the previous story, there are good reasons to go with the dual-boot option — OS compatibility, for example. Virtual machines tell you little about how an OS will behave in your real computer. File sharing between the real and virtual environments can also be challenging.
If setting up a dual-boot environment fits your computing needs better, the following steps will walk you through the process.
(Please excuse the image quality of one of the following figures. Although I used screen-capture software where possible, in some instances I had to literally photograph the screen.)
Step 1: Back up and resize your C: partition
We’ll start with the assumptions that your PC currently runs Windows 7 and that you have Windows, your applications, and your data files on one big C: partition. If that’s not the case — if, for instance, you’re using Vista or keep separate Windows and data partitions — the following instructions should still work in a general way, with some relatively minor changes to fit your specific configuration.