If you want to test out Windows 8 Consumer Preview but don’t have an extra machine, you have a couple of choices. You can install it on a virtual machine, or set up a dual boot system. Here’s how to prepare your Windows 7 system and dual boot it with Windows 8.
If you don’t have a system that is powerful enough to run a virtual machine (VM), dual booting is a good choice. Also, while running Windows 8 on a VM works, nothing beats running it on physical hardware.
Add a Windows 8 Partition
Since you already have Windows 7 running on your system, you need to create a partition to for Windows 8. Click Start, right click Computer and select Properties.
The Computer Management screen opens. Under Storage click Disk Management. This will show your local (C:) drive. Right click on the (C:) drive box and click Shrink Volume.
Wait while the system queries the disk for space that’s available to shrink.
Next you’ll get a set of results of the query listed in megabytes. Here you can see the total size of the drive, amount of shrink space and total size after shrinking the volume. Here I’m going to shrink the drive by 20GB to install Windows 8 on.
The minimum size for Windows 8 Consumer Preview is 16GB for the 32-bit version and 20GB for the 64-bit version. After entering the value, click Shrink.
After a couple of minutes you’ll see the new partition of Unallocated space. Right click on it and select New Simple Volume.
Next work your way through the New Simple Volume Wizard.
Verify the size of the volume and click Next.
Now assign a drive letter for the Windows 8 partition.
The next step allows you to format the volume. You can just keep the defaults. You might want to give the partition a name in the Volume Label field.
Click Finish to complete the New Simple Volume Wizard.
The system will format the partition, create the drive letter and volume name you selected. If you have AutoPlay enabled, it will pop up. Of course nothing is in it since it’s a clean partition. Now close out of Disk Management.
Install Windows 8 Consumer Preview
Boot your system from the Windows 8 DVD or USB flash drive to begin the install. When the Install Type screen appears, select Custom. This is different than doing a Windows 8 clean install on a fresh drive, or an upgrade install over the Web.
Navigate through the install wizard and when you get to the Install Type screen, select Custom. This is a clean install on a new partition, not an upgrade.
Next select the drive you just made a partition for Windows 8 in the steps above. In my case I created a 20GB partition named Windows8 to easily find it.
Windows 8 starts the installation like normal.
After each restart, at the boot screen, you’ll get a choice between Windows 8 and Windows 7. If you miss it and don’t select anything, it will boot into Windows 8 after 30 seconds by default.
Then finish setting up the rest of the Windows 8 settings and log in.
There you go! You now have your dual boot system running Windows 7 and Windows 8.
Any time you restart you’ll get the boot loader that asks if you want to start in Windows 7 or Windows 8 Consumer Preview.