Installing or Upgrading Windows 8 : Dual- (and Multi-) Booting Windows 8 (part 1)

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The last thing you need to mull over before getting down to the nitty-gritty of the Setup program is whether you want to run Windows 8 exclusively or “dual-boot” with another operating system. Dual-booting means that when you start your computer, you have the option of running Windows 8 or some other operating system, such as Windows 7 or XP. It’s even possible to multi-boot, which means having the choice of three or more operating systems at startup.

Windows 8 keeps track of which operating systems are installed on your PC by using a data store called the Boot Configuration Data (BCD). Earlier Windows versions that are compatible with the BCD are Windows 7 and Windows Vista. This means that if you have a system currently running either Vista or Windows 7, when you install Windows 8, the BCD will automatically set up a dual-boot configuration. Actually, we should say that Windows 8 sets up the automatic dual-boot provided you do two things:

• Install Windows 8 to a separate partition on your hard disk or to a separate hard disk connected to your PC.

• You install Windows 8 after you install the earlier OS.

For versions of Windows prior to Vista that aren’t compatible with the BCD store, the BCD lumps everything together under the rubric “Earlier Version of Windows,” and it uses the legacy BOOT.INI file to store the boot data from these older operating systems.

You might be surprised to hear that the BCD is actually quite configurable.

The next two sections show you how to dual- and multi-boot Windows 8 with various other systems.

Dual-Booting Windows 8

Assuming your PC has the earlier version of Windows already installed, follow these steps to install Windows 8 for dual-booting with the other OS:

1. Boot to the Windows 8 install media and then follow the initial prompts to launch the installation, enter your product key, and accept the license agreement.

2. When you get to the Which Type of Installation Do You Want? dialog box , be sure to click the Custom option.

3. Click the partition you want to use to install Windows 8. Remember, be sure to choose a partition other than the one where your current version of Windows is installed. This will be the partition with System shown in the Type column, as you can see in Figure 1.


Figure 1. When installing Windows 8, be sure to select a partition other than the one where your current version of Windows is loaded.

4. Follow the install steps we outlined earlier to complete the Windows 8 installation

Multi-Booting with Three or More Operating Systems

For maximum OS flexibility, you want to have three or more systems available on your machine so that you can multi-boot among them. Depending on the operating systems you want to use, this isn’t all that much more work than setting up a dual-boot system.

If you’re installing only Windows operating systems, you need only keep the following two points in mind for foolproof multi-booting:

• Install each operating system to its own partition on your hard disk or to its own hard disk connected to your PC.

• Install the operating systems in release date order, with the oldest operating first and Windows 8 last. For example, if you want to multi-boot Windows XP, Windows 7, and Windows 8, install XP, then Windows 7, then Windows 8.

If you want to multi-boot other operating systems, such as Linux, then your best bet is a third-party boot manager program or the boot manager that comes with the OS (such as any of the boot managers that come with Linux distributions)..

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