How to install two or more operating systems on a PC

Chidi Okwara asked “Can you run multiple operating systems on a single computer?”

Not only can you do it, but it’s pretty easy. Of course, all operating systems must be compatible with your hardware. Assuming your PC is less than five years old, it should be able to support Windows 7 and 8, as well as almost all types of Linux. Remember that you will need paid licenses for each version of Windows you install (this is not a problem with free Linux).

I’ll walk you through installing Windows 8 on a Windows 7 PC. With minor differences, it should work with other operating systems as well.

But first, you need to protect your system by creating an image backup, either with Windows’ own tools or with a third-party backup program. Do not follow any of the instructions below until you have created this backup.

Once the backup is complete, create a new partition on your disk. According to Microsoft, you will need at least 20 GB on the new partition. I wouldn’t try anything less than 60GB.

When you’ve prepared the new partition, boot from your Windows 8 DVD or flash drive. As you work through the installation wizard, keep an eye out for these two questions:

  • What type of installation do you want? Select Custom: Install Windows only (advanced).
  • Where do you want to install Windows? Select the new partition you just created.
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You can make your own choices for everything else. Only these two will affect dual booting.

Once the installation is complete, booting your PC will take you to a menu where you can choose your operating system.

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There is another option besides using partitions. You can install a virtual machine program such as VMWare Player or VirtualBox and then install the second operating system inside that program. This doesn’t require you to modify your main environment like the instructions above do, but virtual machines have their own issues and headaches. Not everything works in them.

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