How to use two operating systems on the same PC

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Using a dual-boot system, you can download and install Windows 11 on a Windows 10 PC. This lets you experience Microsoft’s new offering without having to uninstall your existing operating system.

Setting up a Windows dual boot system is pretty straightforward. All you need is a Windows 11 compatible system, an ISO image, enough storage space, and a few minutes of your time. Let’s take a look at the two methods of dual booting Windows 11 with Windows 10.

Creating Windows installation media

The first thing to do is to create installation media for Windows 10 or 11. To do this, you will first need to download Windows 10 or 11 using one of the following options:

  • Download the latest stable version of Windows 10 using the Media Creation Tool, then join the Insider program to download Windows 11 (recommended).
  • Download the latest Windows 10 Insider Preview ISO already posted on the Dev channel, then upgrade to Windows 11.
  • Create your own Windows 11 ISO if that’s okay with you. However, we recommend one of the other two options.

Of these, we recommend the first option as it can streamline the process considerably. If you have your USB drive handy when using the Media Creation Tool, you can immediately create bootable installation media. We have a guide on how to install Windows 10 on a new PC, which also shows you how to create installation media. You can follow these steps if you are using the media creation tool. Make sure you don’t choose the Update this PC now option. Also, your USB drive will be erased in the process, so make a backup of the data you have on it.

If you have used the media creation tool without a USB stick or have chosen one of the other options to download Windows, you will need a tool like Rufus. This program will take the ISO file you downloaded and update it on your USB drive, turning it into installation media. Here’s how to do it:

  • Download Rufus from the official site.
  • Run the program and insert your USB drive into your PC. Make sure you have backed up all data on the flash drive as it will be erased in the process. It may be better to unplug other USB drives so that you don’t accidentally select and erase them.
  • Click SELECT under Boot Selection and locate the ISO file you downloaded earlier. The rest of the fields will automatically change to match.
  • Click on START then on OK, the process will begin. Wait for the end and your USB stick will be ready to use as installation media.

Creating a partition for dual boot Windows 10 and 11

Then you will need to create a second partition on your drive for Windows 11. Partitions are like virtual partitions on a hard drive which are marked as different drives. Partitions aren’t much use for general use, but you need them for dual boot. Here’s how to create one.

  • Right click on the Start menu icon (or press Windows key + X on your keyboard) and select Disk Management. You will see a list of your drives and partitions which should look like this. Ignore small partitions which are only a few MB. These are system partitions required for Windows to function and are not intended to be tampered with. You will want to focus on the larger partition.
  • To create a new partition, you will need to shrink the one you already have. Right click on your primary partition and select Shrink Volume….
  • Specify the amount of space you want to remove from the partition. This will be limited by the files you have already stored there, and the amount you enter will be the space you have available for your Windows 11 installation. You will need at least 64 GB as this is the minimum system requirement. for Windows 11, but you can get it as high as you want. Just make sure you have enough space on Windows 10 and Windows 11 partitions.
  • The space you choose will be deducted from your partition and will appear as unallocated space in the Disk Management window. You can leave it as is and close the window.

Install Windows 11 on your second partition for dual boot

The next step in dual booting Windows 10 and 11 is to install Windows on your second partition. We’ll assume you’re using a Windows 10 ISO as we recommend, but the process is similar if you immediately get a Windows 11 ISO. If you removed the USB installation media from your PC, insert it again (remove the other flash drives), then follow these steps:

  • Open the Start menu, then also click the power button, while holding down the Shift key on your keyboard. Click on Restart.
    • Otherwise, open the Settings app and go to Update & Security, then choose Recovery and then Restart now next to Advanced startup.
  • You will be offered a number of startup options. Click on Use a device, then choose the USB drive you inserted and your PC will boot from it.
  • You will now be in the normal Windows 10 setup, just like installing a new PC. Choose your language and region settings. The default settings should be correct, so you can click Next. On the next page, click Install Now.
  • Enter a product key if you have one on hand. You can choose to ignore it for now, but you’ll need it later.
  • Choose the edition of Windows 10 you want to install. You must choose an edition that matches the product key you used.
  • Accept the license agreement, then choose Custom – Install Windows only (Advanced).
  • You will see all the partitions that were in Disk Management above, along with the unallocated space you created. Select the unallocated space and click New, then click Apply. A partition will be created in the unallocated space.
  • Select the new partition and click Next to begin the installation.

At this point your PC will restart and you will see the option to choose an operating system. You will see this screen every time you restart your PC now, so you can choose which operating system you want to use. Your two startup options will likely be similar, as they’re both still labeled Windows 10.

However, your new installation will be labeled with a higher volume number below it, so you will need to choose that one to complete the setup. Then follow these steps to download Windows 11.

  • Set up Windows 10 as you would on a new PC. Just follow the onscreen instructions to configure it as you like until you are on the Windows 10 desktop.
    • If you choose to install Windows 11 immediately.
  • Once on the desktop, open the Start menu, then the Settings application.
  • Open the Update & Security section, then choose the Windows Insider program from the menu on the left.
  • Click Get Started, then click Link Account. You will need to sign in with a Microsoft account to join the Insider program.
  • Next, you need to choose which Windows Insider channel you want to join. Windows 11 is only available on the Dev Channel at the moment, so this is the option to go for. Double-click Confirm, and then click Restart Now to complete setting up your PC for the Insider program.

Final words: How to use two operating systems on the same PC

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