Staying updated with technology requires some effort, some of which includes bidding farewell to your old operating system and installing the latest release. If you have a perfectly working setup on your PC with an older version of Windows – you probably do not want to mess it up by installing Windows 10. What to do? Yes. Dual boot can be the answer.

Setting up Windows 10 and an older Windows version for Dual Boot 

Dual boot is a set up where you have two or more operating systems installed on your computer. If you wish to keep your current version of Windows and also want another operating system, say Windows 10, you can set this up. All you need to do is create another partition or spare a hard disk where you can install it and keep the two operating systems separate from each other.

The major benefits of setting up a dual boot configuration on a physical partition or hard disk, rather than running one of the operating system on a Virtual Machine is that both operating systems will have full access to the hardware, including memory, graphics and input/output performance of the local disk. Also in a virtual environment you cannot use all the features of the operating system, but with dual boot you get the complete experience and control.

The biggest benefit of going the dual boot route is that there is no risk of losing your other installation of Windows. In addition to that, you can always reboot into your previous OS. It’s a great way to test run a new version of an operating system or a new build or update.

Before you begin

Before making significant changes to your computer like a major update or dual boot, it is strongly recommended that you backup your system . There are various methods to back up your data. You may use the Windows built-in features or download a utility online which helps in backing up the data on an external drive. Some people prefer to copy/paste their important files to an external drive, while some use cloud services like OneDrive or Google Drive etc.

How to create a backup in Windows 7

  1. From the desktop screen, go to My Computer (Or Computer).  Right-click on your local hard-drive (C: by default) and Click Properties.
  2. In the properties window, navigate to the Tools tab and then Click Backup now….
  3. On the backup utility window Click on Set up backup.
  4. The next window might take some time to appear, Select the destination location where you would like to save your backups to. It’s recommended that you use an external NTFS flash drive or portable storage drive in order to keep your backup as safe as possible. Yes NTFS and not FAT32:
    1. If you use FAT32, that error “The selected backup does not support the creation of system images ” will prevent you from including a system image if you are willing to:
    2. So, if you want to convert your FAT32 drive to NTFS, you will have to right-click on it and choose Format… like below:
    3. From the file system drop down menu, choose NTFS and then click Start.
    4. Click Ok to confirm deleting all the files and folders on the external storage drive.
    5. Wait until the formatting process ends and then press Ok.
    6. Now you have your NTFS drive ready to be your backup destination. Make sure it has enough space for the desired backup.
  5. Select the NTFS drive you want to backup your data to it and then click Next.
  6. Now you may decide whether you would like to use default backup folders, or backup your folders by selecting them yourself:
    1. If you want Windows to do the default backup (typically your C: drive and some system restore data folder) then choose Let Windows choose (recommended) and then click Next.
    2. If you want to select the folders and files yourself, should select Let me Choose and click Next. There will be a system image checkbox, check the box for Include a system image of your drives: System Reserved, (C:). You can also check one or more drives that you’d like to backup. The more selections you confirm the more space you will need on your storage device. Finally, click Next
  1. Now, you should review your backup settings and make sure everything is alright, then click Save settings and run backup.
  2. Voilà, you job is almost done. All what you need to do is to wait for the backup to finish. You may click on View Details to check the backup progress.

Backup Complete!

Now you should have a backup file saved and ready just when you need it most!

Now, let’s download a Windows 10 installation

Windows 10 is free to download and install from Microsoft’s official website, it’s good to stick with it better than downloading it from other websites or torrents in order to prevent any pre-installed malware.

  1. Go to this URL and click on the Download tool now button in order to download the media creation tool. It will allow you to have your own Windows 10 iso file.
  2. Once your download is complete, launch the tool, it will look like this:
  3. Wait for a while until you get to this screen. Read the license agreement (I guess you won’t but it’s my duty to advise you to do so) and then click Accept.
  4. Now, you should choose Create installation media for another PC, then click Next. The upgrade this PC now will ruin our Dual Boot target as it replaces the current Windows version you are using with the Windows 10 one.
  5. In this screen, it’s time for you to set your language and the architecture you need: it’s either 32-bit, 64bit or you can download both, that’s the third option in the list. If you want to make sure which architecture your computer is already running, check our this article. Last but not least, all editions are combined in one option which is Windows 10, and when the time comes to installation, it will let you choose from different ones: Home, Pro, Education, Enterprise, … etc. Done setting? Click Next.
  6. In this screen, it will let you choose between creating the media on a flash drive or as an iso file. I always prefer to download the iso file in order to have a portable copy of it and burn it on a flash drive later. As always, click Next, I hope one day they will have other names for that button just to break the routine.
  7. Now, browse to the location where you want to save the iso file and then click Save, it’s always good to have free space in the drive you’re downloading the iso file into – the official room needed is 4.5 GB, so make sure you have at least a gigabyte or two more than that, so that Windows will have room to operate freely.
  8. The media creation tool will now download your latest Windows 10 iso file and store it at the location you want. Wait until it’s completely downloaded and go to the next section in order to know how to burn it on your Flash Drive.

If this is your first time, don’t be scared from the term burn, it’s just a specific copying process and it won’t damage your flash drive, you can format it later and use it just like before. So, put down your fire extinguisher and follow me.

Create a bootable Flash drive

During this step, you will be copying the Windows 10 installation files in a specific way in order to transform you normal flash drive into a Windows 10 installation device.  Luckily, we have our own guide that will explain everything to you and help you creating your bootable drive easily. Check it right here and once your flash drive is ready, come back and follow the next steps.

Let’s create a new partition to install Windows 10 on it

Every Windows OS must have its own installation directory partition. So, in the next steps, we will get some free space, create a new partition and make it exclusive for Windows 10 installation. Here’s how to do it (I’ll be using Windows 7 since it’s the most requested, almost all the steps are the same if you’re using Windows 8 or 8.1):

  1. In your start menu, right-click on Computer and choose Manage.
  2. Select Disk Management from the left pane in order to view your disk details.
  3. Disk 0 is by default your internal Storage Drive (HDD or SSD), we will now pick the Partition with the most free space in order to shrink it. In my case, it’s the C: drive.
  4. Once you got your pick, right-click on the selected partition and choose Shrink Volume.
  5. Now, you should enter the amount of space to shrink in MBs, this will be the amount of your Windows 10’s installation directory. I would advise that you make it around 20 GBs (in case you have that much) which is 20480 MBs and then click Shrink.
  6. Once you do that, you’ll see the unallocated space you created. Leave it as it is because it’s time to install Windows 10.

Now, let’s install Windows 10

If you’ve followed all the previous steps, you should now have the following:

  1. A computer with Windows 7 /8/8.1 installed on it.
  2. A bootable Windows 10 pendrive.
  3. An unallocated space on your internal Storage Drive

Now you’re ready to install Windows 10 in parallel with your current Windows version. Follow me:

  1. The first thing you need to do is to boot from your USB at startup. The way to do this differ from one computer to another:
    • In general, you can always see the statement “Press XXX for boot menu” where XXX refers to the button decided by your computer manufacturer, could be the ESC button, the F12 one …etc.
    • Some laptops have a special button next to the power one that makes your device startup with booting options on screen.
  2. Once you choose to boot from the USB drive, it will take a while loading until you see this screen. select your language, time/currency format and your keyboard/input method. Finally hit the Next button.
  3. Now, click install now.
  4. If you already have a Windows 10 license key, you can enter a valid one and click Next, if you’re just trying it or want to activate it later, just click I don’t have a product key.
  5. Choose the version you’re willing to install. If you’re a basic user then the Home version would be the best for you, but if you’re looking for more advanced features like connecting your own Windows 10 computer to your workplace domain , maybe use Hyper-V or wish to remotely access your computer, then go for the pro version. Of course, the cost of Windows will bary accordingly. Don’t forget to click the nice Next button.
  6. Check the I accept the license terms and then click Next (Should have said read the license agreement first but who cares!).
  7. Now, choose the Custom: Install Windows only (advanced), it is not that complicated when you have our guide at your side!
  8. Now, select the unallocated space we created in the previous sections, and then click Next in order to install Windows 10 on it.
  9. In this step, you have nothing to do but wait until the installation is complete, the computer may reboot a couple of times so don’t interrupt it.

Last but not least, deciding on your default operating system

Now that you have two versions of Windows, you have to decide which one you will be using each time you start up your computer. Be careful, you will only have 3 seconds to choose between them every time you start, which I find RIDICULOUS. So my advice is to decide which one you will be using way before you startup your computer or push the power button. You can always change the default operating system, in case you want to use the second one (and not rush the 3 seconds).