Dual-booting all versions of Windows and Linux
Install Dual-Boot of Windows 7 and Windows 8 on a Windows 8 computer (Win8 installed first)
Last reviewed: July 2013
This guide shows how to correctly and safely create a natural dual-boot of Windows 8 and Windows 7 on a computer with Windows 8 already installed. You can then run either of those two Windows by selecting one from a menu during bootup. No data loss will occur and a third-party boot utility is not used.
In this procedure you need to resize the Windows 8 drive to make room for Windows 7 unless you happen to have sufficient free disk space or you install Windows 7 on a second hard disk. This example uses a single hard disk.
A 64-bit Windows 8.1 was used in testing and a 64-bit Windows 7 was added (it can be a 32-bit Windows 7 if you are have the MBR, and not GPT/UEFI, system). Read How to Check if your hard disk drive is using GPT or MBR. The computer used was a 64-bit Dell Studio XPS 8100 (2.93 GHz), Core i7, 8 GB RAM DDR3, NVidia GeForce GTX 460, 1 TB SATA hard disk (not using GPT/UEFI).
The procedure used is quite easy and suitable for most users.
Important Installation Notes
Full Installation CD/DVDs. The Windows you are adding cannot be installed from a Recovery partition or Repair CD/DVDs provided by some OEMs. You need the full installation or setup version to install a Windows.
Shrinking a Windows 8, 7 or Vista drive. You should use Shrink in Windows' Disk Management to resize the Windows partition. You can read Shrink the Windows 7 or Vista Partition for instructions on completing this task successfully. Use the free GParted Live CD to gain disk space only if you must - read the page Use GParted to Resize the Windows 8, 7 or Vista Partition to learn how.
SUMMARY of Procedure (Advanced users)
That's it! The Windows boot loader menu now allows booting to Windows 8 and Windows 7.
Details: Create a Dual-boot with Windows 7 when Windows 8 is already installed
Installing other operating systems on your Windows 8 computer may invalidate your warrantee.
Make your preparations
Make free space for Windows 7
The Windows 8 drive is resized using Shrink in Windows' Disk Management leaving Unallocated space at the end of the disk (to the right). You can create a new custom-sized partition (RAW) in Unallocated but do not Format it.
Always note the size of each partition and also label each (this guide will use wn_8 and wn_7).
Disable Fast Startup in Windows 8
It's been claimed that failing to disable Fast Startup in Windows 8 can result in Check Disk running when installing Windows 7. Also the dual-boot menu may not appear, and Check Disk may run every time you boot to Windows 7 when it's on a second hard disk. THPC has not experienced this during testing and it may be system dependant. However Fast Startup has only a small effect so let's play safe and disable it!
How to turn off Fast Startup in Windows 8
Now Install Windows 7 when Windows 8 was Installed first
Traditionally, installing an older Windows on a computer containing a newer version stopped that newer Windows from booting. This was caused by different versions of the boot loader. The new boot loader used in Windows 8, 7 and Vista is much friendlier!
Congratulations! You've created a natural dual-boot of Windows 8 and Windows 7 when Windows 8 was installed first.
Fix Restore Points Problem in Windows 7 (advanced users)
Every time Windows 7 is booted, it destroys Windows 8's Restore Points and all except the most recent backup files from Complete PC Backup - read Microsoft's Knowledge Base article 926185.
A small addition to Win7's registry avoids this problem by making the Windows 8 partition inaccessible when, and only when, Win7 is running. You must, however, use extreme care to ensure you enter the correct drive letter in the following corrective procedure. You must never enter the drive letter used by Win7 - that would prevent Win7 from ever starting again! This fix is applied when Win7 is booted and not from any other Windows.
When Win7 is booted the Win8 drive will still be allocated a drive letter. However you will be denied access to the contents of the Win8 drive and the drive will appear to be unformatted (RAW) even though the contents have not been changed. When you boot to Win8 you will have access to all your drives including the Windows 7 drive.
This is the full xp_rstr_fix.reg file: (the blank line is required)
Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00
Repair Windows 8 Boot Menu and Startup
Users will have noticed that the above creates a plain boot menu. This is perfectly fine but some would prefer the Win8 graphical menu which also has additional options. This simple procedure will return that graphical boot menu:
Windows 8 is the default boot. You can alter this in Change defaults or change other options on the GUI menu.
If you ever need to do a fuller repair of the Windows 8 startup, you should do the following:
Note: The Bootrec command has not been tested on the newer (U)EFI / GPT systems.
If you ever want to switch back to the Windows 7 boot menu, you can do this with ease by using the free EasyBCD.
The EasyBCD utility allows users to make changes to the BCD in a simple graphical manner. Running it will automatically convert the Windows 8 startup to one for Windows 7 including its boot menu. You can set Windows 7 as the Default boot in the Edit Boot Menu section of EasyBCD. At that stage you will basically have a Windows 7 computer that still allows you to boot to Windows 8 - unless you decide to remove Windows 8!
Please remember that you alone are responsible for the consequences of any changes you make to your computer hardware or software.
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