Windows 7 and 8: The Road Less Traveled
Windows 8 is Microsoft's latest operating system for desktop and laptop computers. The company has made a "Consumer Preview" version available for adventurous PC users who want to see how the newest version of Windows will look like.The problem is that by default, the Consumer Preview installs itself over an existing version of Windows 7. While convenient, this makes a "downgrade" impossible. Once the beta Windows 8 version expires, users will have no choice but to purchase a license to continue using their computers—unless they reformat their computer and reinstall Windows 7.What follows is a short guide on how Windows 7 users can try out Windows 8 separate from their existing operating system. The disadvantage of this approach is that you'll end up running two different operating systems on the same computer, meaning you have to install your favorite or needed applications on both Windows 7 and 8. On the other hand, you're free to delete the Windows 8 Consumer Preview later on, while still being able to use Windows 7 without reinstalling it.
Step 1: Download the Windows 8 Consumer Preview
First things first: download the Windows 8 Consumer Preview from Microsoft's website. Regardless of which download you select, it will be a large ISO file, which you'll use to prepare a Windows 8 installer. Write down this Product Key, which you'll need later when actually installing Windows 8: DNJXJ-7XBW8-2378T-X22TX-BKG7J
Step 2: Get the Windows 7 USB/DVD download tool
Next, download the Windows 7 USB/DVD download tool from the Microsoft Store and install it on your computer. Don't worry, it's free, and though it's designed for Windows 7, the download tool will work for the purposes of this guide. The utility will let you take the ISO and create a Windows 8 installer out of any DVD or USB flash drive.
Step 3: Load the ISO file
Run the Windows 7 USB/DVD download tool. Click on Browse and select the downloaded ISO file. Click Open, the on Next.
Step 4: USB or DVD?
You'll now be asked if you want to use a "USB device" or "DVD" to create the Windows 8 installer. Before you click on your choice, make sure the USB drive or DVD you want to use is already plugged into your computer or inserted into its DVD drive. For the rest of this step-by-step we'll be using our own USB flash drive.
Step 5: Choose your drive
Select the drive letter of the USB drive or DVD you're using and click on Begin copying. If you're using a USB flash drive, note that the Windows 7 USB/DVD download tool will wipe out any data stored on it.
Step 6: Ready the installer
Congratulate yourself once the Download Tool is done; you now have a Windows 8 Consumer Preview installer! If you're installing on the same computer you used to create the installer, keep the USB drive plugged in or the DVD in its drive; restart the computer. Otherwise, plug the USB drive or insert the DVD into the computer you'll be installing Windows 8 on.
Step 7: Practice some partition magic
Now we get to the tricky part: To be able to uninstall the Windows 8 Consumer Preview after trying it out, you'll have to create a division on your disk drive called a partition. This will keep Windows 8 separate from your existing copy of Windows 7. Use a utility such as MiniTool's Partition Wizard to create a Windows 8 partition—we recommend you allot at least 20GB for the new operating system. The Partition Wizard may ask you to restart your computer.
Step 8: Setting your boot priority straight
Once the Partition Wizard has worked its magic, restart your computer, and keep an eye out for the key you'll have to press to access the BIOS as your computer loads (usually F8 or Del). Look for an option that lets you set the "boot priority" (or something similar), then set the computer to load whatever it finds from the USB drive or DVD first.
Step 9: Starting the Windows 8 installer
If you've used the correct BIOS settings, the Windows 8 installer should load automatically—you'll be seeing the fish icon up close for the first time. After everything loads, you'll be asked to select the Language, Time and currency format, and keyboard layout for the Windows 8 installation. Just click Next, then Click Install Now.
Step 10: Enter the product key
Remember the Product Key? Enter it. As the installer says, dashes will be added automatically, so just type out the letters and numbers. Another window will appear displaying the license terms. Read through everything, click on "I accept the license terms", then on Next once again. And just in case you forget the Product Key: DNJXJ-7XBW8-2378T-X22TX-BKG7J
Step 11: Go Custom
This is important: Click on "Custom: Install Windows only (advanced)". This will let you install Windows 8 on the separate partition you created previously, keeping it apart from your current Windows 7 installation.
Step 12: Choose the right partition
Now choose the partition you created, marked as "Unallocated Space". Click on Next.
Step 13: Sit back, relax, wait for the restart
Windows 8 will now install. Wait for it to finish, because once the computer restarts, you'll have to go back to your BIOS and change the boot priority again. Make sure your computer's main disk drive loads first this time.
Step 14: Windows 7 or 8?
If the BIOS settings are wrong, the Windows 8 installer will load again; just restart and go back into the BIOS. If you've set the boot priority correctly, you'll eventually see a menu letting you choose between Windows 8 and 7. Note that if you choose Windows 7, the computer will restart again before loading the older operating system.
Step 15: Welcome to Windows 8
Congratulations, you now have Windows 8 on your PC! You'll have to install all your favorite applications if you want to get anything done with the beta version of Microsoft's latest operating system. But you can copy files from the original Windows 7 partition (in most cases, it appears as D: in Windows 8).
Step 16: Uninstalling Windows 8 if needed
Removing the Windows 8 Consumer Preview is a simple matter of going back to Windows 7, running the Partition Wizard and deleting the partition you made for Windows 8. You'll lose everything stored in the partition, so make sure to save important files. Got questions? Hit the comments below, or check out the experts at the Tom's Hardware forums.