Dual booting Windows 7 and Windows 8 with no additional VM software

One interesting thing you can do in Windows 7 and later is attach a virtual machine on the boot-up. You don’t even need to use any hypervisor or anything like VMware Workstation. You also don’t need to worry about partitions or what to clean up after you decide you don’t want the VM [virtual machine] anymore.

Note: Although it is not really a virual machine, in other ways it is. So for this blog, i am considering it a VM.

Note: If you got one, I would first suggest you try this on a “non-production” computer. You can then transfer the resulting VM over to the “production” system, if you wish. Otherwise, backup your data as a precaution.

You will need enough disk space on a non-encrypted drive [that also means no Bitlocker]. The suggested amount is 20GB to play around or way more than that to effectively use. Unlike a VM, this uses all of your computer’s physical memory and other resources and you can still access your actual host hard disk from the VM [great if you want to remove a pesky malware as well].

You can use this procedure to see what Windows 8 looks like using a trial version [from Microsoft’s website] or install a licensed copy. You can [obviously] use the same procedure to install Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2012 or even another copy of Windows 7. I am assuming you are using Windows 7 as the “host” operating system.

  • From your Windows 7 machine, click on Start Menu –> Computer –> Manage. This will now open the computer manager. Navigate to Disk management and then right click on the disk management –> Create VHD.
  • Specificy the location to store the VHD. You can choose between Dynamic Expanding disk or fixed Size disk.
  • The disk manager shows the VHD as second hard drive for you as “Not Initialized disk”. You need to initialize the disk. To do this, just right click on the disk and click on Initialize, Select Disk and leave the other selection default (MBR is the format) and click OK.
  • As the drive is online, select the disk and right click on it, then select New Simple Volume.
  • The wizard appears. Leave the default selection and click Next on volume size.
  • On the format screen, you can check “Perform a quick format” and click Next.
  • Leave the default selection for drive letter and click Next.
  • Shutdown the machine and reboot to the Windows 8 media now.
  • Before you click on Install now, press thet F8 key from your keyboard to open a command prompt.
  • At the command prompt, type diskpart to show the disks attached.

Note: The second disk is not visible here. Don’t worry about it. Type list vol to make sure you have the right volume [or drive].

  • Then type Select vdisk file=C:\VHD\ENUW8EEX86.vhd [adjust the folder and name to what you used above].
  • After selecting the virtual disk, type list vdisk. You would see the disk state in Added.
  • Now type attach vdisk from the diskpart prompt to enable the virtual disk.
  • You can type list vol to make sure the volume appears and status “Healthy”.
  • Type exit twice to leave diskpart and then the command prompt.
  • Now click on the Install now button.
  • Continue the installation as you normally would except choose the [smaller] virtual drive. [Otherwise you will wreck your host OS.]

Going in reverse

If you decided to remove the VM, follow these steps:

  • Reboot the machine and select Windows 7 from dual boot menu.
  • Run msconfig.
  • From the system configuration dialog, select the Boot tab.
  • Highlight Windows 8 and click on Delete button.
  • The boot option should show current OS and Default OS as your Windows 7.
  • Rebooting the system.

You will no longer see the Windows 8 option in the menu. Once you login to Windows 7, you may also notice the VHD was also removed from your disk management snap-in. The actual VHD is still where you saved it. It can be deleted or transferred to another system.


About ebraiter
computer guy

2 Responses to Dual booting Windows 7 and Windows 8 with no additional VM software

  1. Mike Park says:

    Can you also use the same VHD (as a VM) in say Hyper-V e.g. run it as a VM from the host machine?

  2. ebraiter says:

    @Mark: Should be able to. Can’t give you a 100% verified answer but I don’t see why not. Only kink I can think of is if the VHD format has changed and you try to use a recent VHD in an older Hyper-V.

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