Do you want to test out the awesome new Windows 8 operating system but don’t want to lose everything you have customized on your Windows 7 OS? Windows 8 comes with an installer that give you the option of multi-booting, which is exactly what you want to do. Setting up a quick a easy way to dual boot windows 7 and windows 8 isn’t hard to do. Here’s how:

One thing to note, this only works with Windows 7 and Vista. It will not work with XP.

Step 1: Back Your Stuff Up

Before you start the installation process you should at least back up your photos, videos, documents and any other settings or files that you think you might need later on. You never know what could happen during an installation process where you could potentially lose all your files. Windows 7 has a built in feature for backing up files. I would however, manually copy files over to an external hard drive for double backup.

Step 2: Partition Your Drive

You’ll need to create a partition of at least 16GB for the side by side Windows 8 installation. Type “disk management” in the Start button’s text box, which will display a “Create and format hard disk partitions” choice at the top of the Start panel. Click on that to open the Disk Management utility. You’ll probably have two partitions. Right-click on the largest one, and choose Shrink Volume from the context menu.

A “Querying Shrink Space” dialog will appear for a while, then another message will tell you how much free space can be squeezed out of the drive in MB. Enter a size above 16GB for the 32-bit version of Windows 8 and over 20GB for the 64-bit flavor, and then hit the Shrink button.

Step 3: Download The Installer

Now, it’s time to download the installer. As of this time, the only thing available is Windows 8 preview OS which you can get from Microsoft’s Windows 8 Release Preview ISO download page. Use Windows 7′s included disc image burning utility to create an installer DVD from the ISO file once you’ve downloaded it, or you can create a bootable USB key using the Windows 7 USB/DVD Download tool.

Step 4: Run The Windows 8 Installer

Pop in the installer DVD you burned or the USB stick you prepared, and restart your PC. Choose your language, then “Install Now.” After accepting the license, choose Custom installation. Now is when you’re presented with the choice of partitions, click “Drive options (advanced)” and then select the Unallocated space we created in step 2. Next, click New from the drive options icons below. Accept the full size displayed, and hit Apply.

Now we have a fresh partition to install Windows 8 onto. Hit Next and setup is off and running. Feel free to go grab some coffee or donuts while you’re waiting. Your system will then reboot into Windows 8 where you will setup your typical first-run options such as color, screen resolution, wifi and other settings. The next time you reboot your system you should see the startup screen as below where you can choose which operating system you would like to boot into.

By default, this screen displays for 30 seconds, and then Windows 8 launches. To change that default to your older OS, choose “Change defaults or other options” from the bottom of this multi-boot screen.

This should help you get your machine to dual boot windows 7 and windows 8. Let us know if you succeed or have any issues in the comments below.