Tip: Install Windows 7 Alongside Windows Vista for a Dual Boot System

It’s always a bit tricky to beta test a new operating system. Most of us don’t have an abundance of extra hardware just sitting around, and it can be both time consuming and risky to rebuild your production machine with a pre-release version of the next OS.

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But with Windows 7, it’s pretty easy to beta test on the machine you’ve already got. Hard drives have gotten much larger and much less expensive, and if you’re running Windows Vista, you already have built-in functionality to help you create a separate partition for testing.

To get started, open the Disk Management section of the Computer Management console on your Windows Vista machine. You can access this by clicking Start | Run and entering compmgmt.msc. Right-click your current system partition, likely labeled C:, and select Shrink Volume. Windows will query the disk for the amount of available space. You’ll probably want at least 20-30gigs of free space so you’ll have enough room for the Windows 7 beta installation, some data, and a few applications.


Just remember that not all free space on your drive will be available as shrink space. Windows reserves space on your system volume for items such as the page file, hibernation file, System Restore points, and so on. If you need to create more available shrink space, consider temporarily disabling these features. Just don’t forget to re-enable them once you’re done! If you still need to free up more shrink space, consider a thorough defragmentation of your drive. This helps by organizing file fragments on the disk, especially such system files as the Master File Table, which may be blocking available space.

Once you’ve allocated the desired amount of space, just click the Shrink button. Windows will create a new partition out of the free space you’ve allocated, all without even having to reboot.

When you’re ready, and have made sure you have a good backup of your data (just in case), simply boot to your Windows 7 beta DVD. When prompted, select your new, blank partition as the destination for your Windows 7 beta installation. Windows Setup will automatically detect your existing Windows Vista installation and create a boot menu that will allow you to select which OS you want to boot when starting the system. You can continue to use your production Windows Vista installation without having to migrate any data and still take the Windows 7 beta for a spin!

Tip provided by Joshua Hoffman, Editor in Chief of TechNet Magazine.

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