Windows 8 is so new and different, many users aren't sure if they really want to abandon Windows 7 for it just yet. But you, dear Mashable reader, can have both at once. I'll show you how to keep your Windows 7 installation as it is, and have the option to boot into Windows 8 on the same machine, giving you the time and experience to make an informed choice between the two.
You've been able to dual-boot previous versions of Windows for years, but now with Windows 8 it's easier than ever. There's good news, too: Microsoft is offering Windows 8 Pro for $39.99 until January 31, 2013, and I'll show you how to use that version to dual-boot between Windows 7 and Windows 8.
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Using the regular Windows 8 Pro download saves you $85.01 by ignoring advice on Microsoft's website urging you to buy the $125 Windows 8 Pro System Builder software if you want to dual boot. However, if you want to try Windows 8 for a while before activating -- an option available with Windows 7 -- you can't legally install Windows 8 unless you have a valid product key.
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Follow along and I'll show you how to download the software, put it on a DVD, and then install it on your machine without breaking anything, giving you the freedom to boot into either Windows 7 or Windows 8 at your whim. Before we get started, be sure your PC has the minimum system requirements for Windows 8 and that you have at least 20GB of free space on your hard drive. Then you'll be ready for this fresh install of Windows 8, side-by-side with Windows 7.
Keep in mind that a disadvantage of loading a fresh install rather than an upgrade of Windows 8 is that it won't transfer all your settings and applications you've so carefully curated. However, you will have a better chance at long-term stability if you freshly install a copy of Windows 8, and with this dual-boot setup, if it turns out you don't like it one bit, you can have your machine boot by default into Windows 7 and forget the whole thing.
1. Get Windows 8
The first thing you need to do is download Windows 8 Pro and place it on a DVD that we will use to install it. Of course, if you already have Windows 8 on a DVD or USB key, you can skip this part. If you don't, click Buy Windows 8 and we're off and running. Note: Unlike its predecessors, Windows 8 requires a valid Windows 8 key before you can install it.
This story originally published on Mashable here.