Windows 8 | Ryan Joy (atxryan) Windows 8 | Web developer living and playing in Austin, Texas. Microsoft Developer Evangelist.
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Windows 8


Options for Installing Windows 8

There are three main options for installing Windows 8. The table below outlines the benefits and considerations with each approach:

Option Benefits Considerations
Replace the main OS
The user upgrades to Windows 8 or performs a new installation of Windows 8
Windows running directly on the hardware provides the best performance. Windows 8 and Windows Store applications can be graphics intensive. This option gives the OS direct access to the video card and other system resources. Only Windows 7 can be upgraded to Windows 8 and keep applications installed. Upgrading from another OS or performing a “clean” install will require all applications to be reinstalled.
Dual Boot to VHD
This option installs Windows 8 into a single file on a Windows 7 machine. At boot the user can choose to start Windows 7 or Windows 8.
This option allows Windows 8 to run directly on the hardware, but keeps the existing operating system and all programs intact. Because the entire OS is installed into single file, there is a minor performance penalty for reading and writing to disk. This option is not recommended for systems with less than 40 GB free before Windows 8 is installed.
Virtual Machine
Windows 8 is installed into a virtual machine using VirtuaBox or any other VM software.
Virtual Machines are the quickest and easiest way to get Windows 8 running with the least amount of impact to the host machine. Performance in a virtual machine option will beconsiderably slower than with the other two options. Graphics acceleration is not supported and access to USB devices like thumb drives can be problematic or even missing in the virtual machine.

Replace the Main OS

This is one of the easiest ways to install Windows 8. Simply boot to a DVD or USB Drive that has the Windows 8 files on it. If you’ve downloaded Windows 8 from MSDN or DreamSpark Premium you’ll probably have a file with the .iso extension at the end. This is a DVD image and it needs to be burned onto a DVD or loaded onto a bootable thumb drive. The easiest way to accomplish this is using the Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool. It’s a wizard that will walk you through all the steps.




Once the DVD or USB drive is created, simply put it into the machine and reboot. You may need to change the boot order in the BIOS (usually F1 or Del) or you may need to choose a temporary boot device (usually F9 or F12) for the machine to boot to the new media.

Dual Boot to VHD

The process for setting up dual boot is not difficult, but it does require typing in commands at the command prompt and it’s important to follow each step carefully. The most important step is making sure to select the drive that represents the VHD file during setup. Otherwise, you might accidentally overwrite Windows 7.

The steps for dual booting Windows 8 are too long to fit into this document, but they’re explained in great detail with plenty of pictures at

Virtual Machine

The steps for installing Windows 8 into a Virtual Machine vary depending on the virtual machine software you use. One popular option is Oracles VirtualBox and the steps for installing Windows 8 into VirtualBox can be found at The instructions were written for Windows 8 Release Preview but they also work with Windows 8 RTM.