[HOWTO] Install Windows 10 and Keep the Windows You Have Now

Category: Windows-10

The July 29th deadline for claiming your free upgrade to Windows 10 is approaching soon. But many people want to try Windows 10 while retaining the option to go back to their familiar older version (Windows 7 or 8.1). You may have heard about the 30-day “downgrade window" for Windows 10, but today you'll learn how to keep both the old and new versions indefinitely. Read on…

Dual Boot With Windows 10

In my recent article, The Windows 10 Secret Microsoft Won’t Tell You, I discussed one way to get your "digital entitlement" for Windows 10 before the July 29 deadline, and retain the option to install it at a later date.

But there is another method that allows you to run BOTH your current version of Windows and Windows 10. This method has been around a long time, and is a favorite of users who want to have more than one operating system installed on their computer.

A “dual-boot configuration” of your system allows you to choose which of several operating systems to load at boot (startup) time. When you reboot the computer, a menu appears before Windows starts loading and you pick which version of Windows to load. Like the “secret” method described in my other article, the dual-boot method lets you go back to your old operating system at any time in the future. There is no date on which you are stuck with Windows 10.

Windows 10 Dual Boot Setup

On the downside, note that this method will result in a Windows 10 installation that is not “activated” because it is not an upgrade of your existing version of Windows. You will not be able to personalize Windows 10, and a system tray icon will keep bugging you to activate Windows 10. But you’ll have both versions of Windows available for as long as you wish.

NOTE: There's one exception to the paragraph above. If you have an official Windows 10 install disk, you'll be able to create a fully functional, activated Windows 10 system. When I purchased a new Dell PC in May 2016, it came with Windows 7 pre-installed, but they also provided a Windows 10 disk, in the event that I wanted to upgrade or create a dual-boot configuration. You could also purchase a Windows 10 install disk if desired.

Create Your Dual-Boot Configuration

To install Windows 10 in a dual-boot configuration with your existing version of Windows. Just follow these steps:

  1. Open Control Panel from the Start Menu.
  2. Navigate to “System and Security” > “Create and format hard disk partitions”.
  3. Right click on the partition your Windows 8.1 or Windows 7 is installed on (usually the big C: partition).
  4. Click on “Shrink Volume”, then enter the amount of disk space by which you want to shrink the partition to make room for Windows 10’s partition. You need at least a 16 GB new volume for the 32-bit version of Windows 10, or at least 20 GB for the 64-bit version.
  5. Right-click on the new, empty volume you just created and click “Create Simple Volume.” Set the volume format to “NTFS.”
  6. Close Disk Management.

Congratulations! You now have a place to install Windows 10 without affecting the installation of your current version of Windows. Now, let’s create the media from which Windows 10 will be installed. (If you already have a Windows 10 install disk, skip this section.)

  1. Download the Media Creation Tool from this link: http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=691209
  2. Open the Media Creation Tool you just downloaded.
  3. Click “Create installation media for another PC” and select the language and version of Windows 10 you want to install.
  4. You can create the installation media on a USB stick or in an ISO file. See my article Things You Can Do With ISO Files http://askbobrankin.com/iso_means_equal.html if you're not sure what an ISO file is.
  5. If you choose to save your Windows 10 installation media on a USB stick, insert a USB stick in a USB port, make sure "USB flash drive" is selected, and click Next. (All files on the USB stick will be erased.) Select the USB drive, and create your Windows 10 installation USB flash drive.
  6. If you choose to save your Windows 10 installation media as an ISO file, make sure "ISO file" is selected, and click Next. After Media Creation Tool creates the ISO file, you'll see a link to open the DVD burner, which will burn the ISO file onto the blank disc.

Reboot and Install Windows 10

You now have either a USB flash drive or a DVD from which your PC can boot and begin the Windows 10 installation process. The next step is to ensure that your PC will try to boot from the installation media just just created.

Here, I’m going to assume that Windows 7 is your current version; I’ve heard from very few readers who are using Windows 8.1. The following instructions pertain to Windows 7.

  • Learn the keystroke that will enable your PC to select a boot device when starting up. On most computers, a message will briefly appear during startup advising you to "Press F12 to select boot device." But that key may be Esc, Del, F1, F2, or something other than F12. You may also need to press and hold the Power button along with the appropriate key. Consult your PC’s manual or online help.
  • Shut down your PC and restart it, pressing the magic key and/or button. A menu will appear asking which device you want to boot from. Choose the one that contains your Windows 10 installation package (USB or DVD drive).

When the Windows 10 setup screen appears, set the language and edition of Windows you want to install. You can skip the “product key” screen if you are only test-driving Windows 10, or enter the key of your existing Windows installation. (Discover it using the Magical Jelly Bean Keyfinder utility.)

On the “Which type of installation do you want?” screen select “Custom: Install Windows only (advanced)”. Select the disk volume (partition) that you created to hold Windows 10 in the first procedure above.

Windows 10 will install itself on the volume you selected. Now, every time you restart your PC, a menu will appear asking which operating system you want to boot: Windows 7 or Windows 10.

Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "[HOWTO] Install Windows 10 and Keep the Windows You Have Now"

(See all 28 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

20 Jul 2016

A key question here is, can MS detect both systems if online and will they permit both now and indefinitely. I have no compelling interest in keeping 7 on line - too much maintenance but we all know how much MS can be trusted. They already paid a settlement of 10 grand for screwing up a small business and lied to me by phone on at least 2 occasions. Who cares. As I type this on Linux I'm listening to music stored on 10 played directly from Linux on the Dolphin file folder page.

Posted by:

Edvins Briedums
20 Jul 2016

Your system seems better than my twin SSD drives. One with Windows 7 and the other with Windows 10. I have a two -way -switch in the front of the case and before switching on the computer I select the OS I want to run. More expensive but it works.

Posted by:

Craig B
20 Jul 2016

"On the downside, note that this method will result in a Windows 10 installation that is not “activated” because it is not an upgrade of your existing version of Windows"

Bob, you might check Microsoft's website. (https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/12440/windows-10-activation) I believe Microsoft will now let you activate your Windows 10 install with your Windows 7 product key. So you can do a clean install, dual boot using the method you describe and have activated versions for Win 7 & 10.

Posted by:

Sarah L
20 Jul 2016

I had Windows 10 installed, but now use the Windows 7 Classic Shell. That has made life much easier.

The big problem is still the ruination of the nice routine I had for uploading photos from my camera. Still working that one out. Before it was simple, a file made each time I connected camera and computer, containing only the new photos since last time and named by the date of the upload and some words I added. Very logical. Now, photos are duplicated all over, file names seem out of fashion. I use Picasa to find the files for my photos, reverse of my old method. Soon I will get this in order, but why should I have to do things all over? Organizing photos is hard enough, as they propagate so quickly. Microsoft, what planet do they occupy?

Posted by:

Edvins Briedums
20 Jul 2016

Good one Bob. My method is having two SSD'. Wne with Windows 7 and the other with Windows 10. I have a two-way -switch in front of the case and with it I select the OS I want before switching on the computer.
Wish I had your system. Less expensive and more "self-contained ".

Posted by:

20 Jul 2016

I tried this and have a catch 22. Win10 won't install on the new partition because it is not a "GPT" drive. If I try to convert the drive from MBR to GPT using partition S/W, I am warned that my current OS (Win7 Home SP1) is not compatible with UEFI and likely will not boot up after the conversion. I'm very leary at attempting the HD conversion to GPT, backed up or not. Anyone have some experience with this?

Posted by:

20 Jul 2016

I will be taking a pass on Win 10.
I upgraded a win 8.1 laptop to win 10 and it seemed to work OK until I tried to use my DVD.
Wouldn't recognize any type of media.
Coincidence ? Yea probably.
Costco replaced the DVD drive in warranty.

I have installed NEVER 10 from from Gibson Research (https://www.grc.com/never10.htm) on my Win 7 laptop and will do the same on the Win 8 laptop.

Posted by:

21 Jul 2016

was ready to update free window 10 but i have been warn you must reformat your pc with only the 10 or going to be a conflict so i am puzzle what to do then but very happy with the 7

Posted by:

Bob Levy
21 Jul 2016

How do I print a page like yours that includes the comments? My current method (work around) is open a WORD Window, copy paste your page, then copy paste the comments.
NOTE: This is not just a Bob Rankin issue but is most typical of ANY page that allows comments.
I typically print to PDF but would like to Print the entire page.

Posted by:

Geoff Stokes
22 Jul 2016

Re: Install Windows 10 and keep Windows 7.

My Windows 7 is in 'C' partition and there is not enough GBs of free space in 'C'.

I have a 'D'and an 'E' partition almost empty. Can I use this?

Geoff Stokes, Koo Wee Rup, Victoria, Australia.

Posted by:

22 Jul 2016

>>>> ...this method will result in a Windows 10 installation that is not “activated” because it is not an upgrade of your existing version of Windows.

The significant question is:

Following your instructions, will one be able to activate Windows 10 for free after the deadline of 29.07.16?

If one cannot activate Windows 10 for free later on, why should one bother to download it before the deadline?

If one is going to pay for Windows 10, then one can download the new OS and activate it when one wishes to start using it, say, after the support for Windows 7 ends in 2020.

Posted by:

Ken Atwood
26 Jul 2016

I did the dual boot install and used the suggested program to find the WIN 7 key, but it will NOT accept it. I've tried several times, but WIN 10 says it's not valid. Help, SOMEONE, ANYONE!!

Posted by:

Mac Eld
27 Jul 2016

Ken Atwood, I ran into the same problem. Does your machine have an OEM copy of Win 7? If so, Keyfinder brings up the wrong key. It extracts the OEM bulk key which will not work to activate Win 10. When I input the key that is on the COA pasted on the case, that worked. My copy of Win 10 is now activated.

Posted by:

Mac 'n' Cheese
27 Jul 2016

Bob Levy asked, "How do I print a page like yours that includes the comments?"

Here's what I do, Bob. First print the article. You already know how to do that. Then:

1. Immediately above the first comment (in small print)--and immediately below the last comment (in large print)--is a link to the first page of comments.

2. Click it.

3. Print. You'll print the entire first page of comments.

4. If the comments take more than one page, click the link at the bottom of each page to take you to the next page, and print that page.

5. Staple the comments pages (in order, of course) the article printout.

6. But before you staple everything together, make a photocopy of everything for backup purposes.

7. Then you can safely discard your original printout.

8. Steps 6 and 7 are an attempt at humor and should not be attempted at home.

Easy peasy.

Posted by:

28 Jul 2016

I have the iso file (an all night d/l @ .72 down). I cannot get my system to boot from the cdrom although the bios is set to boot from cdrom.
Can I make a new bootable drive now that I have the iso file? Thanks

Posted by:

Bob Hill
29 Jul 2016

What a fantastic way to add complexity, decrease reliability, and make troubleshooting exponentially more difficult, and all for free! Best of all, there's zero risk of increased productivity.

Posted by:

jimi photon
01 Aug 2016

hi bob,
followed all your instructions and hit a snag.
windows will not allow itself to be installed ona "dynamic" drive and has to be on the main drives root directory apparently.
weird stuff. any ideas? i missed the july 30 cut off to install, tho i got the install media together well before that. thanks bro!

Posted by:

01 Aug 2016

Hi Bob

I went for the free 10 and immediate rollback. Ha! Another Microsoft SNAFU - now 7 Ultimate just fails to boot into other than safe mode - and you cannot re-install 10 from safe mode! An MS guy made lots of suggestions, none of which worked, including an ISO download to repair.

That failed, now I cannot log in to MS for further help, because they have hundreds of thousands of other folk with serious rollback issues.

The recommendations included a way to find my product code, so I can clean install back to 7 Ult. but I'll have to re-install my freebie programs that you have suggested over the years. My data was saved - so at least one reader takes note of your recommendations.

The deadline for free upgrade has passed - pity I did not miss it! As we say over here, "you get owt fer nowt".


Posted by:

01 Aug 2016

What I myself did was, after shrinking my Windows 7 partition:
1. I cloned it.
2. From the original partition (the one I was keeping as Win7), I used regedit to load the System hive on the clone partition and, in HKLM\SYSTEM\MountedDevices, and renamed the \DosDevices\C: key to a different drive letter (this is necessary so that the clone's partition can claim C: for itself when it first boots).
3. I used BCDEDIT to add an entry for the clone, and set it to be the default OS.
4. Then I booted into the clone, and upgraded it to Win10.

Posted by:

08 Aug 2016

I followed Bob's instructions on how to have a dual boot system on my computer....As a result my computer has really slowed down and now I want to reverse what I have done.....I want to remove Windows 10 and its partition, adding it back to C:]\.....Once this is done I will see if I can still upgrade from Winndows 7 to Windows 10...

Your help will be greatly appreciated....

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