Windows 8 start screenWhere do I get Windows 8? Can I set up a dual boot? Can I install it in VM? How? This post answers those questions

This post is part of a series, you can see all the posts in the series here.

You can’t build a Windows 8 app without installing Windows 8. So you need to get a copy of Windows 8 and you need to install it. This blog post will either explain or provide links to references that explain the following:

  • Where do I get a copy of Windows 8?
  • How do I install Windows 8 as dual boot?
  • How do I install Windows 8 in a Virtual Machine?
  • What can you do after you have Windows 8 installed?

Where do I get a copy of Windows 8?

First check the System requirements to make sure your PC can handle Windows 8. You do not require touch, Windows 8 works fine with keyboard and mouse. Though you might want to learn a few keyboard shortcuts.

All of the options below will provide you with a .iso file, so you will either need a DVD burner so you can burn a DVD with the .iso file to install Windows 8, or you will need a tool like Virtual Clone Drive to read the .iso file directly.

Are you a student in a technical program?

You may be able to download Windows 8 for free from DreamSpark Premium. Note: this is only available for students in programs that have DreamSpark Premium. Many students have access to DreamSpark Standard which allows you to download a lot of free software including Visual Studio, but does not include the operating system software such as Windows 8.

Do you have an MSDN subscription?

if you are a Microsoft Student Partner, or you work at a company that has an MSDN subscription, you may be able to download Windows 8 using your MSDN subscription.

  • Visit the MSDN download center
  • Log in with your live id
  • Type Windows 8 Pro into the Search box
  • Choose Windows 8 Pro and download the .iso

Try it

There is a 90 day evaluation version of Windows 8 you can download for free, but note: IT CANNOT BE UPGRADED TO THE FULL VERSION. To upgrade, the evaluation must be uninstalled and a non-evaluation version of Windows must be re-installed. So if you are going to choose the trial version, you probably want to do it as a dual boot or in a virtual machine.

Buy it

Until Jan 31, 2013 you can buy a Windows 8 Pro upgrade for $39.99. You can do the upgrade easily if you are running Windows 7. If you are running Windows XP or Windows Vista you will need to reinstall your apps after you upgrade.

How do I install Windows 8 as a dual boot?

If you are downloading the trial version, or you just aren’t ready to upgrade yet (though honestly I found, after a week on Windows 8, I didn’t miss Windows 7, and was completely comfortable working with Windows 8, my existing printer, external monitor, mouse, and programs all work fine on Windows 8). But still I understand that you may have reasons for keeping a copy of Windows 7 running on your laptop. You can of course set up your laptop to have dual boot so you can start it in Windows 8 or Windows 7.

How do I install Windows 8 in a Virtual Machine

Installing Windows 8 in a Virtual machine won’t run as fast as upgrading your operating system to Windows 8 and from what I am seeing in the comments on these blogs, you may need to brace yourself for a bit of fiddling to get it working. But for those of you who are not ready to upgrade, it is certainly an option and I’ve seen lots of developers at our hackathons building Windows 8 apps inside a VM.

Here’s a twist on the virtual machine option to consider as well. Windows 8 comes with Hyper-V support. So you could install Windows 8 on your machine and then run Windows 7 in a Hyper-V virtual machine on your Windows 8 PC.

What can you do after you have Windows 8 installed?

Now you’ve got Windows 8 installed, you can develop apps for Windows 8 or Windows Phone 8! Great preparation for the Imagine Cup or your first step to getting rewards from the Developer Movement. Get coding!