How to create a dual boot system

If you want to get started with an extra OS or with an extra installation of your current operating system, you might think of a dual boot configuration. Such a construction is also discussed here, but other scenarios are possible, such as virtualization or a portable version on a USB medium.

In this article, we assume that Windows 10 is installed on your PC and that this OS is the operating system you are most familiar with. But you may also occasionally want to experiment with a different OS, or be able to work with a different edition or version of Windows, for example because one of your applications does not run properly under Windows 10. Or maybe you're so attached to Windows 10 that you want to have it with you on the go. And we mean literally, in portable form on a USB stick. In this article we look at various scenarios for getting started with such an additional operating system.

01 Disc image file

In our first scenario, we are going to virtualize our operating system. The OS then remains neatly within that virtualized environment and in principle does not interfere with your regular, physically installed operating system. In the text box 'Virtualbox' you can read how to virtualize an OS using the free VirtualBox. However, we focus here on a lesser-known solution: a dual-boot system with a Windows installation on a virtual hard drive, without external virtualization software.

We do need a Windows installation media for this. If you do not have an installation DVD or bootable USB stick available, you must first create such a medium yourself. First, get an ISO disk image with the desired Windows version. For the current version of Windows 10, we refer to the next step (see '02 Installation stick'); for older Windows versions, you can conveniently use the free Microsoft Windows and Office ISO Tool. Open the tab here Windows and select the desired version (7, 8.1 or 10), system type (32 or 64 bit) and language. Confirm your choices and download the corresponding ISO file.

02 Installation Stick

The intention is now to get Windows on a bootable USB stick. If it concerns the current version of Windows 10, it is best to get started with Media Creation Tool: it will download Windows in one go and then put it neatly on a USB stick. If you have already downloaded a Windows ISO file yourself (see '01 Disk image file'), you can download it for free Rufus. Insert a USB stick into your PC, start up Rufus and refer to the stick. Bee Boot Selection choose you Disc or ISO image (select) and refer you with the button SELECTING to your iso image file. Depending on the device that you want to start up via this stick, choose Partition Layout and Target System either GPT and UEFI (no CSM), or MBR and BIOS (or UEFI-CSM) (see also '08 Bios of uefi'). The other option is best left untouched. Confirm with START and with OK (twice). As soon as the message 'Done' appears, you can press CLOSE click.


Download VirtualBox at and install the tool. When you then start the program, you will end up in an empty management module. So press the button New and enter a name for your virtual machine (vm). Select the correct one OS Type (as Microsoft Windows or Linux) as well as the correct version. Bee Machine Folder indicate where you can end up. Then you indicate the necessary amount of RAM. Finally, make sure Create new virtual hard drive is now selected and confirm with Create. Leave the type set to VDI, press Next one and preferably select Dynamically allocated. Determine the (maximum) size of your virtual disk - for example 15 GB for Linux and 30 GB for Windows - and round off with Create. In the management module, select the VM and press Start. Click the icon Choose a virtual optical disc file and point to your downloaded iso file. Press Start for the virtual installation of the OS and follow the instructions. Afterwards, the virtual OS can be started from the management module of VirtualBox. Via the button Institutions you can adjust all kinds of properties of your VM if you want.

03 Create VHD

Armed with this Windows installation stick, we can get started. Boot the intended device with this stick – depending on the system you have to call up a special boot menu (via some function key) or you may have to adjust the boot order in the system bios. If necessary, consult the manual for your PC. If all is well, a window will appear a little later asking you to set the language and keyboard layout. After your confirmation with Next one 'Install Now' will appear. Here you press Shift+F10. You will now arrive at the command prompt. Here you run the command diskpart, followed by list volume, so that you get an overview of the partitions. Then you create a suitable vhd volume (virtual hard disk), for example of about 30 GB: create vdisk file=x:\virtualwindows.vhd maximum=30000 type=fixed (replace x: with the desired drive letter). Instead of fixed, you can also type expandable: your virtual disk will then grow according to need up to the specified maximum (in our example: 30000 MB).

04 Install Virtually

After the process is complete, mount the created vhd file to the system with the following two commands:

select vdisk file=x:\virtualwindows.vhd

attach vdisk

(with detach vdisk you can unmount the disk again if you want).

Close the Command Prompt window and continue Windows installation with Install now. Make sure to select the unallocated space of your virtual hard drive as the target location! Ignore the message "Windows cannot be installed on this drive" and press Next one, after which the installation will actually start.

You should see a boot menu when you restart your PC with, in addition to your physical Windows installation, also the virtual one on your VHD drive. With EasyBCD you can easily tinker with this boot menu and, for example, adjust the default boot order or the timeout; you can do that via the button Edit Boot Menu.

05 Windows To Go

With some effort it is also possible to create a portable version of Windows. Windows 10 Enterprise and Education has such a capability built into it. Open the Windows Control Panel, Start Windows To Go and follow the instructions. Make sure you have plugged in a suitable USB medium. An external USB drive usually works, but the number of USB sticks certified for Windows To Go is limited.

However, let's assume you have Windows Home or Professional. In this case, you can resort to an external tool.

We have already mentioned exactly such a tool under '02 Installation Stick', namely Rufus. You proceed in the same way as we described there, only you choose Windows To Go in the drop-down menu at Image option (instead of Standard Windows Installation); this option should be available in Windows 8, 8.1 and 10. Ideally you should use a stick that is certified for Windows To Go, but in any case it should be at least 16 GB in size. If you want to be able to boot from the stick on a system with a classic bios, choose MBR if Partition Layout; otherwise you can opt for GPT. Set it up File system in on NTFS immediately Default Cluster Size. Point to your Windows 10 iso file and confirm with Start and with OK (twice). This process can take a very long time, but you should have Windows on a stick afterwards.

Even more 'to go'...

If for some reason you can't create a Windows To Go media with Rufus, you can still try with WinToUSB. This tool also allows you to put Windows on a removable USB drive. With the button Physical to USB (indeed, not correct Dutch) it is also possible to make your already installed Windows version portable. However, with the free edition it appears that it is not possible to make Windows 10 1809 or higher 'portable' and also choosing an MBR format that should work on both bios and uefi is apparently not included in this edition.

Similar options can still be found in AOMEI Partition Assistant, via the menu All Tools / Windows(7/8/10) toGo Maker. Unfortunately, this function appears to be reserved for the commercial Professional edition (about $50).

06 Fast boot via dualboot (physical)

Our third scenario may be the most classic approach to booting from a second OS, but it's also the most complex and delicate at the same time. After all, we're going to install the additional OS on a separate, physical partition in the regular way. As an example, here we take the popular Linux distribution Ubuntu.

We recommend that you first make a complete system backup of your current installation: you never know if something unexpectedly goes wrong. A free and easy-to-use backup tool is EaseUS Todo Backup Free.

We recommend that you disable a feature in Windows 10 before you start your dual boot installation that causes the OS to go into a kind of sleep mode on startup. This feature can cause problems in a dual boot scenario. Press the Windows key, type configuration, start Control Panel and choose System and Security / Changing the behavior of the power buttons Bee Power management. click on Change settings that are currently unavailable and uncheck Enable fast startup. Confirm with Saving Changes.

07 Partition

You also need to make sure that there is enough free disk space for the physical partition of the additional OS. You can quickly check that by pressing Windows key + R and diskmgmt.msc to be carried out. If you don't have enough unallocated space – for Ubuntu you need roughly 15 GB – then you may have little choice but to shrink an already existing partition. This can be done by right-clicking the partition in the graphical view and Reduce volume to choose. Indicate by how much MB you want to reduce it, for example 15000. Confirm with shrink.

If this does not work, you can still try with an external partition manager such as EASEUS Partition Master Free.

08 Bios of uefi

It is therefore the intention that you install a second operating system on your PC. However, problems can arise when you install both OSs in different 'boot modes': uefi versus classic (legacy) bios or csm (compatibility support module) mode. It is true that most PCs from recent years are equipped with uefi, but even if you have a recent PC, that does not necessarily mean that Windows will actually start in uefi mode.

It is therefore a good idea to first check the boot mode of your Windows installation before installing a second OS. Boot into Windows, press Windows+R and run the command msinfo32 from. Bee System overview do you notice the item BIOS mode on. is here UEFA, then Windows will actually boot into uefi boot mode. In the other case, here Deprecated or Legacy.

Uefi is therefore the modern variant and it offers some advantages over the classic bios. For example, the system boots slightly faster, you can boot from disks larger than 2 TB and in principle no boot manager is needed for a dual boot manager (see also text box 'Boot selection'). However, what if Windows on your PC turns out to be booting in classic bios mode? Then you can actually go two ways: you also install the second OS in that mode or you reinstall Windows completely in uefi mode first. It should be clear that this last option will be the most laborious.

Boat selection

If you install a Linux distribution like Ubuntu in dualboot after Windows 10, boot manager Grub takes over by default and lets you choose between both OSs. However, if you have both OSs installed in uefi mode, you can also select the desired OS outside of Grub. Via a hotkey – consult your system manual if necessary – you call up a bios-bootselect menu where you then indicate the OS. If you wish, you can also give the Windows installation a higher priority in the boot sequence of your system BIOS: this often turns out to be a solution if the installation of major Windows updates later proves to cause problems.

09 Secure boot

Even when Windows starts up in uefi mode, you're not quite there yet. In the same System overview the option also pops up Secure Boot Status on. This item refers to the 'secure boot' function. If this option is not enabled on your PC, you must be extra careful. After all, some uefi-bios versions dare to switch to a legacy/csm mode just like that when you install an additional OS. Now you could consider enabling the secure-boot function quickly in the uefi bios, but then your already installed Windows will no longer boot. If the option is indeed not enabled, it is also best to check in the uefi bios whether you cannot prevent such an automatic switch (to legacy/csm): consult the manual for your system if necessary.

In any case, it is recommended that you check the boot mode of your new OS immediately after installation to ensure that the OS is not installed in a different boot mode. In Linux (Ubuntu) you can do this as follows: in the desktop click on Show applications / Terminal and run the command efibootmgr and confirm with the Enter key. If the command is not recognized, you can quickly install the corresponding package with sudo apt install efibootmgr. If this command returns boot variables, the OS has booted in uefi boot mode. Otherwise, an error message (“not supported”) will appear.

10 Installation

You have now completed all the preparatory steps and checks and you are ready to install the second OS. Then of course you need an installation medium and for this we also make grateful use of the free Rufus. We have already described the method under '02 Installation stick'. Make sure you set the correct parameters that correspond to either use on a UEFI system or a legacy/csm system. Afterwards, the USB stick is ready and you plug it into the target system.

First, choose the desired language (Dutch) and click Install Ubuntu. indicate your correct keyboard layout on and press Further. Indicate whether you have a Normal installation (including office suite, games and media players) or a Minimal installation prefers. Confirm again with Further. Normally, Ubuntu detects that Windows 10 is already installed on your PC and comes up with the option Install Ubuntu alongside Windows 10 available. Preferably select this option unless you are well versed in typical Linux partitioning. In the latter case, you can click Something Else and create the necessary partitions yourself, such as root (/), swap and home. Confirm with Install now and with Further. Set the time zone, set a name and password and start the actual installation. Now a reboot you will see a Grub boot menu appear that allows you to choose between Ubuntu and Windows 10.

Boat manager Grub

By default, the Grub boot menu starts after 10 seconds with Ubuntu. If you prefer Windows 10 to restart automatically or if you prefer a different waiting time, you can control that from a terminal window, but the Grub Customizer tool works much easier. You must first install this package. Open a Terminalwindow and run the following commands in turn:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:danielrichter2007/grub-customizer

sudo apt update

sudo apt install grub-customizer

Confirm with J , after which you add the tool Show applications found in the Ubuntu desktop. Launch the application and go to the tab List configuration. Use the arrow keys to move items up or down. On the tab General settings adjust the waiting time and Display settings you can change fonts and colors, but also upload your own image to act as the background for your Grub boot menu.

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