How to dual-boot Windows 10 and Windows 11 on the same PC

How to dual-boot Windows 10 and Windows 11 on the same PC

Windows 11 is now available and rolling out to users around the world. If you’ve read our Windows 11 review, you know there’s a lot to love about this new OS, but there’s also some risk involved with trying a brand-new operating system. Some issues may still pop up, so it’s good to have a backup in case something goes wrong. For that reason, you can either try setting up a VM with Windows 11, or you can dual-boot two versions of Windows on your PC. In this guide, we’ll show you how to dual-boot Windows 11 alongside your current installation of Windows 10.

To do this, you’ll need a PC that meets the Windows 11 system requirements, or one of the PCs on our list of compatible PCs. You’re also going to need an external USB flash drive which you’re going to use as installation media for your new copy of Windows. You’ll also need to have enough free space on your hard drive to install Windows 11. Plus of course, back up your data before starting. No damage should be done to your files in the process, but it’s always good to be safe.

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Creating Windows installation media

The first thing you need to do is create USB installation media for Windows 11. To do this, you’ll first need to download Windows 10 or 11 using one of the options below:

  • Download the latest stable version of Windows 11 using the Media Creation Tool (recommended).
  • Download the latest Windows 11 Insider Preview ISO if you specifically want to try experimental versions of Windows 11.

Either way, you’re going to need a USB flash drive with at least 8GB of capacity. Make sure you’ve backed up any important data on that drive, as you’ll have to erase everything to use it as installation media.

Option 1: Using the Media Creation Tool

If you want to create installation media for the stable version of Windows 11, the Media Creation Tool is the easiest way to do it. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Go to the Windows 11 download page.
  2. Under Create Windows 11 Installation Media, click Download Now.
  3. Run the file you downloaded and accept the license terms.
  4. Choose the language you want to use for your Windows 11 installation. By default, the setting you’re currently using is chosen, so you shouldn’t have to change anything. Click Next.
  5. In the next page, choose the USB flash drive option, then choose the drive you want to use. This will erase all contents on the flash drive, so make sure you’ve backed up your data. Also if you have multiple drives plugged in, make sure you’re selecting the right one.
    Media Creation Tool USB flash drive highlighted
  6. Click through the rest of the process, and you’ll have a bootable USB flash drive ready to use as installation media.

Option 2: Creating installation media from an ISO

If you chose to download a Windows Insider preview ISO, or if you already had an ISO file for Windows 11, you can still create USB installation media using a program like Rufus. This program will take the ISO file you downloaded and flash it onto your USB drive, turning it into installation media. Here’s how to do it:

  • Download Rufus from the official website.
  • Run the program and insert your flash drive into your PC. Make sure you’ve backed up any data on the flash drive, as it will be erased in the process. It may be best to unplug other USB drives so you don’t accidentally select them and erase them.
  • Click SELECT under Boot selection, and find the ISO file you downloaded earlier. The rest of the fields will automatically change to match.

Rufus Windows 10 options

  • Click START and then OK, then the process will begin. Wait for it to finish and your flash drive will be ready to be used as installation media.

Creating a partition to dual-boot Windows 10 and 11

Next, you’ll need to create a second partition on your drive for Windows 11. Partitions are like virtual divisions of a hard drive that are marked as different disks. For general use, partitions don’t have much of a purpose, but you do need them for dual-booting. Here’s how to create one.

  • Right-click your Start menu icon (or press Windows key + X on your keyboard) and choose Disk Management. You’ll see a list of your drives and partitions that should look something like this. Ignore the small partitions that are only a few MB in size. Those are system partitions required for Windows to work, and they’re not meant to be tampered with. You’ll want to focus on the largest partition.

List of disks and partitions in Disk Management on WIndows

  • To create a new partition, you’ll need to shrink the one you already have. Right-click your primary partition and choose Shrink Volume….
  • Specify the amount of space you want to remove from the partition. This will be limited by the files you already have stored on it, and the amount you enter will be the space you have for your Windows 11 installation. You’ll want at least 64GB, since that’s the minimum requirement for Windows 11, but you can go as high as you want. Just make sure you have enough space on both Windows 10 and Windows 11 partitions.
  • The space you chose will be deducted from your partition and it will be listed as unallocated space in the Disk Management window. You can leave it as is and close the window.

Disk Management in Windows showing unallocated space after shrinking a partition

Install Windows 11 on your second partition for dual-booting

The next step to dual-boot Windows 10 and 11 is to install Windows on your second partition. We’re going to assume you’re using a Windows 10 ISO as we recommended, but the process is similar if you got a Windows 11 ISO right away. If you removed the USB installation media from your PC, insert it again (remove other flash drives), then follow these steps:

  • Open the Start menu and then click the power button and – while holding Shift on your keyboard. Click Restart.
    • Alternatively, open the Settings app and go to Update & Security, then choose Recovery, and then Restart Now next to Advanced startup.
  • You’ll be given a series of boot options. Click Use a device, then choose the USB flash drive you have inserted and your PC will boot from it.

Choosing a boot device in Advanced startup

  • You’ll now be in the regular Windows 10 setup, as if you were setting up a new PC. Choose your language and region settings. The default settings should be fine, so you can click Next. On the next page, click Install now.
  • Enter a product key if you have one at hand. You can choose to skip this for now, but you’ll need it later.
  • Choose the edition of Windows 10 you want to install. You have to choose an edition that matches the product key you used.

windows 10 setup

  • Accept the license agreement, and then choose Custom: Install Windows only (Advanced).
  • You’ll see all the partitions that were in Disk Management above, as well as the unallocated space you created. Select the unallocated space and click New, then click Apply. A partition will be created in the unallocated space.

Creating a partition in unallocated space to install Windows

  • Select the new partition and click Next to begin the installation.

At this point, your PC will restart, and you will see the option to choose an operating system. You’ll see this screen every time you restart your PC now, so you can choose which operating system you want to use. Unlike the screenshot below (which was taken during early Windows 11 testing), you should already be able to see the two different operating systems with different names.

Option to choose an operating system when dual-booting

To set up the new Windows 11 install, select it, and then follow this guide to set up your installation to your liking. If you chose to install the stable version of Windows 11 but you want to try experimental builds later, you can always join the Windows Insider program from your Windows Update settings.

From now on, you’ll always have the option to choose between Windows 10 and Windows 11 when booting, though after a few seconds, it will boot into whatever option you used last. You can use Windows 10 for work and Windows 11 for personal use if you’re worried about stability, for example. It’s a great way to try out Windows 11 without taking big risks. As more updates are released for Windows 11, new features and improvements will be added, so it’s a good idea to grab them. You can always check out our update tracker to know about the latest updates.

About author

João Carrasqueira
João Carrasqueira

Editor at XDA Computing. I've been covering the world of technology since 2018, but I've loved the field for a lot longer. And I have a weird affinity for Nintendo videogames, which I'm always happy to talk about.

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