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

If you’ve seen Microsoft’s announcement of Windows 11, there’s a good chance you’re curious to try out the new features. After all, this new version of Windows comes with a lot of interesting changes. It has a brand-new visual design and new features like Snap Layouts, multi-monitor improvements, and much more that you can try out right now. But trying out new operating systems comes with risks, so you might not want to completely replace Windows 10 on your machine. 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.

Creating Windows installation media

The first thing you need to do is create installation media for Windows 10 or 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 10 using the Media Creation Tool and then join the Insider program to download Windows 11 (recommended).
  • Download the latest Windows 10 Insider Preview ISO which is already enrolled in the Dev channel, then update to Windows 11.
  • Create your own Windows 11 ISO if you’re comfortable doing that. We’d recommend one of the other two options, though.

Out of those, we recommend the first option because it can streamline the process significantly. If you have your flash drive at hand when you’re using the Media Creation Tool, you can create bootable installation media right away. We have a guide on how to install Windows 10 on a new PC, which also shows you how to create installation media. You can follow those steps if you’re using the Media Creation Tool. Make sure you don’t choose the Upgrade this PC now option. Also, your flash drive will be erased in the process, so back up any data you may have on it.

If you used the Media Creation Tool without a flash drive or if you chose one of the other options for downloading Windows, you’re going to need a tool 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. Your two boot options will probably look similar, since they’re both still labeled Windows 10.

Option to choose an operating system when dual-booting

However, your new installation will be labeled with a higher volume number underneath, so you’ll want to choose that one to finish setting up. Then, follow these steps to download Windows 11.

  • Set up Windows 10 as you would on a new PC. Just follow the instructions on the screen to configure it to your liking until you’re on the Windows 10 desktop.
    • If you chose to install Windows 11 right away instead, you can follow this guide if you need help with the setup experience.
  • Once you’re on the desktop, open the Start menu and then the Settings app.
  • Open the Update & Security section, then choose Windows Insider Program from the left-side menu.
  • Click Get started, then Link an account. You’ll need to sign in with a Microsoft account in order to join the Insider program.
  • Next, you have to choose the Windows Insider channel you want to join. Windows 11 is only available in the Dev Channel for now, so that’s the option you have to choose. Click Confirm twice, then click Restart Now to finish setting up your PC for the Insider program.

Choosing the Windows Insider Dev Channel

      • Once your PC restarts, you can download Windows 11 using Windows Update. Open the Settings app and go to Update & Security.
      • Click Check for updates, and Windows 11 should start downloading. You may see other updates, too.

Downloading Windows 11 from Windows Update

  • Once the update finishes downloading and installing, restart your PC to finish setting up.

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.

You may have other updates available after upgrading to Windows 11, so it’s always a good idea to check again. More cumulative updates may have been released, and you’ll want to get them to see all the new features and enhancements. You can always check out our update tracker to know about the latest updates.

About author

João Carrasqueira
João Carrasqueira

Writer 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.