Windows 10 and 11 dual-boot

How to dual-boot Windows 10 and 11

If you want to run Windows 11 and 10 on the same computer, you can if you configure a dual-boot system, and here's how.

  • To dual-boot Windows 10 and 11, create an installation media with “Rufus,” use “Disk Management” to shrink the current partition to make room for the new setup, and proceed with the Windows Setup.
  • You can also use a separate hard drive to install a second instance of the operating system.
  • Alternatively, you can set up a dual-boot system by downloading the Windows 11 ISO file, creating a “VHDX,” using the “DISM” command tool to apply the operating system image into the virtual drive, and restarting the computer to complete the setup without modifying the current installation.

You can set up a dual-boot system running Windows 10 and 11 (or vice versa), and in this guide, I will outline the steps to complete this configuration in two different ways. A dual-boot (multi-boot) system defines the process of installing two different operating systems on a single computer, allowing you to choose which one to boot into from the bootloader when you start your computer.

The ability to use a device to boot into multiple operating systems comes in handy in different situations. For example, if you’re still on Windows 10, you can use a dual-boot system to try Windows 11 before switching. If you have a computer with the latest version of the operating system, you may need to set up another installation for compatibility with a specific application. Or you can set up a second installation to test build previews from the Windows Insider Program.

Regardless of the reason, you can set up a dual-boot system on Windows in two ways. You can shrink the primary partition to configure a second installation, you can use a separate hard drive, or it’s possible to install another version of the operating system on a Virtual Hard Disk (VHDX) without modifying the original setup.

In this guide, I’ll outline three ways to set up a dual-boot system using Windows 10 and 11. However, the instructions will work to set up Windows 10 on 11, 11 on 11, or 10 on 10.

System requirements

Before proceeding, you must understand that setting up a dual-boot using Windows 11 and 10 is different from configuring Windows 10 with 11. The reason is that Windows 11 has higher system requirements than Windows 10, and if you don’t confirm the requirements, you may not be able to complete the setup. (If you have a computer with unsupported hardware, you may be able to bypass the requirements by creating a special USB bootable media.)

If you have a device already running Windows 11, you can install Windows 10 as the second operating system without extra steps. However, if you have a computer running Windows 10, you have to ensure that the device uses UEFI as the firmware type, TPM 2.0 is enabled, and the computer has a supported AMD or Intel processor. Also, at least 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage are required, and Secure Boot is not a requirement, but it might be needed.

Since you will be using the same hardware, you may be able to activate Windows with the same product key, assuming you’re using compatible versions of the operating system, such as Windows 11 and 10.

Method 1: Dual-boot Windows 10 and 11 shrinking partition

If you want to create a dual-boot system using Windows 10 and Windows 11, you will have to shrink the current partition to make space available for the new installation. Then, in the Windows Setup, you can proceed with a standard installation of Windows 11 using the unallocated space. Here’s how.

1. Create a USB bootable media

To use Rufus to create a Windows 11 bootable USB, use these steps:

  1. Open Rufus website.

  2. Under the “Download” section, click the link to download the latest version.

  3. Double-click the executable to launch the tool.

  4. Click the Settings button (third button from the left) at the bottom of the page.

    Rufus open update settings

  5. Under the “Settings” section, use the “Check for updates” drop-down menu and select the Daily option.

  6. Click the Close button.

  7. Click the Close button again.

  8. Open Rufus again.

  9. (Optional) Under the “Device” section, use the drop-down menu and select the USB flash drive to create the installation media.

  10. Under the “Boot selection” section, use the drop-down menu and select the “Disk or ISO image” option.

  11. Click the down-arrow button (on the right side) and select the Download option.

    Rufus ISO download option

  12. Click the Download button.

  13. Select the Windows 11 option.

  14. Click the Continue button.

  15. Under the “Release” section, select the latest release available option.

    Rufus download Windows 11

  16. Click the Continue button.

  17. Select the Windows 11 Home/Pro/Edu option.

  18. Click the Continue button.

  19. Select the language for the Windows 11 installation.

  20. Click the Continue button.

  21. Select the x64 architecture.

  22. Click the Download button.

  23. Select the location to save the Windows 11 ISO file automatically.

  24. Under the “Image option” setting, select the “Standard Windows 11 Installation” option.

    Rufus image option

  25. (Optional) Continue with the default settings after the download.

  26. (Optional) Under the “Volume label” setting, specify a name for the drive—for example, Windows 11 USB.

  27. Click the Start button.

  28. Clear the “Remove requirement for 4GB+ RAM, Secure Boot, and TPM 2.0” option.

    Rufus Windows 11 bypass requirements

    Quick note: If you want to install Windows 11 on unsupported hardware, you want to check this option.
  29. Clear the “Remove requirement for an online Microsoft account” option.

  30. (Optional) Check the “Create a local account with username” option if you want an installation with a local account instead of a Microsoft account (not recommended).

  31. Click the OK button.

Once you complete the steps, the Rufus tool will begin creating a bootable media with the Windows 11 installation media.

You can also create a bootable USB with the Media Creation Tool, Command Prompt, and a third-party tool known as Ventory.

2. Shrink and create a partition

If you have another hard drive, you don’t need to modify the primary partition, as you can use the secondary drive to install the operating system. If you only have a system with a single hard drive, you will have to shrink the partition to make space available for the new installation.

To create a partition for a dual-boot system from Disk Management, use these steps:

  1. Open Start.

  2. Search for “Create and format hard disk partitions” and click the top result to open the Disk Management app.

  3. Right-click the installation drive (C:) and choose the Shrink Volume option.

    Disk Management Shrink volume

  4. Confirm at least 64GB of storage (more is recommended).

    Disk Manager create unallocated space for dual-boot

  5. Click the Shrink button.

  6. Shut down the computer.

After creating the partition, shut down the device and continue with the steps below to dual-boot Windows 11 alongside Windows 10.

You don’t need to create a new partition from Disk Management since the Windows Setup can configure the required partitions automatically during the installation. You have to make the available space.

3. Install Windows 11 on partition

To install Windows 11 to create a dual-boot system with Windows 10, use these steps:

  1. Start the PC with the Windows 11 USB flash drive.

  2. Press any key to continue.

  3. Click the Next button.

    Windows 11 Setup

  4. Click the Install now button.

    Windows 11 install option

  5. Click the “I don’t have a product key” option.

    Skip license key option

  6. Select the edition of “Windows 11” that your product key activates (if applicable).

  7. Check the “I accept the license terms” option.

  8. Click the Next button.

  9. Select the “Custom: Install Windows only (advanced)” option.

    Windows 11 custom install option

  10. Select the portion (Drive 0 Unallocated Space) to install Windows 11 in a dual-boot setup.

    Windows Setup dual-boot partition

  11. Click the Next button.

  12. Choose the “Windows 11” option in the boot menu (if applicable).

    Windows dual-boot manager

  13. Select your region and continue with the out-of-the-box experience (OOBE).

    Windows 11 clean install OOBE choose region

Once you complete the steps, you will be able to use two different operating systems on the same computer. 

The process will be the same if you want to dual-boot Windows 10 and 10 or 11 and 11. Furthermore, you’re not limited to two operating systems. You can always create additional partitions to set up a triple-boot system or install even more operating systems.

(Optional) Remove an operating system

You can always undo the changes if you no longer need to use the dual-boot setup.

To remove the second Windows installation from the computer, use these steps:

  1. Open Start.

  2. Search for “Create and format hard disk partitions” and click the top result to open the Disk Management app.

  3. Right-click the partition with the installation to delete and choose the Delete Volume option.

    Disk Management delete dual-boot system

  4. Click the Yes button.

  5. (Optional) Right-click the current setup partition (C:) and click the Extend Volume option to relocate the empty space to the system.

    Disk Management Extend Volume

  6. Click the Next button.

  7. Click the Next button again.

    Choose drive to extend

  8. Click the Finish button.

Once you complete the steps, the computer will once again have only one operating system.

Method 2: Dual-boot Windows 10 and 11 on separate hard drive

If you have a separate hard drive, you can install another instance of Windows without modifying the original setup. Here’s how.

1. Create a USB bootable media

To use Rufus to create a Windows 11 bootable USB, use these steps:

  1. Open Rufus website.

  2. Under the “Download” section, click the link to download the latest version.

  3. Double-click the executable to launch the tool.

  4. Click the Settings button (third button from the left) at the bottom of the page.

    Rufus open update settings

  5. Under the “Settings” section, use the “Check for updates” drop-down menu and select the Daily option.

  6. Click the Close button.

  7. Click the Close button again.

  8. Open Rufus again.

  9. (Optional) Under the “Device” section, use the drop-down menu and select the USB flash drive to create the installation media.

  10. Under the “Boot selection” section, use the drop-down menu and select the “Disk or ISO image” option.

  11. Click the down-arrow button (on the right side) and select the Download option.

    Rufus ISO download option

  12. Click the Download button.

  13. Select the Windows 11 option.

  14. Click the Continue button.

  15. Under the “Release” section, select the latest release available option.

    Rufus download Windows 11

  16. Click the Continue button.

  17. Select the Windows 11 Home/Pro/Edu option.

  18. Click the Continue button.

  19. Select the language for the Windows 11 installation.

  20. Click the Continue button.

  21. Select the x64 architecture.

  22. Click the Download button.

  23. Select the location to save the Windows 11 ISO file automatically.

  24. Under the “Image option” setting, select the “Standard Windows 11 Installation” option.

    Rufus image option

  25. (Optional) Continue with the default settings after the download.

  26. (Optional) Under the “Volume label” setting, specify a name for the drive—for example, Windows 11 USB.

  27. Click the Start button.

  28. Clear the “Remove requirement for 4GB+ RAM, Secure Boot, and TPM 2.0” option.

    Rufus Windows 11 bypass requirements

    Quick note: If you want to install Windows 11 on unsupported hardware, check this option.
  29. Clear the “Remove requirement for an online Microsoft account” option.

  30. (Optional) Check the “Create a local account with username” option if you want an installation with a local account instead of a Microsoft account (not recommended).

  31. Click the OK button.

Once you complete the steps, the Rufus tool will begin creating a bootable media with the Windows 11 installation media.

2. Install Windows 11 on separate hard drive

To set up a dual-boot system on a separate hard drive, use these steps:

  1. Start the PC with the Windows 11 USB flash drive.

  2. Press any key to continue.

  3. Click the Next button.

    Windows 11 Setup

  4. Click the Install now button.

    Windows 11 install option

  5. Click the “I don’t have a product key” option.

    Skip license key option

  6. Select the edition of “Windows 11” that your product key activates (if applicable).

  7. Check the “I accept the license terms” option.

  8. Click the Next button.

  9. Select the “Custom: Install Windows only (advanced)” option.

    Windows 11 custom install option

  10. Select the separate hard drive to install Windows 11 in a dual-boot setup.

    Windows Setup dual-boot partition

    Quick tip: If the drive has different partitions, select each of the partitions corresponding to the drive and click the “Delete” option. It’s important to choose the correct drive, as removing the wrong partition can wipe out the original installation, and you cannot undo the changes.
  11. Click the Next button.

  12. Choose the “Windows 11” option in the boot menu (if applicable).

    Windows dual-boot manager

  13. Select your region and continue with the out-of-the-box experience (OOBE).

    Windows 11 clean install OOBE choose region

After you complete the steps, Windows 11 will install on the other hard drive. 

(Optional) Remove an operating system

To delete the second installation from the computer to undo the changes, use these steps:

  1. Open Start.

  2. Search for “Create and format hard disk partitions” and click the top result to open the Disk Management app.

  3. Right-click the partition with the installation to delete and choose the Delete Volume option.

    Disk Management delete dual-boot system

  4. Click the Yes button.

  5. Repeat step 3 until all the partitions are removed from the drive.

  6. (Optional) Right-click the unallocated space and choose the “New Simple Volume” option.

  7. Click the Next button.

  8. Click the Next button again.

  9. (Optional) Confirm the drive letter for the drive.

    New partition assign letter

  10. Click the Next button.

  11. Confirm a name for the drive in the “Volume label” setting. 

    New partition format settings

  12. Continue with the default settings.

  13. Click the Next button.

  14. Click the Finish button.

Once you complete the steps, the computer will once again have only one operating system.

Method 3: Create a dual-boot Windows 10 and 11 using virtual drive

Alternatively, you can create a dual-boot without USB and without changing the current setup by using a virtual hard disk (VHDX). After you finish configuring this process, there’s no virtualization involved, and Windows 11 will be able to take full advantage of the hardware.

You can use this method to create a dual-boot system on a computer running Windows 10 or 11, and you can use 11 or 10 as the second operating system. 

It’s important to note that in the past, you were not able to upgrade a system when using a native boot with a VHDX, but you should now be able to complete the upgrade to another version of the operating system. If it doesn’t work, you may delete and recreate the setup.

1. Download Windows 11 ISO file

To download the Windows 11 ISO file, use these steps:

  1. Open Microsoft Support website.

  2. Under the “Download Windows 11 Disk Image (ISO) for x64” section, select the Windows 11 option.

    Windows 11 ISO download

  3. Click the Download button.

  4. Select the installation language.

    Select ISO file language

  5. Click the Confirm button.

  6. Click the Download button to save the current Windows 11 ISO file to your computer.

    Windows 11 x64 ISO download

Once you complete the steps, the ISO file of Windows 11 will download to your computer.

If this method isn’t working, you can download the ISO file in several other ways.

2. Create VHDX drive to dual-boot Windows 11 on 10

To create a virtual drive to set up a dual-boot system, use these steps:

  1. Open Start.

  2. Search for “Create and format hard disk partitions” and click the top result to open the Disk Management app.

  3. Click on Action and choose the Create VHD option.

    Disk Management create VHDX option

  4. Choose the VHDX option under the “Virtual hard disk format” section.

    Create and attach VHDX

  5. Choose the Dynamically expanding option under the “Virtual hard disk type” section.

  6. Click the Browse button.

  7. Select a location to store the virtual drive, for example, the root of the “C:” drive.

  8. Confirm a name for the VHDX, such as “windows-11-setup.”

  9. Click the Save button.

  10. Confirm at least 64GB of storage for the VHDX.

  11. Click the OK button.

  12. Right-click the newly created drive and choose the “Initialize Disk” option.

    Initialize VHDX as drive

  13. Choose the GPT option.

    Set virtual drive as GPT

  14. Click the OK button.

  15. Right-click the unallocated space and choose the “New Simple Volume” option.

    Disk Management create new simple volume

  16. Click the Next button.

  17. Click the Next button again.

  18. Confirm the drive letter.

    Volume drive letter

  19. Click the Next button.

  20. (Optional) Use the VHDX name for the “Volume label.”

    Format partition volume label

  21. Click the Next button.

  22. Click the Finish button.

After you complete the steps, you have to copy the installation files to the virtual drive using the Deployment Image Servicing and Management (DISM) command-line tool.

3. Install Windows 11 on virtual drive 

To install Windows 11 on a dual-boot system with Windows 10 without USB, use these steps:

  1. Open File Explorer.

  2. Open the folder containing the Windows 11 ISO file.

  3. Right-click the file and choose the Mount option.

  4. Open Start.

  5. Search for Command Prompt, right-click the top result, and select the Run as administrator option.

  6. Type the following command to open the virtual drive and press Enter:

    F:

    In the command, change “F” for the letter of the virtual drive with the installation files.

  7. Type the following command to open the Sources folder and press Enter:

    cd Sources
  8. Type the following command to apply the “install.wim” image to the VHDX and press Enter:

    dism /apply-image /imagefile:install.wim /index:1 /ApplyDir:E:\

    DISM apply Windows 11 image to VHDX

    In the command, change “E” for the drive letter of your VHDX. Also, the “index:1” will install the Windows 11 Home image. Usually, if you want to install Windows 11 Pro, you will have to use the “index:6”. However, you can always query this information using the dism /Get-ImageInfo /ImageFile:F:\sources\install.wim command.

  9. Type the following command to make the Windows 11 setup in the VHDX available to the bootloader and press Enter:

    bcdboot E:\Windows

    In the command, change “E” for the drive letter of your VHDX.

  10. Restart the computer to continue with the Windows 11 setup to create the dual-boot system.

  11. Choose the “Windows 11” option in the boot menu (if applicable).

    Windows dual-boot manager

  12. Select your region setting and continue with the out-of-the-box experience (OOBE).

    Windows 11 clean install OOBE choose region

After you complete the steps, Windows 11 will install on the VHDX on the same partition where Windows 10 is installed.

(Optional) Remove an operating system

To delete the Windows 11 installation from the dual-boot system, use these steps:

  1. Open File Explorer on Windows 10.

  2. Open the location with the VHDX file that contains the Windows 11 installation.

  3. Select the file and click the Delete button from the “Home” tab.

    Delete Windows 11 VHDX file

  4. Confirm the deletion.

  5. Open Start.

  6. Search for Run and click the top result to open the app.

  7. Type the following command and click the OK button: msconfig

  8. Click the Boot tab.

  9. Select the Windows 11 entry (or the installation installed in the virtual drive).

  10. Click the Delete button.

  11. Click the Apply button.

  12. Click the OK button.

    Configure Windows bootloader

  13. Click the Restart button.

Once you complete the steps, the computer will start with the original operating system installation.

Troubleshooting and fixes to common problems 

When setting up a dual-boot system, the bootloader (or boot manager) may not appear during startup. If this is the case, you may need to enable this component manually or disable Fast Startup.

Also, the system will always set the last installation as the default, but you can always change this configuration to make another setup the default that will start automatically on time out. Furthermore, you can also change the timeout to the number of seconds you want. 

Lastly, if the boot menu still shows up during startup after removing the operating system, you may need to reconfigure the bootloader to remove the entry manually.

It’s important to note that BitLocker can cause problems on a dual-boot system. As such, it’s recommended to disable the encryption feature before proceeding.

Enable bootloader 

To enable the dual-boot menu manually, use these steps:

  1. Open Start.

  2. Search for Command Prompt (or PowerShell), right-click the top result, and select the Run as administrator option.

  3. Type the following command to disable Fast Startup on Windows 11 and press Enter:

    bcdedit /set {default} bootmenupolicy standard

After you complete the steps, the next time you restart the computer, the boot menu should appear, letting you choose the operating system.

Disable Fast Starup

To disable Fast Startup, use these steps:

  1. Open Start.

  2. Search for Command Prompt (or PowerShell), right-click the top result, and select the Run as administrator option.

  3. Type the following command to disable Fast Startup on Windows 11 and press Enter:

    powercfg /h off

    Command Prompt disable Fast Startup

Once you complete the steps, the system will disable Fast Startup, and the bootloader should now appear during startup.

You can use these instructions to learn more about managing Fast Startup on Windows 11 and 10.

Change dual-boot order

To change the dual-boot order, use these steps:

  1. Start the computer.

  2. Click “Change defaults or choose other options” from the boot manager.

    Change defaults or choose other options

  3. Click the “Choose a default operating system” option.

    Choose default operating system

  4. Choose the installation you want to start by default.

    Change dual-boot order

  5. (Optional) Click the “Change the timer” option to set a different timeout for the boot manager.

  6. Click the back button from the top-left corner.

  7. Select the system to start the computer.

Once you complete the steps, the new settings will apply to the boot manager.

Change bootloader timeout 

To change the boot manager menu timeout, use these steps:

  1. Open Start.

  2. Search for Run and click the top result to open the app.

  3. Type the following command and click the OK button: msconfig

  4. Click the Boot tab.

  5. Choose the number of seconds before booting the default instance of Windows in the “Timeout” setting.

    System Configuration change timeout

  6. Click the Apply button.

  7. Click the OK button.

  8. Click the Restart button.

After you complete the steps, the new timeout will be reflected in the boot menu.

You can change the timeout settings in multiple ways, and you can learn more with these instructions.

Remove boot menu entry 

To remove an operating system entry from the boot menu, use these steps:

  1. Open Start.

  2. Search for Run and click the top result to open the app.

  3. Type the following command and click the OK button: msconfig

  4. Click the Boot tab.

  5. Select the entry for the operating system that’s no longer available.

    System Configuration delete boot entry

  6. Click the Delete button.

  7. Click the Apply button.

  8. Click the OK button.

  9. Click the Restart button.

Once you complete the steps, the system will remove the entry, and the boot manager should no longer appear during boot.

About the author

Mauro Huculak is a Windows expert and the Editor-in-Chief who started Pureinfotech in 2010 as an independent online publication. He is also been a Windows Central contributor for nearly a decade. Mauro has over 12 years of experience writing comprehensive guides and creating professional videos about Windows, software, and related technologies, including Android and Linux. Before becoming a technology writer, he was an IT administrator for seven years. In total, Mauro has over 20 years of combined experience in technology. Throughout his career, he achieved different professional certifications from Microsoft (MSCA), Cisco (CCNP), VMware (VCP), and CompTIA (A+ and Network+), and he has been recognized as a Microsoft MVP for many years. You can follow him on X (Twitter), YouTube, LinkedIn and About.me.