There are three ways to install Windows 8, depending on your preferences. PCWorld’s David Murphy has a very good article that provides excellent instructions.
The options are:
• Run it as a virtual machine on your current operating system.
This method is the easiest to back out of, should you decide that Windows 8 isn’t for you. The software that enables the virtual machine is free, and no changes will be made to your current OS. Windows 8 exists on your computer as a series of files…delete them, and that’s it.
• Set up a dual boot system. With this option you install Windows 8 on the same hard drive as your current OS, but on a different partition. (Think of your hard drive as a desk with several drawers. You can put everything into just one drawer, two or more. A partition is like a drawer.) This choice offers the convenience of being able to try it out on a more permanent basis, but still have your other operating system to fall back on until you get the hang of it. For example: On my MacBook Pro I have OS X 10.8.2 Mountain Lion and Windows 7 set up as a dual boot. When I want to use one or the other, I reboot into it. I use Mountain Lion for most of my computing work; and while rebooting each time sounds inconvenient, there are a few tasks that I prefer to do only in Windows…as I’ve said before, I really like Windows 7.
There are several drawbacks to this approach. First, you’ll need enough hard drive capacity to allow the installation of both OSes. Next, with this option you are just about committed to keeping Windows 8, as it’s much more difficult to delete that partition than the existing OS one. You also won’t be able to run apps from your main OS on Windows 8, as data can’t be accessed between partitions. This could cause and necessitate some data duplication.
• Full install on your hard drive. This is how many users will install it. Your choices are upgrade or clean install. With either, first you make a complete backup of your hard drive (you should ALWAYS do a complete backup whenever you make any changes to your system).
If you choose to upgrade your existing OS and you were a Windows 7 user, the installation attempts to integrate your previous apps, files, folders, apps and other data into the new OS. If you had Vista or XP you’ll have to reinstall your apps yourself, as only the files will be transferred.
The clean install means that you’ll be wiping the hard drive clean of all its data, starting over and reinstalling your apps. Some users prefer this method, as it gets rid of any of the accumulated garbage, unused files and folders your PC might have collected over the years.
One of the keys to a successful clean installation is to be certain that you have copies of any software applications you want to reinstall, or have access to them. Remember also that many of your apps may not run properly–or at all–on Windows 8.
There’s no hard and fast rules as to which is the best choice. None are not as complicated as they might sound, and Murphy’s article is very informative in getting you started, providing many answers.