Dual-boot SteamOS on your computer
Tom's Guide has an excellent tutorial on how to dual-boot SteamOS and Windows 7.
With help from the third-party developers on the open-source project Ye OldeSteamOSe, Valve has recently added the ability to dual-boot SteamOS on a PC. That means you can install and test out SteamOS on a computer without wiping that computer's previous OS and all of its files. However, because SteamOS is still in beta, setting up a dual-boot is far from easy.
We explored some of the options, and figured out a way to get SteamOS running successfully on a laptop dual-booted with Windows 7. Here's a step-by-step walk-through of how to do it.More at Tom's Guide
When I first heard of SteamOS, it didn't occur to me that dual-booting might be a better idea than just doing a full install. But Tom's guide to dual-booting makes it an attractive option for a lot of gamers who might be running Windows 7 but who also want to get some practical experience with SteamOS.
The process of setting up SteamOS for a dual-boot system with Windows 7 is not quick or easy. But I don't think it's outrageously hard either. If you have experience setting up partitions and you can follow the directions in the guide then you should be all set to use SteamOS on your Windows 7 computer.
Dual-booting lets you get a taste of SteamOS without having to commit to it as the only operating system on your computer. As good as SteamOS seems to be right now it's important to remember that it is still a beta, and betas always have problems that can cause headaches for the user.
Dual-booting is also better than trying to run SteamoS in VirtualBox or any other virtual machine software. Performance is critical for a lot of games, and if you run SteamOS games in a virtual machine you also run the risk of taking a significant performance hit.
And let's face it, sometimes you don't need an operating system that is a jack of all trades like Windows 7. SteamOS is about gaming, period. So it makes sense to use it on your computer exclusively for games instead of a general purpose operating system.
Eventually Valve will get all the kinks worked out of SteamOS, and we'll see lots more games available for it. So getting your feet wet with SteamOS will put you ahead of the pack when the release version of SteamOS finally arrives.