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You can have and use both versions installed, there is no overlap. Generally the advice is to complete projects in the version they were created in and, when necessary export them to DV/HDV to load to the newer version as a source file.
Some people do report that they have had success opening old projects from an earlier version so try it: BUTTTTTT....
Do it on a copy. From PRE8 do a 'save as' and use that copy in PRE10. Once you open a project in PRE10, PRE8 will no longer be able to use it.
Before upgrading though check your current PC configuration. It may be that you no longer have enough free defragmented disk space available for PRE8 to work in. Do a disk cleanup and, provided your happy the PC is working OK, delete all but the latest restore point. Also download and run CCleaner. After all that, defragment the drive and see if things have improved.
Insanity is hereditary, you get it from your children
The older Projects may, or may not Open in PrE 10. Much will depend on the complexity of the Projects, themselves. Only a test of the Projects will tell you whether they Open fine, with no problems.
I would work from Copies of the PREL files, just to make sure that the earlier versions' PREL's are safe.
Now, if you are having problems with PrE 8, it could well be that you will have the same issues with PrE 10, though most users DO find PrE 10 to be more stable, and especially than PrE 8, which was not a "revered" version.
This ARTICLE might be useful in helping sort out the problems with PrE 8, and would also be worthwhile keeping around, just in case you also encounter issues with it. That article starts with a checklist of things to get PrE to work best, then goes into OS and system tuneup tips, and finally lists many links for troubleshooting, working up in "degree of difficulty."
Thanks so much for the replies and the helpful info. I will attempt your suggestions right away.