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Windows 7 RC Released to Microsoft's Subscribers

The release candidate (RC) of Windows 7, Microsoft's newest operating system, can be downloaded today by Microsoft TechNet and MSDN (Microsoft Developer Network) subscribers.

The TechNet download link can be accessed here, while MSDN subscribers can get the RC here. The general public will be able to download the RC on May 5 at the Microsoft Download Center.

For Microsoft Academic Alliance subscribers, instructions for getting the Windows 7 RC can be found here.

Microsoft is planning several different editions of Windows 7 when it is released as a final product. The current RC download is representative of the Windows 7 Ultimate edition, which is expected to contain all of the OS' features.

Microsoft's RC designation means that the OS is ready for evaluation by IT professionals. In addition, Microsoft's partners can complete their device drivers and applications for the OS. The RC represents a final test stage before the OS gets released to PC manufacturers.

Those who have been testing the beta version of Windows 7 will face an OS expiration date of Aug. 1, 2009. However, as a warning, the beta OS will begin to shut down every two hours, beginning on July 1, 2009.

Windows 7 RC has an expiration date of June 1, 2010. It will warn users with bihourly shutdowns beginning on March 1, 2010.

Microsoft recommends a clean installation of Windows 7 RC, as well as turning on Windows Update to keep current with any OS changes. Instructions for installing the RC from a bootable USB stick (instead of a DVD), can be found here.

An upgrade from the beta to the RC of Windows 7 is possible, but it's not recommended. The Windows engineering team published a hack for the upgrade. However, they warned that such an upgraded OS might display some quirks. A clean install provides the team with the best information about the RC. Microsoft will be receiving information automatically back from users as they run the RC and beta versions of Windows 7.

For those considering an upgrade from their existing Windows OS, Microsoft plans to offer a new tool called the "Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor." A beta version of this tool will be available for download "soon," according to Microsoft.

Microsoft has previously explained there will be no direct upgrade path from Windows XP to Windows 7. Although there is no direct migration path, Microsoft offers a tool, called the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit, that eases migration to Windows 7. The tool, currently in beta release, is described in a TechNet video here.

The system requirements for Windows 7 are similar to those described for Vista above Vista Home Basic. The recommended processor clock speed, RAM and DirectX 9 graphics support are all the same. However, Windows 7 requires less disk space than Vista: 16 GB of space for 32-bit Windows 7; 20 GB of space for 64-bit Windows 7.

Microsoft has previously described the features in Windows 7. The RC version will have a new feature that Microsoft describes as a remote media streaming capability. It will allow users to remotely connect with digital media files stored on their home Windows 7-based PC.

The previously announced Windows XP Mode for Windows 7 is available today as a separate download, according to Microsoft. Windows XP Mode works with Microsoft's Virtual PC in 32-bit Windows 7 to allow older XP-based applications to run on Windows 7. It's designed for smaller companies migrating to Windows 7.

For IT pros who manage several PCs, Windows XP Mode should be used with the Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V) management app. Microsoft describes the rationale in greater detail here. A future MEV-V 2.0 version will add 64-bit support and will be available 90 days after Windows 7's general availability.

For those looking for more information on Virtual PC for Windows 7, Microsoft recently posted a Web page describing it. The beta for Virtual PC is supposedly available today through the TechNet download page, according to this blog. At press time, I couldn't see the download link, nor could I find one for the Windows XP Mode beta.

In addition to Windows 7 RC being available today, there's also Windows Server 2008 R2 release candidate. It's also available today for download by MSDN and TechNet subscribers. The RC for Windows Server 2008 R2 will be accessible by the general public on May 5.

No product support is currently offered for Microsoft's beta and RC test software. However, those looking for answers may be able to find them on Microsoft's Windows 7 TechNet forum Web site.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is online news editor for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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