Microsoft announced that the Windows 7 release candidate (RC) is now available to the general public.Microsoft today announced that the Windows 7 release candidate (RC) is now available to the general public.
The download, which can take a few hours, can be accessed here. The RC will be available through July 2009, according to Microsoft, and unlike the beta release of Windows 7, Microsoft isn't limiting the number of product keys for the RC. An RC of Windows Server 2008 R2 is also available for download by the general public.
The Windows 7 RC is a final test version of Microsoft's newest operating system. It's the same OS (Build 7100, Ultimate edition) that was made available to TechNet and MSDN subscribers last week.
Developers now have access to a new software development kit for Windows 7, which can be downloaded here. Additional developer resources for Windows 7 are listed at this MSDN portal.
For IT pros assessing infrastructure readiness for Windows 7, the company announced on Tuesday that it has upgraded its Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit 4.0 beta program. The toolkit now includes support for Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2 and Hyper-V. Interested parties can download the new beta through Microsoft Connect.
The hardware requirements for Windows 7 RC are similar to those of Windows Vista. However, Microsoft's FAQ adds a caveat, stating that "some product features of Windows 7, such as the ability to watch and record live TV or navigation through the use of 'touch,' may require advanced or additional hardware." The FAQ doesn't elaborate, except to say that the listed hardware requirements represent running "average computing tasks, such as Web browsing and word processing."
Microsoft recommends backing up your data before installing Windows 7 RC. You can do an upgrade to Windows 7 RC from Vista, but the company recommends doing a clean install when migrating from Windows XP or Windows 7 beta. IT pros can use Microsoft's User State Migration Tool to move over old files, according to this demo.
Microsoft also has a Windows Easy Transfer tool for consumers to help restore files after a clean installation. It's typically used to move files from an old PC to a new one, but it requires a special USB cable.
Microsoft emphasizes that the RC is still a test version and could have problems with device driver support, file corruption and software that doesn't work. The company recommends running it on a test machine, not your main PC.
Microsoft's release notes for Windows 7 RC already indicate that users will have problems using AppLocker files created in the beta version of Windows 7. Some HP computers may generate an error message on installation. Moreover, some virtual private network applications may not work with the RC.
When the final Windows 7 product arrives, users of the RC will need to do a clean installation to run the new OS, according to Microsoft's FAQ.
Those using the Windows 7 beta (Build 7000) will face an OS that will expire on Aug. 1, 2009. However, the OS will begin shutting down every two hours starting on July 1, 2009. Microsoft says that Windows will notify users two weeks before the shutdowns begin.
Windows 7 RC expires on June 1, 2010, with the OS shutting down every two hours starting on March 1, 2010.
The Windows 7 RC is currently available as 32-bit or 64-bit versions in English, French, German, Japanese and Spanish. Microsoft recommends that after Windows 7 RC is installed, users should turn on Automatic Updates in Windows to keep the OS current.
The next release of Windows 7 will be the release to manufacturing (RTM) version for PC manufacturers. The RTM typically occurs about three to five months after the RC appears. New PCs with Windows 7 could ship as early as this fall , according to some reports.