Microsoft rolled out yet another free test version of Windows 7 on Tuesday -- this time targeting IT pros who haven't previously had access to the new operating system.
This release is called the "Windows 7 Enterprise 90-Day trial edition." It's available for those who aren't subscribers to Microsoft's TechNet or MSDN professional services or who haven't signed up for the Software Assurance option as part of Microsoft's volume licensing agreement.
The trial edition is strictly for testing. It will expire in 90 days, shutting down every hour. Those who downloaded Windows 7 through Microsoft's subscriber services or volume licensing with Software Assurance don't face such time limitations on their copies of Windows 7.
Microsoft doesn't intend the trial edition for consumers, and you have to qualify to use the software by first completing a survey.
The offer is limited to an undisclosed number of downloads, or until March 31, 2010, whichever comes first. The trial edition comes with its own activation key but testers need to activate the software within 10 days of use or it will start shutting down.
The Windows 7 Enterprise 90-Day trial edition (32-bit or 64-bit) is available only in English, French, German, Japanese and Spanish. It can be downloaded at Microsoft's Springboard page here.
A big caveat to using the trial edition is that there's no upgrade path to the commercial Windows 7 Enterprise edition if you decide you like it and want to buy it on Oct. 22, which is when Microsoft will publicly release the OS. Instead, you'll have to do a clean install of Windows 7 all over again, as well as your all of your drivers and applications.
Those who downloaded the release candidate (RC) test version of Windows 7 can continue to use it until it expires on June 1, 2010. The RC will warn of its impending expiration by rebooting every hour, and that process will start happening on March 1, 2010. Microsoft no longer offers the RC version for download.
Users who have a 30-day trial version of Windows 7 sitting around that they never activated can use a trick (described by the Windows Secrets Web site) to extend the trial to as long as 120 days, even without an activation key.
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