Windows 7 RC downloads will end today

Microsoft will turn off the download spigot for Windows 7 Release Candidate (RC) on Thursday around 11 a.m. ET, the company confirmed on Tuesday.

The company has been sending out e-mails to users who have already downloaded the release candidate, reminding them of the impending deadline. On Monday, a company spokesman repeated the warning, while a spokeswoman today said that the tap would be closed Thursday morning.

Microsoft first offered Windows 7 RC late on May 4, saying then that it would provide a download through at least July. Late in June, however, the company said that it would allow downloads until Aug. 15, then last month quietly extended that deadline by another five days.

Citing company policy, a spokeswoman today declined to specify how many copies of the RC have been downloaded since early May, although she said it was “in the millions.”

Although the actual downloads will not be available after Thursday, users who have obtained the disk image file may still request a product activation key after that date, Microsoft has said.

Other users, notably IT professionals and developers who subscribe to the TechNet and Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) services, have already moved on to Windows 7 RTM (release to manufacturing), the final version of the new operating system. Those users have been able to grab copies of the English RTM since Aug. 6.

Windows 7 RC is set to expire March 1, 2010, at which time it will begin to automatically shut down at two-hour intervals. The RC expires on June 1, 2010; after that date, it simply won’t boot.

Microsoft has slated Oct. 22 as the on-sale date for new PCs packing Windows 7, as well as for retail copies of upgrades to the operating system.

Prior to that date, one of the few ways to obtain a legal, final copy of Windows 7 is to attend one of the 25 launch events Microsoft is hosting in the U.S. Those events begin Sept. 24 in Denver, Miami and Minneapolis, and end Nov. 9 in Baltimore, Houston and St. Louis.

A complete list of the sites and schedule is available on Microsoft’s site.

Until Thursday morning, Windows 7 can be downloaded in 32- and 64-bit versions, and in English, French, German, Japanese and Spanish editions, from this site.

Hands-on with Windows 7 RTM

As I’ve noted before, I have been testing Windows 7 through the beta cycle on two computers: one desktop (as a secondary multiboot option) and one laptop (as the primary OS). Now I have the released bits (aka the Windows 7 RTM build) installed on both machines as the primary OS. The process was not without pain, but the results are fairly good.

I was disappointed to discover that the RTM installer refused to upgrade release candidate (RC) installations. On my desktop, I decided to bite the bullet and upgrade my Vista installation to Windows 7 and reformat the partition that held the Windows 7 RC; on the laptop, I did a custom installation that moved all the old programs and files to a Windows.old folder.

The desktop installation preserved my documents and programs, but it took several hours. The length of time wasn’t too surprising considering that the installer needed to examine more than a million files and settings. In the end, I had to uninstall Acronis Backup, CodeGear Rad Studio, and the Asus motherboard utilities; I also had to upgrade Skype to the latest version. While the installer had warned of incompatibilities with SQL Server 2008, it was a false alarm, as I had already upgraded that to the compatible SP1 version.

I knew from the release candidate that the scanner drivers for my HP Officejet Pro L7590 all-in-one printer/scanner/copier/fax would not install under 64-bit Windows 7.

I hoped that when the Windows 7 installer saw the HP Vista drivers for the all-in-one already installed it would leave them in place, but in fact it trashed them and installed its own printer and fax drivers, leaving the scanner unsupported. (I hope that HP will have Windows 7 drivers for this device available by the official retail ship date in October. Meanwhile, I’ll have to scan to one of the other computers in my office.)

On the laptop, the actual installation was much quicker — a matter of half an hour. The downside of this was that I had to manually retrieve my documents and favorites from the Windows.old folder and reinstall all my applications. I still haven’t finished the reinstallation: I’m taking the lazy approach and deferring each reinstallation until I actually need the application on the laptop. So far, Google Chrome, Firefox, and Seesmic Desktop are installed, but Microsoft Office 2007 and my developer tools are not.

After a few update and reboot cycles, Windows 7 on the laptop eventually found all the drivers it needed. I’m happy to say that the “screen driver stops responding after waking up from sleep mode” issue I had with the Windows 7 RC was fixed in the RTM bits.

Overall, I’m happy with Windows 7, at least as compared to Windows Vista on the same machines. Preston Gralla has written about the improvements in detail, but here’s a short summary: To me, Windows 7 looks better, feels snappier, and doesn’t get in the way as much as Windows Vista.

Note: Your mileage may vary. 🙂


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