Windows 7 Release Candidate Hits the Streets

Windows 7 RC1

Microsoft’s Windows 7 Release Candidate is now available, the company announced Thursday. Registered developers can get their copy of Windows 7 RC1 through the MSDN and TechNet developer programs.

Mortals like you and I will have to wait until Tuesday, May 5, when anyone interested in testing Windows 7 RC1 will be able to download it from the Microsoft site for free. The company will make the download available some time during the day on Tuesday, though it isn’t saying exactly when.

To get your copy on Tuesday, go to Microsoft.com and log in with your Live.com credentials. You’ll get a free product key and a link to download the disk image. Both 32-bit and 64-bit versions will be available. It doesn’t matter if you’re already running the Windows 7 beta or not. RC1 will reflect the same code that will be found in Windows 7 Ultimate, the desktop environment with the most bells and whistles. So, early testers can experience the full capabilities of the next Windows.

If the public beta release of Windows 7 earlier this year is any indicator, we should expect a huge flood of interest at Microsoft’s download site as soon as the new software is available.

Jeff Price of Microsoft’s Windows Ecosystem Team tells Webmonkey that the company experienced “a bit of a hiccup” with January’s beta release, but he promised that things would be smoother this time around.

“The public beta was a good dry run for this release,” he says. Part of the reason might be that not a whole lot has changed since the beta — Windows 7 RC1 is primarily about bug fixes, speed boosts and other refinements, not a slew of exciting new features. The primary purpose of a Release Candidate is for hardware and software partners to test against in order to ensure their various devices and applications will work when the final version of Windows 7 becomes available in December or January.

There are a few new features, most notably the virtual “XP Mode” which will allow you to seamlessly run Windows XP applications in a virtual environment, right alongside your newer Windows 7 applications. Although XP Mode is available with the release candidate, it will be a separate download. It will also be a separate download for Windows 7 Ultimate and Professional users when the final versions ship.

Windows 7 RC1 also offers an easier way to stream music and movies from your home to remote locations. While Windows has long allowed you to share movies and music between PCs on your home network, Windows 7 now lets you stream the same files to your laptop, even if it’s no longer on your home network. While it’s possible to do that without Windows 7, Price says the new configuration tools for Remote Media Streaming make the process dead simple to set up.

One thing to keep in mind if you’re planning to upgrade from the beta to the release candidate — well, uh, it doesn’t work like that. You’ll need perform a clean install of Windows 7 RC 1, or, if you haven’t flirted with the beta, you can upgrade straight from Windows Vista.

Of course the real question is, now that a release candidate has arrived, when will we see the final release of Windows 7?

“It’s all based on feedback,” Price says. Microsoft collected a staggering 200 TB of anonymous user data during the beta phase and used that information to build this release candidate. The company expects to collect and analyze even more data with the new RC1.

Expect that process to take a little while, though. Price did tell us that the final version of Windows 7 will arrive no later than January, 2010, three years after Vista’s debut.

See Also: