How to Get Your Copy of Windows 7 RC1 Tuesday

Microsoft will make the release candidate of Windows 7, the next version of its desktop operating system, available as a free download on Tuesday.

Interested parties should sign up for a Live.com account (free registration will be required, so do it now) and watch Microsoft.com Tuesday. The company will announce the download’s availability at some point during the day. Also, be sure to follow Webmonkey on Twitter, as we will let you know as soon as Windows 7 RC1 is ready to roll.

After the crushing server load brought on by thousands of users eager to get their hands on the beta release earlier this year, hopefully Microsoft is better prepared this time around. However, even if the downloads go smoothly, there are a few things you need to know before making the leap.

Both the downloads and the product keys needed to activate the installation are free. Also, Microsoft says Windows 7 RC1 will be available at least through June 30, 2009, with no limits on the number of downloads or product keys available

Officially there is no way to upgrade from either Windows 7 beta or Windows XP to the new release candidate. The only supported upgrade path is from Windows Vista SP1. The Engineering Windows blog says, “Upgrading from one pre-release build to another is not a scenario we want to focus on because it is not something real-world customers will experience.”

Instead Microsoft is encouraging you to “revert to a Vista image and upgrade or to do a clean install.”

Knowing that not all its beta testers will want to wipe an existing install, there is a workaround available that involves editing a configuration file, which will bypass the version check that runs before Windows 7 installs. See the Engineering Windows blog for complete instructions. However, be forewarned that Microsoft admits this method sometimes results in bugs and unexpected behavior.

We suggest going with the clean install method, but if you don’t want to re-configure your entire system, at least there is a way around the beta upgrade limitations.

And Mac users, good news: RC1 reportedly solves the glitches that many people encountered trying to install Windows 7 through Boot Camp. If you were among the many that had trouble with the beta release, it might be worth trying again with RC1.

As for what to expect in RC1, think refinements — UI polishes, slight speed bumps and overall stability improvements.

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. See our early coverage for a full rundown on the new features in the Windows 7 release candidate.

See Also: