Download Windows 7 Release Candidate 1
If you have installed Windows 7 beta when it became available end of last year, you probably want to try the next version, which is release candidate 1 (RC1). Microsoft has announced that it will be available for everyone to download from May 5 onwards, while it is already available to MSDN subscribers and Technet plus subscribers.
Windows 7 RC1 will not have a limit in the number of copies available, so there is no urge to download it like there was with the very first version. RC1 will still not have any support, but with the large amount of feedback and forums online, most problems can be solved or worked around easily.
RC1 is most likely going to be the last version before the formal Windows 7 release, since Acer appears to have announced that Windows 7 will be pre-installed on one of their laptops from October 23, 2009 onwards. Of course this will depend on Microsoft, but the fact that these plans exist indicates Windows 7 might be out before 2010.
Windows 7 RC1 in the mean time will not expire on June 1, 2010, so you get plenty of usage time of this evaluation version. Considering the quality of the Windows 7 beta, we can expect that Windows 7 RC1 will be quite usable. The biggest issues will most likely be software compatibility and device driver availability for non-standard devices.
One drawback for Windows 7 beta users is that you will need to do a clean install of Windows 7 RC1, you can not upgrade from the beta to RC1 (at least not without editing the installation files). But if, like me, you are running Windows 7 as a separate installation next to your regular Windows XP or Vista installation, this should not be a big issue. Once the final version of Windows 7 comes out, a fresh install will again be required, but it is easy to make a backup and restore any data. Reinstalling applications will take a bit more effort though.
So What is NEW Compared to Windows 7 Beta?
Apart from general technical improvements based on the testing with Windows 7 beta, you will find:
- An XP Mode will allow running a virtual Windows XP environment, great for application compatibility. You need to download it separately, but it will also be available from May 5 onwards.
- Remote Media Streaming, which allows for sharing your music over the internet. Play your home music collection anywhere using two Windows 7 systems that are connected to the internet.
- Final Internet Explorer 8 version. Windows 7 beta contained an intermediate version of IE8, but now you’ll have the final release that is also available for all other Windows versions.
- Improved USB security. Potentially unsafe USB devices will not be opened with the AutoRun option.