Microsoft Ends Windows 7 RC Downloads

Microsoft has pulled the plug early on downloads of the Windows 7 “Release Candidate,” nixing availability of the upcoming OS’s final test release.

Company spokespeople confirmed to earlier this week that the last chance to the Windows 7 Release Candidate (RC) would be at the end of the day today. Instead, however, the chance to get a copy of Windows Vista’s replacement expired Thursday morning.

That means new users who wanted to take the RC for a test drive before Windows 7’s commercial release on Oct. 22 can no longer do so.

“Sorry, Windows 7 Release Candidate (RC) downloads are no longer available,” Microsoft said in a blog post on its TechNet site Thursday.

A second Microsoft spokesperson confirmed that the blog post is correct. “The RC download period ended at some point this morning. Sorry for any confusion,” the spokesperson said in an e-mail.

Some paying customers already have the final, release version of Microsoft’s highly anticipated Windows 7. Those include subscribers to Microsoft’s TechNet and MSDN online services as well as volume licensees with Software Assurance contracts.

The RC marked the last test version of Windows 7, according to a post on the Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) Windows 7 team blog this week. The RC contains all but the very last fixes to the final Windows 7 code.

“We’ve had over eight million downloads of the Release Candidate,” Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told financial analysts on July 30, just a week after Windows 7 received managers’ sign-off and “Released to Manufacturing” (RTM).

Microsoft began shipping the RC on April 30.

The RC will run without problems until March 1, when it will begin automatically shutting down every two hours until it finally expires on June 1, 2010, according to an earlier Microsoft blog post.

Similarly, users who were running the Windows 7 beta had their systems expire on August 1, following a month of automatic shutdowns.

Since most beta testers will not have access to the final RTM code until it hits store shelves in October, Microsoft suggested those users could install the RC to tide them over until Windows 7’s commercial availability.

One more hurdle for Windows 7 testers

Other than the automatic shutdowns, there is one further caveat to installing the RC. If the RC user later chooses to buy the commercial release of Windows 7, it will require what Microsoft refers to as a “custom” installation.

“Basically, a custom install requires the user to backup their data, run through the installation, re-install desired applications and programs, and then restore saved data,” a Microsoft spokesperson said in an e-mail to

“After that date, you will still be able to register your product and get registration keys, but the media will no longer be available for download,” this week’s blog post said.

Update adds confirmation that the RC download period has ceased.

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