Users who thought sticking with the Windows 7 Beta would mean they’re good to go until the software’s commercial release in October will wake up to an unpleasant surprise on Wednesday.
That’s the day that the beta will begin trying to drive testers to switch to the “Release Candidate” (RC). If they don’t, the beta is set to expire within a month — rendering it essentially inoperable.
“By ‘expiring,’ it means that you’ll get prompted to install a different copy of Windows. You won’t even get to the desktop,” a Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) spokesperson said in an e-mail to InternetNews.com. “Windows Vista worked same way.”
Microsoft has warned beta testers several times in recent weeks that the release’s expiration and the shutdowns are approaching.
“On August 1st, 2009, if you are still on the Windows 7 Beta, your license for the Windows 7 Beta will expire and the non-genuine experience is triggered where your wallpaper is removed and ‘This copy of Windows is not genuine’ will be displayed in the lower-right corner above the Taskbar,” Microsoft blogger Brandon LeBlanc wrote on the Windows 7 Team blog.
Beta winding down
Microsoft publicly released the Windows 7 Beta in early January to mostly glowing reviews. It’s unknown how many users are still running the release, but the numbers could be substantial — particularly among those who mistook the beta as a way to get the software for free.
It’s also unclear how many users have ignored Microsoft’s indications about the “warnings” that the beta would begin giving them a month prior to its expiration.
So, starting July 1, the beta will start automatically shutting down every two hours to remind users that time is running out.
The only way to stop the automatic shutdowns is to remove the beta and install a different version of Windows, or another operating system.
Ideally for Microsoft, that means trading up to the RC, the last testing phase after beta, which it also made available for public testing beginning in April.
However, installing the RC on a PC that has the beta requires a clean installation of the software.
And, like the beta, the RC also carries an auto-shutdown requirement. Fortunately, the RC isn’t set to begin automatically shutting down until March 1, 2010.
It’s also set to fully expire on June 1, 2010, after which it will become inoperable. But with the commercial release of Windows 7 coming on October 22, users who installed the RC will have a grace period of several months to shell out for the full, final version.