Microsoft is effectively giving away Windows 7 free for a year with the launch of the Release Candidate.
The Release Candidate is now available to MSDN and TechNet subscribers, and will go on unlimited, general release on 5 May.
The software will not expire until 1 June 2010, giving testers more than a year's free access to Windows 7.
"It's available to as many people who see fit to use it, although we wouldn't recommend it to just your average user," John Curran, director of the Windows Client Group told PC Pro. "We'd very strongly encourage anyone on the beta to move to the Release Candidate."
However, Microsoft has previously urged the millions of beta testers to start from scratch, and not simply upgrade the beta, in a bid to replicate the real-world experience of installing Windows 7. Those who are determined not to undergo a fresh install have to follow a workaround published on the < Engineering Windows 7 blog.
The Release Candidate includes all the features that will be available in the final version. "The Release Candidate is the near-finished product," Curran said. "It's now just final regression testing and performance enhancements."
Microsoft refused to be drawn on the final release date of Windows 7, sticking to the company line that it will be ready by January 2010, although most observers are predicting a late summer/autumn 2009 launch.
However, Curran believes that Windows 7 has already lifted much of the negativity that surrounded its predecessor. "The positive energy and momentum is quite a bit higher than it was in the Vista timeframe," Curran conceded. "People are excited about Windows 7."
Source: PC Pro | Engineering Windows 7 blog