Microsoft is advising people against rushing to download the Windows 7 Release Candidate, which became broadly available today.
The company has also reminded potential testers they won't be getting a gratis operating system, pointing out that while the Windows 7 RC 1 won't expire until next June, it will expire.
No-doubt stung by the past rush to download advance copies of Windows 7, which succeeded in choking and crashing Microsoft's download servers and web pages, the RC 1 notes said:
"You don't need to rush to get the RC. The RC will be available at least through July 2009 and we're not limiting the number of product keys, so you have plenty of time."
But there's a reminder that RC will expire on June 1, 2010. Microsoft said:
"Starting on March 1, 2010, your PC will begin shutting down every two hours. Windows will notify you two weeks before the bi-hourly shutdowns start. To avoid interruption, you'll need to install a non-expired version of Windows before March 1, 2010. You'll also need to install the programs and data that you want to use."
And don't go upgrading straight from the Windows 7 beta. Microsoft has advised a completely clean install.
What do you get for your bits? Reg reviewer Tim Anderson reckoned Windows 7: "At least looks like a sound return to the company's core competency."
Windows 7 XP Mode - which uses Virtual PC to run legacy Windows-XP-compatible applications inside your new desktop - has promise. But there are performance problems, and integration with Windows 7 is both a blessing and a curse.
The RC has been pushed out just as Microsoft released its recommended - and historically generous - minimum hardware requirements for the latest version of Windows.
To run the Windows 7 RC 1 then your machine, according to Microsoft, will require a 1 GHz processor (32- or 64-bit), 1GB of RAM for 32-bit operation or 2GB of RAM on 64-bit, 16GB of available disk space on a 32-bit installation or 20GB of available disk space when using 64-bit, and DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver.
But it was interesting that Microsoft equipped reviewers with loan machines that go beyond these specs. Tim got more memory (3GB RAM) and a faster processor (a Core 2 Duo that clocked in at 2.3GHz).
Microsoft has historically tended to understate the hardware needed to run the latest versions of Windows. The advice on Windows 95 was for a 386DX processor and 4Mb memory, but it was recommended you actually had a 486 and 8MB. You could get away with a 233MHz processor and 64MB memory on Windows 2000, but you really needed at least 300MHz and 128MB or higher. The fudging of the hardware numbers on Windows Vista landed the company in court. ®