Windows 7: How to Get the Release Candidate

On Tuesday, Microsoft will post Windows 7 Release Candidate (RC) for the general public.

The milestone is important, since it's the one-and-only release candidate Microsoft will issue for Windows 7, making it the last public stop on the operating system's brief tour before it ships.

And when will that be? Microsoft's not saying, though at least one executive recently broke with past practice and admitted it's possible that Windows 7 would be out in time for the holidays. We're betting it shows up sometime between Aug. 28 and Sept. 20, dates based on the past pace from RC to final for Windows XP and Vista.

Windows 7 RC is also an important-to-get preview, because --while it's not final code -- you'll be able to use it until June 2010, more than a year away. Microsoft's largess has never been larger.

Nor, apparently, have its ambitions been greater, since Windows 7 must simultaneously pry people away from Windows XP while masking the odor left behind by Vista.

Has Microsoft pulled it off? Our reviewer said "RC1 is stable enough and fast enough that it's well worth the download," which, though not a ringing endorsement, is encouraging.

So you'll want to grab a copy and try it out, decide whether you'll -- finally -- ditch XP or give up on Vista. But where can you get it, how do you install it, what do you need to run it and can you upgrade from the beta or from Vista or from XP?

Questions, there are always questions. And we have the answers, most of them anyway. Read our FAQ.

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