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Windows 7 RC Downloads: Can MSFT Keep Up?

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Download Windows 7 release candidate.

Microsoft is quietly gearing up for the last public test of Windows 7 before it goes to PC makers and software retailers. The question is, with so much pent up demand, will users be able to get a download to test?

Put another way: Will Microsoft’s (NASDAQ: MSFT) download servers be able to handle the crush?

Early indications Thursday, following a preliminary rollout out to subscribers to Microsoft’s key technical services — MSDN and TechNet — are that demand will be high on Tuesday, May 5, when Microsoft releases the Windows 7 “Release Candidate” (RC) to the public.

Demand for the long-awaited RC overwhelmed Microsoft’s servers for two or three hours on Thursday before the company was able to fix the glitch and get the downloads running smoothly again.

It occurred on the first day that the RC was available for download — though access to the RC was limited only to subscribers to Microsoft’s MSDN and TechNet services, not the stress of a much broader public offering.

In January, when the Windows 7 beta began, early demand for the RC stalled Microsoft’s download servers. To remedy the problem, administrators brought more servers online. Thursday it was a different cause — a case of a crashed database index.

This time the shutdown was much shorter — only three hours or so — whereas the overload in January took nearly a day to fully remedy.

“Due to very high demand, we are temporarily experiencing distribution issues on the download of Windows 7 RC. … Our goal is to restore full download capacity as soon as possible,” Microsoft said in a statement Thursday.

It remains to be seen, however, whether demand will once again outstrip Microsoft’s servers, when the public testing begins.

The RC is the last test version of Windows 7 before it is “Released to Manufacturing” or RTM.

A Rude Awakening?

Microsoft recommends a clean installation of Windows 7 RC even if the PC has been running Windows 7 beta until now.

Users who install the RC can run it until June 1, 2010. However, beginning on March 1, 2010, users of the RC will receive a warning that time is running out — Two weeks later, the PC will automatically begin shutting down every two hours, according to a statement on Microsoft’s TechNet site.

For users running the Windows 7 beta, it’s a little more immediate. The beta code expires on August 1, 2009 and the rude “bi-hourly” shutdowns start July 1, 2009.

“In both cases, you’ll need to rebuild your test PCs with another valid version of the OS, and reinstall your programs and data,” the statement continues.

The RC download, meanwhile, will be available for two months. “The Windows 7 RC will be available May 5, and you’ll be able to download it from this site through July,” said a statement Friday on Microsoft’s Windows 7 site.

Next Page: Are You eXPerienced?

Are You eXPerienced?

In the meantime, users will still be able to get PCs with XP installed, for a time. Customers who buy netbooks, for instance, will be able to get them with XP (instead of Windows 7) for six months after Windows 7 ships, a Microsoft spokesperson said in an e-mail to

In addition, PC OEMs will be able to offer “downgrades” from either Windows 7 or Windows Vista to XP for the same six month period.

“This is not the first time that Microsoft has offered downgrade rights to a version other than its immediate predecessor and our Volume Licensing customers can always downgrade to any previous version of Windows,” the e-mail continued.

However, according to recent reports, Microsoft gets far less — as little as $15 per copy — for XP on netbooks than it does for Windows on more full-function PCs, which is reportedly more in the neighborhood of $50 to $60 per copy.

Therefore, the company is going to offer Windows 7 Starter edition and Home Premium for netbooks, with the idea that netbook makers and their customers will switch to Windows 7 when it’s available. Of course, if the price for Windows 7 editions drives up the cost of netbooks, it could drive customers to other operating systems, such as Linux. So as it has several times in the past, Microsoft may choose to rethink that cut off as it approaches.

Users have at least one reason to steer clear of XP, however — mainstream support from Microsoft for the seven-year-old operating system ran out on April 14.

Meanwhile, Microsoft today also announced the final minimum system requirements for running Windows 7. That includes a 1 GHz or faster, 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) CPU, and 1 GB of RAM for 32-bit, or 2 GB of RAM for 64-bit versions. The computer will also require between 16 GB and 20 GB of disk space (depending on whether it is a 32-bit or 64-bit version) and a DirectX 9 graphics card with support for Windows Display Driver Model 1.0 or higher.

Microsoft has not yet committed to a date that Windows 7 will go on sale, although this week, at least one Microsoft executive was quoted as saying that it will likely ship in 2009. The company did not comment Thursday when PC OEM Acer said it will begin selling PCs with Windows 7 on October 23, 2009.

Article courtesy of

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