What you need to know about Windows 7 RC (Feature)
By Jay Dougherty Jun 5, 2009, 2:08 GMT
Washington - Millions around the world have downloaded the free release candidate (RC) of Windows 7, Microsoft's planned successor to Windows Vista.
So many downloads of Windows 7 RC have been processed, in fact, that the yet-to-be-officially-released operating system already accounts for almost 1 per cent of the current operating system market, by some estimates.
That's no doubt music to the ears of the programmers in Redmond who are putting the finishing touches on Windows 7, but for legions of early adopters, it could also mean trouble.
While Windows 7 RC is free, it's still a pre-release version of the operating system, so it's important to understand the limitations of the software if you're planning to use it on a regular basis.
Don't expect to be able to install Windows 7 RC on top of your existing operating system, even if that operating system is an earlier beta version of Windows 7. The RC version requires a fresh installation, which means wiping out and then reinstalling all of your applications, settings, and data.
Likewise, if you adopt Windows 7 RC and like it so much that you decide to move to the final release of Windows 7 when it's available, you'll need to do another clean installation of the release version. You will not be able to 'upgrade' the RC version with the final version.
Windows 7's built-in Windows Easy Transfer utility should make the process of backing up and restoring your data and settings fairly simple, however. Easy Transfer will create a backup of your user accounts, documents, music, pictures, e-mail, Internet favourites, and videos. You can save the backup file to an external drive. Then, once your release version of Windows 7 is installed, you can use the same Easy Transfer utility to restore the data.
--- The timer is ticking
The RC version of Window 7 will 'expire' on June 1, 2010. After that date, you will not be able to continue using your Windows 7 RC computer until you upgrade to the retail version - or install another operating system on it.
Even before expiration, however, Windows 7 will start reminding you that expiration is nearing. The reminder comes in the form of bi- hourly system shutdowns, which will start on March 1, 2010. Effectively, then, Windows 7 RC will expire on March 1, 2010 - unless you want to endure the agony of a forced, bi-hourly shutdown of your Windows 7 PC.
What this means is probably fairly obvious: you'll really need to get yourself a copy of the final release of Windows 7 if you intend to continue using the operating system without (too much) interruption after March 1 of next year.
Most of your Windows-based software will be compatible with Windows 7, since one of Microsoft's main goals with the new operating system was to cure the compatibility problems that plagued Windows Vista.
Still, Windows 7 is a new operating system, and some applications will simply not work with it. Among them is Microsoft's own Live OneCare antivirus product, which is being phased out in favour of a new antivirus solution yet to be released. McAfee Virus Scan and Trend Micro Internet Security 2009 are also not compatible. Other antivirus programs will likely need to be upgraded to ensure Windows 7 compatibility.
Microsoft has released a Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor (http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windows-7/upgrade-advisor.aspx), an application that's free to download. Install it on the computer on which you intend to load Windows 7, and the program will tell you which hardware and software on your machine might have compatibility issues with the new operating system.
A new feature in Windows 7 RC is designed to end compatibility issues once and for all. It's called Windows XP Mode, and it essentially allows Windows 7 users to run any application that would otherwise run fine on Windows XP.
XP Mode creates a virtual machine inside of Windows 7 - to the applications running in XP Mode, the operating system looks just like Windows XP. XP Mode will ship standard with the final release of Windows 7, and it's available now as a free download (http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=0e8fa9b3- c2 36-4b77-be26-173f032f5159&displaylang=en).
The good news is that you shouldn't run into too many issues with device drivers in Windows 7. The operating system, in fact, installs on many recent-vintage computers without requiring a single driver disk from you.
If Windows 7 fails to load a driver for a device connected to your PC, chances are good that you can use the Windows Vista driver without problem. If you run into problems using the setup program for the driver, try running the setup file in compatibility mode by copying it to a local drive, right-clicking it, selecting Properties from the pop-up menu, and then clicking the Compatibility tab.
Select the operating system for which the driver was written, and try re-running the driver installation utility. Just remember to create a full system backup before trying to install any troublesome driver. Most people are running Windows 7 without issue, but a bit of planning and knowledge in advance of trying it out can potentially save you from frustration and lost time down the road.