Welcome to Windows 7 Release Candidate (RC) testing.  Go download Windows 7 RC today!

We’re on our way to Windows 7, and the RC is a great opportunity for IT professionals like you to take Windows 7 and begin testing it in your real environment. You get to see what’s coming, and we get to see if our changes and fixes from the Beta testing are working correctly. We want to encourage you to install and actively test the RC code. This will help us ensure Windows 7 is the best possible release, and help you get ready for Windows 7 deployment.

Here’s what you need to know:

This is pre-release software, so please read the following to get an idea of the risks and key things you need to know before you try the RC.

  • You don’t need to rush to get Windows 7 RC. The RC release will be available at least through June 2009 and we’re not limiting the number of product keys, so you have plenty of time.
  • Watch the calendar. The RC will expire on June 1, 2010. 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. (Learn more about installing Windows).
  • Protect your PC and data. Be sure to back up your data and please don’t test Windows 7 RC on your primary home or business PC.
  • Technical details/updates: Before installing the RC please read the Release Notes, and Things to Know for important information about the release.
  • Keep up with the news. You can keep up with general technical information and news by following the Springboard Series blog or Windows team blog. Want technical guidance, tips, and tools? Visit the Springboard Series on TechNet.
  • Keep your PC updated: Be sure turn on automatic updates in Windows Update in case we publish updates for the RC.
  • Microsoft Partners: Learn more about Windows 7 on the Microsoft Partner Portal.

Want to know what has changed between Beta1 and RC?  Watch the What’s New In The RC screencast.  Windows 7 RC offers many improvements over the beta release, including:

  • DirectAccess User Experience — Corporate Connectivity Notification has been removed to simplify the user experience; only Internet Access is displayed.
  • User Account Control (UAC) — In the beta release, a user could change the notification level in the UAC control panel without receiving a prompt for administrative credentials. The UAC control panel now runs in a high integrity process; changing the level of the UAC will prompt for confirmation. When a user is logged on with a standard user account, that user must provide administrative credentials to change the default UAC notification level.
  • AppLocker — The AppLocker UI includes a new Group Policy administrative template, which can be configured by an administrator to display a customised URL when AppLocker blocks an application from starting. The message can be used to reduce help desk calls by directing users to a helpdesk intranet site.
  • System Partition Size — The Windows 7 partition drive size (required for Bit Locker and Windows Recovery Environment) has been reduced from 200MB to 100MB.
  • Network Troubleshooting — Support for diagnostics is greatly enhanced, including a new Windows Troubleshooting Pack for DirectAccess within Control Panel. If a resource is not reachable (for example, a Web site fails to load), use 'Diagnose Connection' in Internet Explorer or 'Troubleshoot problems' diagnostic entry points to help determine the cause of the issue.

To learn more about Windows 7 from an IT professional perspective, check out our screencasts as well as our resources on Deployment, Application Compatibility, Security, Imaging, and more—all of which are available through the Springboard Series on TechNet.