Modern Software Experience





The Windows 7 Release Candidate is Windows build 7100. That is the same build that leaked some ten days ago. Microsoft is making this build available to everyone who wants it through its Customer Preview Program.

There is no need to rush. There is no cap on the number of downloads and the download will at least remain available through July, possibly longer.

32-bit and 64-bit

Like Windows XP and Vista, Windows 7 is available as both a 32-bit release and a 64-bit release. Both are available in just five languages; English, German, Japanese, Spanish and French.

Windows Vista is available in multiple editions. Windows 7 will also be available in multiple editions. The download is the full product, Windows 7 Ultimate Edition.

The Windows 7 Beta was available in Hindi and Arabic, the Windows 7 Release Candidate is not. Microsoft is offering French and Spanish instead.

Choose between 32-bit and 64-bit, pick a language, and click GO to go the actual download page. That page presents you with your personal product key. You can save that page to disk to immediately safe keep your product key. You can also visit it again to be presented with the same key again.

If you do not know whether to pick the 32-bit or 64-bit release, pick the 32-bit release. The 64-bit release requires a 64-bit processor, and the 32-bit release is the most compatible of the two.

If you want install both the 32-bit and 64-bit releases you need to download both. You will be presented with separate product keys for the 32-bit and 64-bit release.


Microsoft puts one barrier between you and the download; they demand that you have and login with your Windows Live ID, and then presents you with a brief questionnaire about your current operating system and your expertise level.

download manager

The download is performed through download manager. There are two different ones. For users of a web browser it is a Java applet, for users of Internet Explorer it is an ActiveX control.

When I started the download in Firefox using the Java applet, the browser windows kept resizing for no reason whatsoever.

If I understand the FAQ correctly, the Active X download manager will not work with Internet Explorer 6, but requires Internet Explorer 7 or 8.


The 32-bit download is an ISO file of some 2,4 GB. You need to burn this to a DVD.

Microsoft does not include an image burning program with the download, as most users already have one. I’ve included a link to the free ImgBurn program, which will not only burn the Windows 7 ISO to DVD, but also already works on Windows 7.

According to Microsoft, the minimum requirements for the Windows 7 RC are CPU that runs at 1 GHz or higher, has at least 1 GB of RAM and 16 GB of free disk space.

More realistic requirements are a 2 GHz CPU, 2 GB of RAM and an empty hard disk; you really don’t want to install a release candidate on a machine that contains any data you care about.

The graphics card must support DirectX 9 with WDDM 1.0 or higher.

Windows XP

None of the Windows 7 RC requirements is extraordinary, and you may have heard some talk that it should perform better than Windows XP, but do not assume you can install Windows 7 on any system currently running Windows XP. The official minimum requirements for Windows XP are 64 MB of RAM and 233 MHz processor, while the recommended minimum is 128 MB of RAM with a 300 MHz processor.


Some early announcements claimed that you would be given a free product key that last more than a year. That makes it sound a lot better than it really is.

First of all, you get a product key for the release candidate only, not the final release. If you like Windows 7 and want to keep using it, you will have to obtain a license for the release.

The release candidate is unsupported software, so if anything goes wrong, Microsoft will not even pretend to try and help you. With pre-release software, it is the other way round; you are helping the vendor; Windows 7 RC automatically reports crashes and bugs to Microsoft.

Secondly, you do not really get more than a year, but less than year. The free product key is for a Windows 7 RC license that expires on 2010 Jul 1, but the product will become practically unusable on 2010 Mar 1; from that day forward, the system will auto-shutdown every two hours.


According to the current FAQ, you cannot upgrade from the Windows 7 Beta to the Windows 7 RC, and will not be able to upgrade from Windows 7 RC to the final release either.

Windows 7 is the next Windows version after Windows Vista, so it is no surprise that the release candidate supports upgrading from Windows Vista.
In fact, Windows Vista has version number 6, and Windows 7 has version number 6.1, and Microsoft won’t protest much if you think of Windows 7 as Vista done right.

Although Microsoft is definitely hoping that Windows 7 will convince Windows XP users to upgrade, the current release candidate does not support upgrading from XP to Windows RC either.

early look

The main reason to install Windows 7, and install it on a spare machine, is to get an early look at its new features. The taskbar is a bit different, there are Jump Lists, and you can make all open desktop windows transparent by moving your mouse to the lower right corner of your screen.

Windows Search has improved. Windows 7 comes with Internet Explorer 8 instead of 7. Windows 7 features better device management and home networking has improved with the HomeGroup feature and a quick overview of all available networks.

XP Mode

The one Windows 7 feature everyone is talking about is its so-called XP Mode (XPM, previously known as Virtual Windows XP, Virtual XP or just VXP), a compatibility feature for running Windows XP applications. Microsoft plans to make it available for users of Windows 7 Professional, Windows 7 Ultimate, and Windows 7 Enterprise.

XP Mode is based on Virtual PC version 7, and that immediately explains how it works; XP Mode is a fully licensed copy of Windows XP Service Pack 3 running on Virtual PC. That is the basic idea, but XP Mode is more than just that. If you install Windows XP on Virtual PC, you get a separate environment. The XP Mode integrates with Windows 7, so that you do not get a separate desktop, but can in fact place shortcuts for XP Mode applications right on your Windows 7 desktop.

The Virtual PC beta is currently available as a free download, but you will need the Windows 7 Release Candidate to run it.

Windows 7 on Virtual PC

Running Windows 7 on Virtual PC 2007 Service Pack 1 is not officially supported, but if you google around, you’ll find several tutorials that explain how to do it anyway.