Windows 7 entering the final stretch

Microsoft is warning Windows 7 beta testers that the Release Candidate, due in weeks, requires a clean install. But there might be a workaround

There's no official launch date for Microsoft's highly touted, next-generation operating system. But all signs say the finish line is in sight for Windows 7. Best guess is the third quarter of this year.

The latest sign that the end is near is a post on Microsoft’s Engineering Windows 7 blog that outlines what existing Windows 7 beta testers will have to do in order to be able upgrade to the release candidate. Two words: Clean install. But there is a workaround.

Windows 7 build 7077 screenshots leaked
Andrew Nusca: Screenshots of Windows 7 build 7077 have started to appear around the Web, with reports that the 32-bit version has been fully leaked and is downloadable from several websites.
o Gallery: Windows 7 build 7077 screenshots

Microsoft to let Win 7 users downgrade to XP
Mary Jo Foley: Microsoft and its PC partners are going to allow Windows 7 users to downgrade not just to Windows Vista, but also to Windows XP, Microsoft officials are confirming. A Microsoft spokesman answers my questions.

Poll: IT pros love Windows 7
Andrew Nusca: Beta testers of Microsoft’s Windows 7 operating system are four times as likely to be happy with the new OS than early users of Windows Vista, according to a recent poll of corporate IT pros.

There's nothing new about Windows downgrade rights
Ed Bott: I’ve been laughing out loud for days now as I read the astonishing number of comments and reactions to the revelation that Microsoft is going to allow some customers who buy Windows 7 on a new PC to exercise “downgrade rights.”

Microsoft accidentally confirms Windows 7 RC coming in May
Mary Jo Foley: Microsoft posted prematurely a download page for the Windows 7 Release Candidate and - gasp! - one with a date of May 2009 attached to it. I’m still betting the Softies are going to RTM in Q3 of this year, whether the RC is slightly later than expected or not.

Gartner: Businesses don't need to wait for Windows 7 SP1
Mary Jo Foley: Windows 7 hasn’t even hit the Release Candidate test phase, but already analysts at Gartner are advising business users they shouldn’t plan to wait for SP1 to arrive before planning deployments.

Windows 7 build 7057 - Performance that blasts past XP, Vista and previous builds
Adrian Kingsley-Hughes: While this isn’t the release candidate (RC) build that some people claim it is, this build is certainly pretty close to being RC.

o Windows 7 editions at a glance

A sneak peek at the Windows 7 Release Candidate
Ed Bott: What you see in build 7048 is not experimental; given the development process for Windows 7, it is a near-certainty that the changes you see here will make it into the final product.

* Gallery: 21 changes to look for in the Windows 7 Release Candidate

Microsoft gambles that "Starter" edition dissatisfaction will boost revenues
Adrian Kingsley-Hughes: Microsoft is now gambling that making a cut-down, crippled ”Starter” edition Windows 7 for low-cost systems, combined with an easy (but paid for) “Anytime Upgrade” will help boost flagging revenues.

Windows 7: A better Vista?
Special Report: Check out our previous coverage of the development of Microsoft’s next generation operating system.