Windows 7 release candidate: what’s new?

Earlier today, the Windows 7 release candidate (RC) was released and almost as soon as the download link was available to TechNet and MSDN subscribers, the site went into meltdown… something tells me that this unanticipated demand is not simply bad planning, but another opportunity to say how Windows 7 is generating unprecedented interest… or maybe I’m just a cynic!

Meanwhile, the RC is also available to beta testers on Microsoft Connect (with the Windows Virtual PC bits too – more details on them coming soon but, for now, take a look at the new Virtual PC website). I have the images sitting in the Microsoft File Transfer Download Manager, but nothing is moving right now (and I’m in Microsoft’s Offices in Reading today where there ought to be a decent connection!)

My advice would be to sit tight for a day or so and wait for the initial demand to subside as, unlike the beta, there is no limit to the total number of downloads for the RC. There are a few more things that might be useful to know:

  • There is one release candidate release, with all the capabilities of the Windows 7 Ultimate SKU, available in both 32- and 64-bit editions.
  • New product IDs are required in order to run the Windows 7 RC.
  • The Windows 7 RC will expire on 1 March 2010 after which the system will reboot every two hours. The license will expire on 1 June 2010.
  • By default, beta (build 7000) systems cannot be upgraded to the release candidate. There is a workaround but it’s not recommended. Microsoft’s advice is to either upgrade from a Windows Vista image, or to perform a custom (clean) installation. Users who wish to upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7 on the same computer will need to perform a custom (clean) installation. The Windows Easy Transfer Wizard can be used to identify, backup and transfer files and settings (more details can be found in the Windows Client Tech Center).
  • The Windows 7 Feedback Tool is a pre-release only tool and is not exposed in the release candidate; however bugs can be submitted by using the following command: rundll32.exe FeedbackTool.dll,ShowWizard. At this time, Microsoft is only looking for bug reports on the following subjects: issues that prevent installation or upgrade; issues that involve corruption or data loss; security issues; regressions from beta (things worked in beta but do not work now); any application or device issues that would prevent the use of Windows 7 as a primary operating system; reproducible crashes or hangs (issues that cannot be reproduced will be captured by the CEIP telemetry).

I’ve already posted details of the new features in the Windows Server 2008 R2 RC, so what’s new in Windows 7? The press release has full details but, cutting through the marketing, this is what’s new in the RC:

  • Remote Media Streaming. Enables highly secure, remote Internet access to home-based digital media libraries from another Windows 7-based PC outside the home.
  • Windows XP Mode (beta – actually not in the RC package, but available separately). Windows XP Mode uses Windows Virtual PC to allow Windows 7 users to run many Windows XP applications but launch them from the Windows 7 desktop.
  • Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor (again, a separate download that’s “available soon”). This is intended to help enable a smooth transition by analysing PCs in preparation for a Windows 7 upgrade.

There were also enhancements made to existing features from the beta, based on customer feedback including:

  • Refined navigation. Several enhancements to the Windows taskbar, JumpLists and search to improve navigating the operating system and finding information.
  • Internet Explorer 8. InPrivate browsing in Internet Explorer 8 prevents browsing history, temporary Internet files, form data, cookies, and usernames and passwords from being retained by the browser. With Windows 7, InPrivate sessions and new tabs can be started from the JumpList.
  • Windows Touch. Controlling the computer by touching a touch-enabled screen or monitor is a core Windows 7 user experience. Improvements in the RC include several Windows Touch updates, including the ability to drag, drop and select items with touch, even inside Web sites that scroll both horizontally and vertically.

So, that’s a quick summary of what’s new in the RC… if you’re lucky then you’ll be able to get a copy in time for the weekend.

[Update 16:20: I restarted the download manager and the bits have started to flow… still no access to the TechNet subscriber downloads though.]

[Update 17:55: everything’s slowed down now… I guess TechNet must be back up and there are a lot of people competing for that bandwidth! I’m off home now and I’ll finish the download there.]

[Update 3 May 2009: the download links have been announced for 5 May – for developers, IT Professionals/Microsoft partners and technology enthusiasts/consumers – and Microsoft has said that “It will be available at least through June 30, 2009, with no limits on the number of downloads or product keys available”.]

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