Microsoft has released what it expects to be the final release of Windows Vista before the OS (operating system) is sent to manufacturing for distribution.

Windows Vista RC2 (Release Candidate 2), which is build number 5744, is being made available to 100,000 CPP (Customer Preview Program) participants, as well as to subscribers and members of TechBeta, TechNet, TAP and MSDN.

The company said the newest build includes bug fixes, performance improvements, better application compatibility and 'fit and finish' work – tweaks to the look and feel of the OS.

Microsoft also said it's on target for making Windows Vista available to volume licensing customers in November and to consumers in January 2007. However, it added: "The final delivery will be based on quality." In other words, if it finds serious issues with the OS, it will delay its planned launch. The company does not expect that to happen, however.

The company will continue to support RC1 through the official Windows Vista launch, and adds that RC1 can be used as the basis for logo certification.