Microsoft is making the public beta of its new operating system Windows 7 available today. Read on to find out how you can get it.
That's it? Nothing else?
Last thing, we swear. The Windows 7 beta is actually an upgrade, not a full new install. You need to have a machine running Windows Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1) to install the beta. So if you're still running Windows XP - which a lot of people are, what with Vista's problems, real or imagined - you're up a creek sans the proverbial paddle.
Is Microsoft limiting the beta?
Yes it is. The company said it will close out the beta after 2.5 million downloads.
So if I'm late to the party, I'm out of luck? Not really. The 2.5 million number is how many activation keys Microsoft will hand out to beta testers, not the number of actual downloads. (Yes, Windows 7 retains product activation.)
Microsoft won't pull the download after the 2.5 million, it will just stop handing out keys.
Minus a key, you can still download and install the beta, then run it for 30 days before it quits on you. And by using the same 'slmgr -rearm' command that gained notoriety after Windows Vista's debut, you can extend that trial period to 120 days.
Several blogs have posted instructions on how to use this legal method to extend the lifespan of Windows 7 previews, including My Digital Life.
What edition of Windows 7 is the beta?
Microsoft said the beta is "roughly equivalent" to Vista Ultimate, which is a strong hint that the preview is actually Windows 7 Ultimate.
Microsoft's being cagey here because it refuses to say how many different editions of Windows 7 it will eventually sell, what they contain and how much they'll cost. Some have speculated, however, that unlike Windows Vista, which comes in five flavors - Home Basic, Home Premium, Business, Enterprise and Ultimate - Windows 7 will be sold in four versions: Home Premium, Professional, Enterprise and Ultimate.
NEXT PAGE: Potential bugs in Windows 7