Windows

Get ready for Windows 7 RC with this FAQ

The release candidate version of Windows 7 has been released by Microsoft indicating that the full retail release is imminent. Greg Shultz presents a brief Windows 7 RC FAQ combined with some of his initial experiences.

While I have been working with Microsoft Windows 7 for quite some time now, I downloaded the Windows 7 Release Candidate on May 5, 2009, just to experience the procedure. While I was an early bird downloader (I actually began my download at 11:45 p.m. on May 4 and let the download progress as I slept), the download went off without a hitch, and from what I've heard so far, there hasn't been a repeat of the crash that took down the Windows 7 Beta download servers in January. The installation also went very smoothly, and this RC version of the operating system is amazingly responsive and very stable.

In this edition of the Windows Vista and Windows 7 Report, I'll present you with a brief Windows 7 RC FAQ combined with some of my initial experiences. In the coming weeks, I'll continue to focus on various aspects of the RC version of the operating system.

This blog post is also available in PDF format in a free TechRepublic download.

What are the hardware requirements?

Actually, the hardware requirements for Windows 7 RC are relatively mild. I suppose that's because Windows Vista has been out for over two years and we've all had time to get used to the idea of advanced hardware requirements from an operating system combined with the fact that hardware that was once deemed as a steep-and-expensive increase has become commonplace.

In any case, the minimum system requirements you'll need for Windows 7 include:

  • DVD burner/drive
  • 1 GHz or faster 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor
  • 1 GB RAM (32-bit) / 2 GB RAM (64-bit)
  • 16 GB available disk space (32-bit) / 20 GB (64-bit)
  • DirectX 9 graphics processor with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver

My test system, on which I installed the 32-bit version, has a DVD burner, AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+ processor, 1 GB RAM, an NVIDIA GeForce 6100 nForce 405 onboard video, and plenty of disk space. (For this particular test system, I installed an additional SATA hard disk, switched the cables, and installed Windows 7 RC on it. When I need to switch back to Vista, I just shut down and switch the cables. While it may sound like a crude mechanism, it is relatively quick to make the switch due to the SATA connectors, and I can reformat and reinstall at will without having to worry about dismantling my Vista test configuration.)

Can anyone get in on the release candidate program?

In days gone by, you had to be signed up/registered in the testing program in order to take part in release candidate testing, but not with Windows 7 RC. In fact, Microsoft is treating the RC like shareware. Anyone can download it for free and use it for a limited time before actually purchasing it. However, instead of a 30-, 60-, or 90-day trial, Microsoft is giving you 300 days. On March 1, 2010, the RC will start shutting down every two hours and will completely stop working on June 1, 2010.

To get your free copy, just go to the Windows 7 Release Candidate Download page and follow the instructions. The RC will be available for download at least through July 2009, and Microsoft is not limiting the number of product keys.

What's new in this version?

The short answer is plenty! If you've been following my blogs over the past few months, you already have an overview of many of the new features, such as a new Taskbar, Jump Lists, Aero Snap, Aero Peek, Problem Steps Recorder, file system Libraries, User Account Control Settings, and enhancements to Task Manager and Resource Monitor just to name a few. At this point, Windows 7 RC is said to be feature-complete, which means that everything that was planned is now in the operating system

One of the hottest new features being introduced as an add-on with the RC version is XP Mode, which will allow you to run older apps that work fine in XP but are incompatible with 7 in a virtual environment. XP Mode is based on Microsoft's Virtual PC and runs Windows XP SP3 in a virtual machine. Keep in mind that XP Mode is available only with Professional, Ultimate, and Enterprise editions and requires that your CPU support hardware virtualization.

Other new features being introduced with the RC include BitLocker To Go, which extends the BitLocker drive encryption feature to USB removable drives. Another new security feature aimed at removable drives is actually something that Microsoft removed from the operating system -- AutoRun. When you connect a removable drive, malware will no longer be able to piggyback off of AutoRun to launch its attack.

While not as crucial as some of the other features in the operating system, you'll now find a plethora of new multimedia-based features, new sound schemes, new themes, and new desktop wallpapers, including a picture shuffle that changes your wallpaper every 30 minutes. And there's much, much more...

Where can I learn more?

Of course, I'll be covering Windows 7 RC in more detail in upcoming blogs, so you learn more right here at TechRepublic. You should also frequent Microsoft's Windows 7 page and sign up for the Windows Vista and Windows 7 Report newsletter.

What's your take?

Have you downloaded and installed Windows 7 RC? If so, what is your impression? If you haven't done so yet, are you planning on downloading and installing Windows 7 RC? As always, if you have comments or information to share, please take a moment to drop by the TechRepublic Community Forums and let us hear from you.

TechRepublic's Windows Vista and Windows 7 Report newsletter, delivered every Friday, offers tips, news, and scuttlebutt on Vista and Windows 7, including a look at new features in the latest version of the Windows OS. Automatically sign up today!

About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

45 comments
zephs
zephs

The question I want answered, is how many computers will I be allowed to install Win7 on ? - or do I have to buy a copy for each machine i have.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Well, unless you buy some sort of site license, you will need a separate license for each PC just like you always do for any version of Windows. At least I have not heard any information to the contrary.

mary
mary

I don't usually comment on Windows since we all love to hate something about it, however I was simply amazed and had to share this with everyone. I decided to build a new home system last week. A current amd am3 quad core and wanted to use the 250GB drive I had in my old athlon 64 as the new boot drive. I had the Windows 7 orginal beta still on the drive. I installed the drive thinking I'd just format and load Windows since it couldn't possibly boot, could it. I booted the computer and walked away to grab some coffee, I came back and saw... Please wait while Windows installs your new hardware... It chewed on it quite some time, 15-20 min and loaded the desktop. Amazing. It didn't have the correct drivers for all the new hardware but that it was able to boot at all and load 90% of the new hardware was just great. I've been building and repairing computers for 20 years, rarely am I impressed especially by Microsoft. Amazing. I may give up XP Pro for Windows 7.

rwhiteford
rwhiteford

I am runing 3 computers at home, 1 on xp pro, 1 on vista ultimate, and 1 on windows 7 rc 1. The thing i don't like about vista and win 7 is the way i have to copy or move the files i want to access on the other compters to the public folders. when i ran xp on all three i could share the whole computer with one setting , no problems. but vista and 7 are a pain when it come to sharing on my home network. Also on xp pro i always had a seperate hard drive just for my documents that was set as the default place where my files were stored automaticly. I have read that i should not try to change the location of my documents,in vista or libraries in win 7.

SundayBiker
SundayBiker

Right click on the (My) Documents or (My) Pictures or the others in Vista or 7 and click on the Location tab and paste the location you want it to have. I have all my default folders moved on my Home Server, but they look local on the PC.

serbach
serbach

For what it's worth, I installed Windows 7 as a VM using Microsoft Virtual PC 2007 SP1 (64 bit). I run Windows XP x64 on my host system and the 8GB of installed RAM let me set aside a decent amount of resources for the VM. It sure beats the heck out of installing it on a "spare" PC. For what it's worth, I ran the PCPitstop Bandwidth Speed Test on the host system as well as on the Windows 7 virtual machine. The top download speed on the virtual machine (29000+ kbps) beats the top download speed on the host(24000+ kbps), for whatever reason. I'm running IE 8 on the virtual and IE 7 on the host. I skipped Vista entirely, so I can't tell if the new interface features in Windows 7 are old hat to Vista users. I like it very much. Steve Erbach Neenah, WI

dmessman
dmessman

When I see all this positive press for Windows 7, I wonder if the people saying positive things have ever used Vista. I would say Vista and Windows 7 are 98% the same. I think Windows 7 is a little snappier on the same hardware, but the changes are superficial and minor thus far in my opinion. Obviously, Microsoft gains plenty by putting out a new product without the Vista name as the Vista name has become poison, even though it's not that bad at all. I'll probably implement Windows 7 when it comes out - a lot of my clients were tentative about Vista.

stevelp
stevelp

Well i listend to all the hype and got hold of windows 7 RC and loaded it onto a fresh HDD and installed it with no problems at all so far so good. ok Ill look at the settings, All done ill just load my favorite game - Doh, first game i loaded refused to work, i tried every thing trying under compatibility modes and as a adminstrator, no joy So a game desighned to work under XP wont work under windows 7, Im glad i found out on the first game . So ill have to wait to see if Micosop can get their shit together again.

SundayBiker
SundayBiker

It is Vista with minor tweaks, but way faster. You have to do the installation with "Recomended settings" and make sure that you are connected online. It found all my drivers, including the SB Live old sound card that I could barely find it miself after digging and never needed it. The same for my Logitech media keyboard and printer, I didn't have to install anything and all the buttons functions worked just fine. After a while you get used to pin to the taskbar and and don't miss the Quick launch. But the Desktop button is in a wired place to the right of the clock. I had Vista for 3 years now so I'm used to the "new" Win 7, my old PC works faster now.

PaleRider1861
PaleRider1861

I've used Vista Ultimate 64 with 2GB RAM and was not particularly impressed...after reformatting same computer, installing Windows 7 (first beta, then now RC), I am mightily impressed with how much faster Win 7 is in every regard --- booting up, shutting down, and everything in between. Whatever MS did to fix the sluggish Vista, hooray!

kgunnIT
kgunnIT

To be honest, after Vista, I have been skeptical of any new Windows version. When I heard Win7 was built on same foundation as Vista, I was even more skeptical. However, I am impressed thus far with Windows 7. I downloaded the RC, and since I don't have a spare computer/hard drive at the moment, I also downloaded VirtualPC 2007. I installed Windows 7 as a virtual machine with 400 MB of RAM and it works great. Faster than Vista so far. I am trying to round up a spare drive somewhere to do more testing, but what I see so far I like. Microsoft may have redeemed themselves.

bus66vw
bus66vw

How good is this XP mode?

mudpuppy1
mudpuppy1

I installed it on an HP dc5100 with 2.5 GB of RAM. I used the XP drivers for my two HP printers and they both worked. I didn't use "XP mode" or any other compatibility feature. It also recognized my 6 year old HP scanner. It didn't find the sound so I used the Vista drivers and that is working as well. Again, no compatibility anything. I just installed them. It also took the Vista version of Symantec Antivirus (what we use at work). Overall, I find it to be a decent OS. Better than Vista (which I loathe). I still don't care for what they've done with the interface but it doesn't seem as clunky as Vista's.

j.c.garrott
j.c.garrott

I attached a spare 40GB (IDE) drive in place of my usual 120GB (XPPro) boot drive and installed the 64 bit version. Right off the bat, I discovered that it didn't recognize my 400GB SATA drive, though it did recognize my 80GB SATA drive. A little thought made me realize I needed to install the motherboard utilities, but then I hit another snag. ASUS, the maker of my M3A78-VM motherboard, publishes a driver for 64 bit VISTA, but it refused to recognize Win7 build 7100. On the plus side, I found that it was quite simple to add Japanese IME as an input option (I live in Japan), even though I have the US English license, and that's the way I installed it. Another negative is that I can't figure how to make it join my work group on the network; it keeps insisting that I make the other computers join "Homegroup," and it also says those computers need to be running Windows 7! I find that I can read files on the other computers without problems, but I can't make the Windows 7 system visible to the other computers.

reisen55
reisen55

Generally it was a fine product with only one or two inconsistancies. I loaded it onto an 80gb SATA drive and keep a 1 terabyte SATA drive attached as two separate drives in my system. I first made a doomsday GHOST image of Windows XP Pro and saved that. I tried the upgrade and became very unhappy with that end of it as it showed me NOTHING as to what it was specifically bringing over. Big problem there. So, after a happy experience, I took the 80 out, set it aside and put a clean 160 gb SATA in to restore Windows XP Pro. Nope. Went into endless loading personal settings and screen blinking, safe mode, etc = nothing worked at all. Using BART PE boot, Partition Magic showed me that one of two partitions on the 1 terabyte drive WAS GONE. WIPED. Damage would be severe if I did not maintain a full redundancy system on my home network, but Windows 7 touched that secondary drive in profound ways. WARNING - IF you are using dual drives, be afraid, be very afraid.

dwdino
dwdino

I have a Dell M90 with a split drive running Win7/Suse with an external drive for my VMs. I had beta 7000 installed and wanted to upgrade to RC 7100. Backed up my data and performed a clean install on the primary partition. Granted, it wiped the grub boot loader, but it only touched what I told it to. No changes to second partition or USB drives. Also, you NEVER upgrade a Windows system...

v_2saurp
v_2saurp

Windows 7 is absolutely amazing to say the least... If this is where Microsoft is headed well lets say that they are bang on target with what consumers want! I have been using 7 since the past 3 months and lemme tell you that this has been an absolute experience...

PaleRider1861
PaleRider1861

As good as XP is, Windows 7 is even better. After using various builds of the beta for months, and now the RC version, I am ready to allow the crown to be passed. Windows 7 is the new King. Long live the King!

pieter.vanderveen
pieter.vanderveen

I am so impressed with this system I definitely want to purchase it when the final product is released.

amj2010
amj2010

we have played with it and came to the conclusion that I like Vista U64 better...sorry boys.

rob_annable
rob_annable

Hi there, can you be a little more specific why you wont be going to Win7? What aspects of it did you dislike?

denzcam
denzcam

I have only spent 10 hours evaluating RC 1700 and not the latest offering but already I am awaiting the official release of Windows 7. It is the culmination of user feedback that seems to have driven Microsoft to address many shortcomings in previous OS's. My congratulations to the developers for listening instead of feeding their ego with their own intellectual content.

edg808
edg808

I am running Win 7 on AMD Sempron 2800 (1.6Gz) with 1Gz of Ram and it is running great.No Drivers for my HP 4280, but used the built-in Compatibility program and it now works perfectly. Only negatives: Not upgradable from Win XP.

miranda6
miranda6

I was really excited about this but am really frustrated right now. I've tried countless times to download it and the download gets to 99% and then stops every time. I've tried EVERYTHING, so I'm giving up. No Windows 7RC for me.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

RLSLLOG, SCENERELEASE etc. have had every version cracked so far, but this build in its full version is available for download through som epretty fast sites.

waldenasta
waldenasta

I downloaded it the night it came out. I had Vista Ultimate before and liked it very much but Windows 7 in my opinion is the finest OS Redmond has put out so far. Everything just works and is very fast. I have the x64 and have been playing Crysis Warhead (DX10) and it's just great. No complaints whatsoever. Can't wait for the RTM.

rublejim2
rublejim2

I downloaded it the other night and after a 4 hour + time span and running my download threshold up to 95%. The next day when I went to run it I got a corrupt file error. That was on a computer with XP Pro SP3. After my threshold % goes down some I am going to try it on my laptop running Vista Home Premium.

OldER Mycroft
OldER Mycroft

I've been running it for a day and a half and it's so slick compared to Vista that I'm not complaining. It also appears to be more intuitive, impressing me with error control and resolution capabilities. With the eye candy reduced somewhat, it's by far, the fastest system I've been running of late. My Core2Duo E8500, 2GB RAM, Nvidia 8800GT 512MB through a 22" monitor is running nicely with Windows 7. Nicer than it ever ran with Vista. I never thought I'd let go of XP Pro, but this is a step forward that certainly doesn't hurt.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Have you downloaded and installed Windows 7 RC? If so, what is your impression? If you haven?t done so yet, are you planning on downloading and installing Windows 7 RC?

mary
mary

I have indeed downloaded and installed the Windows 7 RC just last week. I installed it on a system below specs and it runs very well. I haven't had time since to check out program compatibility but I hope to get to that this weekend. Computer Specs Toshiba A105 Satellite 1.6 Celeron M Dual Core 1 GB System Ram 128 shared with ATI XPress 200 80 GB Hard Drive Realtek HD onboard Audio The installation went smoothly however, the operating system missed half the hardware installed. I had to hunt down all the vista drivers to get the hardware working. Among the hardware not found was the Video card, the Realtek Audio and the Realtek LAN. My initial summation, Better driver support for standard hardware. All of this hardware is standard on many laptops and desktops. But over all I was impressed with the ease of installtion, of both the operating system and Vista drivers. As far as the new features, I am a power user and own and run a computer shop. This OS has many bells and whistles that I found cumbersome. For every day use I'd still use XP Pro.

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

really using the system. I tried looking for startup folders with the search -- cause I couldnt find them manually. Yeah, that worked well, type in startup and hit enter, it opens the profile page to change your icon :^0 Ok, after several attempts (and not hitting enter -- but instead clicking on 'more options') it still could not find anything useful. So I go into search options and make some changes. 6 minutes later it is still searching the HDD for 'startup' with the Folders option. Ok, so I try another search (getting tired of the fuss) "f**king Startup Folders Dammit" (without the asterisks). Yes, that worked well. I hit enter (forgetting that I should have clicked on more search options) and viola -- the system shut down ?:| Did MS put in a cuss word shutdown option ?:| :^0

Amnezia
Amnezia

After installing with no fuss and bother on a P4 2.8ghz with one 40gb ide drive and 2gb ram, 256mhz Geoforce FX5200 video card I was impressed. W7 discovered my antiquated LPT1 HP LJ 1100 and automatically installed drivers, as it did with a Canon iP5000. So far my scanner doesn't have drivers (even for Vista), but that's not a big deal. The only problem I have so far is Firefox and IE8 keep freezing/locking after a few minutes of usage. Reboot and everything's fine for about 30 mins, then it does it again. But I can live with that. Only used it for two days, so haven't done much under the hood exploration. But it looks good. Better than XP so far? No, just different. But time will tell.

nance459
nance459

The good-- 1) Nice to have the wireless set up during install! 2) I didn?t have to waste my time loading all the Dell Drivers, most were installed with setup. 3) It handles the Nvdia Quadro NVS140 card with 256 MB memory much better than Vista ultimate. I don?t see the message under the ?Windows experience Index? that I should disable Aero and reduce my display setting to make my system more stable. (I would understand if it wasn?t rated above 3.5 and I was doing video intensive processes). 4) System Stability?if history from the Beta continues to the RC I anticipate that I will see the stability in the 9-10 range. With Vista Ultimate it would rapidly drop and stay in the 3-5 range. I would constantly have abnormal shutdown and messages under windows performance that desktop performance that the system was having a variety of issues and IE would constantly hang up and restart). 5 ) I love having the biometrics handled by windows and being able use it to log in and under UAC to scan my print rather than typing admin password!!!! 6) The task bar is great and I love being able to use Aero Peek to easily view open applications etc. The bad? 1) I too miss the Network Activity Animation and quickstart. 2) I wish that the ?classic view? was still labeled a such in control panel, but finally found the dropdown to find it ?all control panel items?, but it took a while ?it was just easier to find in Vista. 3) I have to run my Streets and maps under admin acct or I get an error message about it not being set up correctly and if I use properties and check to run as administrator it won?t work under either account. 4) I miss my smart card as the software won?t setup correctly even if I try to set it up in compatibly mode.

mudpuppy1
mudpuppy1

It's gone. What are they thinking? It's a small item, but one of the most useful. Should have guessed since you had to actually turn it on in Vista. They should be publicly flogged.

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

after a couple of days of use, some things it does very well, it is much faster, even than my XP system. I like a few of the new features. However, there are drawbacks as well. Some of the features are annoying. Most areas do not have a 'classic view' or easy way to get back navigation features that have becom e known and liked over many years. Overall, I am still playing on it, and plan to (next week) put it as my secondary ssytem for a little while to see how well I can work on it. Unlike Vista though, I am not going to say that I will never use it at home, however, at this time it is very unlikely.

JoshtheGeek
JoshtheGeek

I had some reservations with the beta released, but they've all been addressed in the RC. For the record I'm running the 64-bit version on a 3.4GHz Pentium D with 3.0GB RAM. On the whole, this is the first Windows release I am happy with since Windows 98 Second Edition. However, some features take a little getting used to. At the moment, I miss the quick launch toolbar. Pinning items to the task bar is fine, but the application pinned opens where its icon sits on the task bar. That means you could have several icons between two running programs on the taskbar. You also cannot "push" the pinned icons close together. As a result, they consume significantly more space on the taskbar than the quick launch toolbar did. I find these factors annoying. They disturb my sense of order. And I suspect the end users I support will feel the same. At least until we get used to it. From an I.T. support perspective, the new locations of users' desktop and start menu folders is a nightmare. I haven't located an 'All Users' folder, just the 'Default' user's folder. This makes it complicated to set up a standard desktop and start menu for multiple users sharing one computer. The new Start Menu path, for example, is: "C:\Users\\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu" Does it have to be this difficult? Couldn't it be simply "C:\Users\\Start Menu"? Another annoyance is the default desktop icon size. Instead of the 32x32 we're all familiar and comfortable with, the default size is 48x48. This not only gives the impression that the system is in vision impaired "Accessibility Mode" by default, but it also pixelates existing program icons that were designed as 32x32 causing them to look like, well, like crap. You might as well make the default color scheme High Contrast and make the system truly configured for the vision impaired by default. I could at least understand and appreciate that. To be in Accessibility Mode by default means that users with sight or hearing impairments wouldn't need assistance with making the system usable for them. Those people lucky enough to have good eyesight or hearing could easily make the changes to take the system out of Accessibility Mode. That makes sense. I would applaud that. But just making the default icons larger accomplishes nothing. The 64-bit version of IE 8 hangs a lot and is slow to load. I frequently find myself going back to using the 32-bit version. That may be a non-issue as I am a devoted Firefox user and Firefox is 32-bit. There's really nothing on the web, yet, that requires or takes advantage of the capabilities of a 64-bit browser anyway. That said, if those are the only problems I find, I am a very happy I.T. guy.

Aedon
Aedon

The talk about this OS being unacceptable on netbooks is inacurate. It preforms acceptably on a dual core 3.4 Ghz P4 with 512 mb of ram and an ATI Radeon 7500 graphics card. In fact, it is nearly as responsive as XP.

bboyd
bboyd

Up and running better than Vista by a good margin. 1.6ghz, 1gig ram set up very easy and AVG and firefox went on with little issue. time to set up some software and see if its good to go. Is the services tab in Task manager new? running cool with 1/2 memory usage compared to saturated with vista. maybe i'll test Mint Linux when it runs out :)

brent.russell
brent.russell

I clean skin loaded it onto an old Sony Vaio, 1.73 Ghz and only 512 meg in 32 bit version. I have avoided Vista having attempted it a while ago and even when I replaced my home PC chose XP over Vista so I can't compare it with Vista objectively. Nonetheless I think it will be a good upgrade after XP. Install took a while understandably but no hiccups. It did web updates which sorted out the screen driver resolution and I like the look of it. Still yet to find all the XP equivalents for some tasks. Currently tesing some older legacy software and only one failure so far. Yes, it is a bit unfamiliar and a bit slow on my poor little Vaio although no slower than XP was. Stabilty and compatibilty are the two big issues for any new OS/Environment and this one looks like it is heading in the right direction so far. Will I upgrade ? At home? probably but not yet. At work ? not my decsion really but I see us skipping Vista when the time comes to get serious.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

And while it has become a much more stable and usable platform now, it is also a lot slower and blotaed that the earlier releases.

Gh05t
Gh05t

I downloaded and installed the Windows 7 RC (64-bit). It's not as snappy as I thought it was in the Beta (though that may be the switch from 32- to 64-bit). All of the media functionalities work a treat and I love the AeroSnap functionality. Idle RAM usage appears a bit high (1.05GB) though again I think that's to do with it being 64-bit. All my software works as it normally does. Overall, very good. It's now my everyday OS (just made the switch from a copy of Vista that I was happy with).