Now with Windows 7 Release Candidate coming available, developers are asking me about the upgrade path. Questions like, "Will I be able to upgrade directly from XP?" and "When will the Beta expire."

The Microsoft Windows 7 Release Candidate (RC) is available for download to managed Beta program participants, including MSDN and TechNet subscribers. If you are not among those who participated in one of the managed Beta programs, you can get the RC Tuesday, May 5, when it will be available through the Customer Preview Program.

For links to download the RC, see Windows 7 on the Microsoft Partner Program site.

Why upgrade to Windows 7 RC?

  • Several new features, including XP VPC, are available in the RC build of Windows 7. Also, you will experience continued improvements in overall system performance and polish.
  • If you are using Windows 7 Beta, migrating to Windows 7 RC will avoid the July 7, 2009, beta expiration date. Failure to migrate before the beta expiration date will cause frequent system reboot prompts.
  • There will be no limits on the number of keys provided or the number of Windows 7 RC downloads supported, and we anticipate that RC downloads will be available at least through June 2009. 

For a list of key features for developers and steps to test your application for compatibility, see Windows 7 Reaches Release Candidate Milestone. For a list of key scenarios for ISVs and what features you can implement, see Top 10 Scenarios; ISVs Add Customer Value with Windows 7 Features.

What is the recommended path to migrate to Windows 7 RC?

The recommended path to migrate to Windows 7 RC depends on what operating system you are currently running:

Current OS

Recommended Path to Windows 7  RC

Windows XP

If your hardware meets the minimum recommendations for Windows 7, we recommend you do a clean install of Windows 7 RC when available.  The recommended minimum hardware for Windows 7 Beta can be found at at  Windows 7 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) (Hardware recommendations will be roughly the same for RC.)

Windows Vista

We recommend you upgrade to Windows 7 RC.

Windows 7 Beta

We strongly recommend you do a clean install of Windows 7 RC when available. You do not need to first reinstall Windows Vista and then upgrade to Windows 7 RC.   

In all of these scenarios, the Windows Easy Transfer tool can be used to make it easier to restore files and settings after a clean install.

When will the final version of Windows 7 be available?

The final engineering milestone is the release to manufacturing (RTM), typically 3-5 months after the RC.  We believe the product is high quality and to date have received very positive feedback.  This might result in RTM delivery before the 3-5 months timeframe.  Ultimately, you'll decide the quality and assess the delivery once you download and use the RC.  Customer and partner feedback will determine how quickly we release.

How will Microsoft collect and use feedback from Windows 7 RC?

With this release, we are focused on verifying that all the changes and fixes we made based on the beta tests and feedback are working correctly. We do that by gathering the automatically generated information (called telemetry) that your PC sends us when you use Windows 7 RC. Telemetry tells us when your computer hangs, crashes, or has performance issues, and what applications or devices you were using when you experienced problems. It is important that we gather this data from thousands of different hardware configurations to confirm that the fixes we included based on beta feedback work on a wide range of hardware. It will also help us identify any new problems.