Microsoft Extends Free Windows 7 Beta to Jan. 24

Microsoft on Saturday extended the general availability of its free Windows 7 Beta trial offer through Jan. 24 and removed the cap on the number of downloads within that time. Previously, the company had said the offer was limited to the first 2.5 million downloads on Jan. 9.

A Windows blog on Jan. 9 had described high demand, causing Microsoft to add "some additional infrastructure support" to meet it. Microsoft had refused to say when the download offer would start on Jan. 9, causing many expressions of frustration on the Windows blog.

"It's almost evening in Redmond Washington, (it's 15:46 in Redmond) do you know where your download is?" wrote one person on Friday in response to the delay.

The availability of registration keys for the beta reportedly has been a problem, although Microsoft's blogs have noted that people will get the keys after they register and they can still run the software for 30 days without them.

Microsoft launched a new ad campaign on Monday with the slogan, "It's everybody's business," which mentions the tough economy. However, the Windows 7 Beta launch seems an even better campaign by whipping up demand and then creating an artificial shortage at the same time.

The public beta release of Windows 7 is designed for enthusiasts, rather than the general public. Microsoft lists the beta's requirements and some cautionary steps to take before using it on the Windows 7 download page.

So far, Microsoft's Windows 7 TechNet Forum shows people experiencing some driver incompatibility problems with the beta. Users described problems with lack of sound, printers not working and a dead keyboard/mouse combination.

Microsoft has been publicly stating that those applications that work with Windows Vista will work with Windows 7. For the Windows 7 Beta, the company indicates that Windows Vista Service Pack 1 must be installed prior to using the beta.

Microsoft's own bloggers have reported problems getting drivers to work with the Windows 7 Beta, such as wireless drivers and video drivers. The latter blogger recommends running Windows Update after installing Windows 7 Beta to pick up any missing drivers.

One report suggested that Windows 7 Beta has a problem with XDDM graphics drivers that may have worked before with Windows Vista. Another report described a problem running "McAfee Total Protection or antivirus" with Windows 7 Beta.

Microsoft published an update to Windows Media Player and Windows Media Center that addresses MP3 file playback problems when using Windows 7 Beta.

Other than the forums, Microsoft isn't providing any technical support with this beta release, which expires in August. Microsoft's main public news communications on Windows 7 is typically through its team blog feeds, which are linked here.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is online news editor, Enterprise Group, at 1105 Media Inc.