Microsoft: To reach Windows 7 release candidate, run Vista

It wants 'real-world' data from testers; knows reverting to Vista will be 'a real pain'

Microsoft Corp. Tuesday asked people running the Windows 7 beta to return their machines to Vista before upgrading again to the impending release candidate of Windows 7.

The company will, in fact, block upgrades from the beta to the release candidate, and plans to require users who balk at the request to edit an installation file to successfully update Windows 7.

In a long entry on the company's Engineering Windows 7 blog Microsoft asked users to revert to Vista before trying the release candidate since "upgrading from one pre-release build to another is not a scenario we want to focus on because it is not something real-world customers will experience."

Instead, Microsoft urged users who have downloaded and installed the beta of Windows 7 -- the only officially-issued version offered to the general public -- to restore their PCs to Vista.

"We want to encourage you to revert to a Vista image and upgrade or to do a clean install, rather than upgrade the existing beta," Microsoft said in the blog. " As an extended member of the development team and a participant in the beta program that has helped us so much, we want to ask that you experience real-world setup and provide us real-world telemetry."

The problem with upgrading from one pre-release build to another, Microsoft said, is that the bugs or other problems users report in those scenarios are essentially worthless. "We don't always track them down and fix them because they take time away from bugs that would only manifest themselves during this one-time pre-release operation," the company admitted. Microsoft also acknowledged that it is demanding much from users by asking them to restore Vista before upgrading to the Windows 7 release candidate. "We know that means reinstalling, recustomizing [sic], reconfiguring, and so on. That is a real pain."

The Windows 7 Release Candidate is the next major milestone for the OS, and is expected to hit the street sometime next month.

For people who refuse to revert to Vista, Microsoft offered a short list of instructions to circumvent the built-in check that bumps the user out of the release candidate installation if it encounters the beta. The process involves booting from that an external drive -- such as a bootable flash drive -- or another partition, and then modifying the "cversion.ini" file with a text editor.

Elsewhere in the blog entry, Microsoft reiterated that it will not offer an in-place upgrade to Windows 7 from the aging Windows XP. "We realized at the start of this project that the 'upgrade' from XP would not be an experience we think would yield the best results," the company said. "There are simply too many changes in how PCs have been configured; ...having all of that support carry forth to Windows 7 would not be nearly as high quality as a clean install."

Windows XP users will be able to purchase an upgrade edition of Windows 7 -- those are always less expensive than the full version -- but will have to wipe the hard drive, deleting all applications and data in the process, before installing the new operating system. However, Microsoft will provide a utility for moving files and settings that XP users can run prior to installing Windows 7.

Microsoft has not committed to a ship date for Windows 7's release candidate, but a leak last month on the company's Web site pegged May for its public posting. Other sources, however, have speculated that Microsoft will issue the release candidate as early as this coming Friday.

Today's request, the most explicit yet about release candidate installation issues, may hint that Microsoft will deliver the public build sooner rather than later.

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