Windows 7 Beta set to begin auto-rebooting on Wednesday

Microsoft's warned users, telling them to revert to older OS or update to Windows 7 RC

Microsoft's Windows 7 Beta will start to spontaneously reboot every two hours beginning on Wednesday, the company has warned users.

The move is part of Microsoft's usual effort to push users into upgrading by shutting down, then restarting, PCs equipped with previews. It's also a less-than-subtle reminder that Windows 7 Beta will expire Aug. 1, when the operating system will stop, well, operating.

Users running Windows 7 Beta can continue to use the new operating system without the sudden interruptions -- the shutdowns come without warning -- by downloading and installing Windows 7 Release Candidate (RC), which Microsoft posted for public preview in early May. Windows 7 RC will be available until Aug. 15.

But because Microsoft blocks installation of the RC when the newer edition recognizes that the PC is running Windows 7 Beta, users must do a "clean install," which scrubs the hard drive of operating system, all data and every application. However, Microsoft did publish instructions on how to work around that block; the fix requires editing of the Windows registry.

The other option for Windows 7 Beta users is to revert to the operating system they were running before installing the preview, presumably Windows Vista or XP. That, however, also requires a clean install of the older operating system.

Last month, Microsoft briefly panicked some Windows 7 Beta users when it mistakenly told them that auto-rebooting would start June 1 rather than tomorrow. It quickly made good on their mistake, and sent follow-on messages to users giving them the correct date.

Windows 7 RC, meanwhile, has a June 1, 2010 expiration date, with the every-two-hour auto-shutdowns starting March 1, 2010. Long before that -- on Oct. 22, in fact -- Microsoft will have launched the final, paid version of Windows 7.

Users can download Windows 7 RC free of charge from this Microsoft site, where they can also obtain a product activation key.

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Gregg Keizer

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