While most of us will have to wait until October 22 to get our hands on the official retail release of Windows 7, it turns out that there are a at least two ways that you can legitimately get an official retail copy of Windows 7 a bit earlier than that. One way is to host an official Microsoft-sanctioned Windows 7 House Party
--in which case you will have Windows 7 in your hands by October 10. The other way is to order a Windows 7 system from Puget Systems--where you could have a brand-new Windows 7 desktop or laptop as early as early as October 14.
If you were lucky enough to sign up in time to host a Windows 7 Launch Party (Microsoft is no longer accepting applications) and subsequently be approved by Microsoft to do so, then the company promises that you'll get your copy of Windows 7 Ultimate--as well as an assortment of Windows 7-themed party favors--no later than October 10. You're expected to host your party sometime between October 22 and October 29, and invite at least 10 guests. You get your copy of Windows 7 early so that you'll have plenty of time to get up to speed on the OS as well as Microsoft's suggested Windows 7 group activities.
If you're not the party-hosting type, missed the deadline, or didn't make Microsoft's cut, but you still want a retail version Windows 7 as soon as possible, then you'll have to pony up for a brand-new system. Auburn, Washington-based system manufacturer, Puget Systems, states on its Website
:"Customers who place orders for a full personal computer system, and who select Microsoft Windows 7 as their OS of choice, will be immediately placed in queue for shipment which will begin in earnest on October 13, 2009. Orders will be placed in queue on first-come basis and Puget Systems standard shipping policies apply. Place your order early to ensure an early spot in our queue! Shipping dates are not guaranteed."
Presumably, if you get an early place in the queue, your system ships on time, and you choose overnight delivery, you could have your Windows 7 desktop or laptop by October 14. As to how Puget Systems is able to get around Microsoft's October 22 launch date, Ars Technica
reports that this is actually Microsoft's doing. Reportedly, "system builders that buy the operating system through distribution channels
" will have Microsoft's blessings (along with, of course, the actual final OS and the product keys) to start selling systems at this earlier date. Meanwhile, "OEMs and retailers
" will still have to wait until October 22 to start shipping their systems.
We did a quick, unscientific study of a number of other system builders' Websites and none of the ones we visited appear to be offering early ship dates for Windows 7 systems. In fact, the only way to currently get a Windows 7 system from these vendors is to order a Windows Vista system and then upgrade to Windows 7 after October 22 using the free upgrade coupons they are supplying with their systems. Users who will be doing a Windows 7 upgrade using one of these coupons will still have to wait until at least October 22 before they receive their Windows 7 upgrade discs. With the cat out of the bag, however, we wouldn't be surprised to see more system builders jumping on the October 13 bandwagon.
Users who purchase a Windows Vista system that is eligible for a Windows 7 upgrade from Puget Systems, can opt to send their systems back to Puget Systems and the company will perform the upgrade for you for free. You will, however, have to pay for shipping the system to Puget Systems as well as the return shipping cost. Additionally, the system's hard drive will be wiped, so any data stored on it will be lost. Unfortunately, this is not one of the ways that users can get an early copy of Windows 7, as Puget Systems will not start performing these on-site upgrades until November 1.