Free Ride Ends For Users Of Windows 7 RC

If you're still running Windows 7 Release Candidate, you've likely begun to experience bi-hourly shutdowns. Microsoft released the RC in May as a final public test before the RTM build in July. While the RC version has been free to use without restrictions since its release, Microsoft has made it clear that it planned to discontinue the free ride starting March 1.

Users who have ignored the regular pop-up warnings that let you know of the RC's expiration will now experience a shutdown every two hours. The shutdowns will continue through June 1, 2010. After June 1, your wallpaper will be removed and a message will appear to tell you "This copy of Windows is not genuine." In addition, you will no longer be able to get optional updates and other downloads that require genuine Windows validation.

Because the bi-hourly shutdowns will not save your work automatically, you risk losing data by continuing to use the pre-release version of Windows 7. In order to avoid the shutdowns and data loss, you'll need to reinstall the operating system that was on the machine before RC or install a fully licensed and paid-for version of Windows 7. Should you need instructions to help walk you through the installation process, Microsoft provides them here. If you're moving to a released version of Windows 7, you'll need to do a custom, or clean, install to replace the RC version.