Microsoft releases Windows 7 SP1 beta

Aims preview at IT pros, but anyone can grab Windows 7's first upgrade

Microsoft today released the first public beta of Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1), but warned consumers and end users to steer clear of the preview. The beta also includes a first-look at Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1.

The company announced the availability of the betas as it kicked off its Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) Monday in Washington D.C., where it also announced it is expanding the preview of its Intune hosted desktop-computer management service by an additional 10,000 IT users.

"This early release of Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 Beta is not available for home users," Microsoft said in a message on its site. "The SP1 Beta does not provide new end-user features, and installation is not supported by Microsoft."

Microsoft promised last month that it would ship Windows 7 SP1 beta in July, but did not name a release date. The company first acknowledged it was working on the service pack last March.

According to previous comments by Microsoft, Windows 7 SP1 will not include any new features, but will simply be a combination of security updates already available through Windows Update, as well as non-security fixes that it's gleaned from customer feedback.

The most notable addition to Windows 7 SP1 is an updated Remote Desktop client designed to work with RemoteFX, the new remote-access platform included with Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1. The latter also includes a feature dubbed "Dynamic Memory," which lets IT staff adjust guest virtual machines' memory on the fly.

Although Microsoft urged end users to not download Windows 7 SP1's beta, that doesn't prevent consumers or technology enthusiasts from grabbing it off Microsoft's servers. Selecting "IT Manager," "IT Worker," or "Developer" from a list allows anyone to obtain the beta. Other choices from the list, such as "Tech Enthusiast" or "Consumer" block access to the download.

Users can specify either the 32- or 64-bit version of the combined beta -- the download contains code for both Windows 7 SP1 and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 -- to be downloaded via Windows Update, or they can retrieve a 1.2GB disk image in .iso format that can be installed over a network or burned to a CD.

The betas are currently available only in English, French, German, Japanese and Spanish editions.

Windows 7 SP1 is ahead of Vista SP1's schedule by approximately two months. Microsoft offered a public beta of Vista SP1 in December 2007, 11 months after that operating system's release to retail. Windows 7's first service pack appeared less than nine months after its late October 2009 debut.

The betas of Windows 7 SP1 and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 can be downloaded from Microsoft's site.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@ix.netcom.com.

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