Leaked Windows 7 Release Candidate hits the Web

Downloaders, bloggers say Build 7100 is the official RC that will launch in May

Pirated copies of the Windows 7 Release Candidate have leaked to file-sharing sites, according to several reports on the Internet and searches of BitTorrent trackers.

A search on the Mininova.org BitTorrent tracking site early Friday found six Windows 7 Build 7100 listings, available in both 32- and 64-bit versions, that commenters on peer-to-peer sites identified as the release candidate (RC) Microsoft Corp. will deliver early next month.

As of 11 a.m. Eastern time, the six torrents on Mininova showed more than 1,400 total "seeders" -- the term for a computer that has a complete copy of the torrent file -- and about 14,000 "leechers," or computers that have downloaded only part of the complete torrent. Approximately 20,000 copies of the files have been downloaded since the leaked Windows 7 RC hit file-sharing sites earlier today.

According to people who downloaded the 3.05GB 64-bit version or the 2.36GB 32-bit edition, Build 7100 carries signed dates of April 21 and April 22, respectively.

Numerous downloaders commenting on Mininova confirmed that the file is the real deal -- if illegally leaked -- and others, including prominent Windows bloggers, confirmed that Build 7100 is what Microsoft will soon issue as its one-and-only release candidate. Long Zheng, who writes the istartedsomething blog, echoed others in confirming that Build 7100 is the RC. "The highly anticipated release candidate (RC) build of Windows 7 has been leaked and its authenticity is entirely undisputed," said Zheng.

Last weekend, Microsoft posted a page to its partner program site that said Windows 7 RC would ship to partners May 5, and be available for downloading by MSDN and TechNet subscribers before then. The page, which was quickly scrubbed from the site, did not specify a public release date for Windows 7 RC, however. Later, a company spokeswoman declined to answer follow-up questions about public availability of Windows 7 RC.

Users currently running Windows 7's beta will need to do a clean install of the release candidate or first revert to Vista, Microsoft has said previously, a change from its past practice that allowed users to do in-place upgrades during testing. Two weeks ago, Microsoft said it wanted Windows 7 beta users to first restore Vista, or instead do a clean install, to "provide us real-world telemetry."

Microsoft has, however, posted instructions to circumvent the built-in check that bumps the user out of the release candidate installation if it encounters Windows 7 beta. The process involves booting from an external drive -- such as a bootable flash drive -- or another partition, and then modifying the "cversion.ini" file with a text editor.

Windows 7 has repeatedly leaked to file-sharing sites since previews were first handed out in October 2008 at Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference, with no apparent reaction from the company. Since then, other versions have appeared on BitTorrent, including a pirated copy of what was later released on Jan. 10 as the beta, as well as numerous post-beta builds during the next three months.

Other Microsoft leaks about Windows 7 have noted that the RC will initially be offered in English, German, Japanese, French and Spanish versions. The Build 7100 now on file-sharing sites is the English edition.

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