Late yesterday, Microsoft unveiled the public beta for Windows 7, the follow-on and follow-up to Vista, which from all signs the company is trying to forget as fast as possible.
CEO Steve Ballmer, in a surprisingly subdued keynote -- no real shouting -- made the announcement last night at the International CES. It wasn't much of a surprise, what with leaks to file-sharing sites and hints posted on Microsoft's own site in recent weeks.
Still, it's a new version of Windows, even if some have dubbed it "Vista, a lot better." Oh, wait, that was Ballmer himself, back in October.
And because it's fresh and shiny, there are plenty of people eager to try it out, wanting to decide for themselves whether Microsoft has hit a home run this time or just smacked another Vista. But where can you get it, how do you install it and what do you need to patch after you have it on your PC?
Questions, everyone has questions. We have some of the answers.
When can I download the beta? Starting Friday, Jan. 9. Microsoft said today that it will open the download gates worldwide at noon, Pacific time, tomorrow.
Where do I get it? The public download will be posted to the Windows 7 site here, Microsoft said. The beta will also be posted to Microsoft's IT-oriented Springboard Series site, which will add a "Windows 7" tab to the existing Windows XP and Windows Vista tabs already there.
What do I need to install the beta? Microsoft has set the minimum requirements for the beta as a 1-GHz processor, 1GB of memory, 16GB of free hard drive space and 128MB of graphics memory on a chip set or card able to support DirectX 9 graphics.
Those hardware requirements, by the way, are virtually identical to what Microsoft now says you have to have to install any version of Vista except for the entry-level Home Basic.
Anything else? Yes, a DVD-ROM drive. In other words, a drive that can burn data to a recordable DVD disc.
You need that because Microsoft has not providing the beta as an executable or installation file, but as a disk image, or .iso file. Once you've downloaded the monster, you must burn the image to a DVD to create the installation disk. That means you need DVD-burning software, such as Nero 9, an $80 download from Nero AG, or the $100 Roxio Creator 2009 from Sonic Solutions.