by Shane O'Neill

Windows 7 Beta Download: No One Said It Would Be Easy

Jan 13, 20093 mins
Data Center

Early word on the Windows 7 beta is that it’s a fully-baked and fast-performing OS. That is if you can get it.

Downloading the Windows 7 beta over the weekend, even if you have the right system requirements, proved to be a chore. On Friday, Microsoft faced the kind of public relations snafu it really doesn’t need right now when it had to postpone the beta due to “very heavy traffic” on its Web site. Users were met with the dreaded “Server is too busy” message and the demoralizing “This site is currently experiencing technical difficulties, please check back in the next business day.” Since this was on a Friday, that meant Monday. Good grief.

But Microsoft turned things around on Saturday by issuing an apology and reloading the download site, presumably by adding more servers. But not before getting an earful from angry users who had hoped to download Windows 7 in a snap.

I guess when Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said at CES, “I encourage you all to get out and download it”, people listened.

Microsoft adjusted the game plan later on Saturday by cancelling the 2.5 million download limit and announcing that people can download the beta until Jan. 24, no matter how many downloads take place. If less than 2.5 million people receive activation keys during that time, Microsoft will continue to offer the beta until the limit is reached. By Saturday night, the site was up and running fine and downloaders were in a much better mood. Windows Communications Manager and Windows 7 team blogger Brandon LeBlanc surely did not have a relaxing weekend, but he did disarm a mob and get the download train back on track, most definitely with help from other Microsofties.

But crashing servers notwithstanding, the system requirements for getting the Windows 7 beta and the possible risks are dragging this particular XP-using writer down. Since XP users (hey we’re in the majority!) cannot download the Windows 7 beta, I can either convince my company’s IT department to upgrade me to Vista (I can hear the laughing now) or look into some virtualization workarounds. I’m thinking the latter.

Other beta download drawbacks that give me pause—particularly since I recently had spyware spread like wildfire through my laptop—are the risk of losing files and the need to back up and restore your PC. Microsoft says the download “can be glitchy—so don’t use a PC you need every day.” Glitchy is never a good word and I don’t know many mortals who have a PC that they don’t need everyday.

You don’t have to be an expert to download the Windows 7 beta, but you do have to be tech savvy. And once you have the beta, you’re pretty much on your own. You will have to rely on other beta testers for help with troubleshooting.

Were you able to download the Windows 7 beta and take it for a drive? If so, please share your thoughts and opinions below.