Next to the introduction of Internet Explorer (way back when :), Microsoft's latest 'giveaway' of the Beta and now RC versions of Windows 7 can probably be seen as one of the smartest moves by the company in a long time.
I've been using a dedicated laptop to test the beta and updated to the RC release last week.
Some FACTS that you may have missed and/or that should know before taking the plunge:
1) This is pre-release software. Despite rave reviews for the most part, check your system resources before attempting it. In fact, it might be a good idea ...ugh ... to read the instructions?! While relatively current machines with up-to-date bios flashes 'should' handle it with ease, you never know.
2) The Beta officially expires August 1st, 2009 but expect funny stuff before that (Bi-hourly shutdowns begin July 1st). So if you're using the Beta ... go grab the RC. From my experience (also highly recommended by Microsoft), do a clean install. It just works. The RC expires June 1, 2010 and shutdowns won't start until March 1, 2010.
3) The RC has numerous changes and improvements since the beta release, including improved boot performance, FAT32 support, and User Account Control (UAC) design changes. There's a lot more.
(I like the new backgrounds ... resolution and depth are really incredible. The tech stuff is cool too :)
Here's a few links:
The Windows 7 video
Application quality cookbook
Tips and Tricks
4) The Windows 7 RC was designed to work with the Windows Server 2008 R2 which, if you wish to add it, you can find here.
5) Check Windows Update often. New pre-release Windows 7 specific drivers are now making their way into the library and will be delivered via Windows Update.
6) Finally, about that XP emulation mode that so many blogs have talked about. Most importantly, I haven't needed it for ANY of the XP apps that I use so far. If you do decide to get it (here), you should be aware that your CPU must have virtualization capabilities and your bios must be able to turn them on. If not, it won't work. I keep it OFF by default. Virtualization is cool but Win 7 flies here all by itself.
That's the important stuff in case you missed it elsewhere.
Here's a few more links for those pondering the download:
The Team Blog
TechNet Windows 7 Roadmap (no membership needed to access)
Have fun and remember ... Don't wade to far out in the surf if you don't know what you're doing. If you do, by all means, report 'stuff' to the team. That'll just help everybody.