Right on schedule, Microsoft has released the first Windows 7 beta to the public. You should be able to grab the pre-release operating system from this page on Microsoft's TechNet site, but don't be surprised if you get a "Server is too busy" error—demand seems to be pretty high.
Microsoft says it's making the beta available only to the first 2.5 million downloaders, and the preview license will expire on August 1, 2009. You'll find instructions for how to download and install it over on this page. Microsoft says you need a machine with at least the following components:
Processor: 1 GHz 32-bit or 64-bit processor Memory: 1 GB of system memory Hard drive: 16 GB of available disk space Video card: Support for DirectX 9 graphics with 128MB memory (in order to enable Aero theme) Drive: DVD-R/W drive Internet connection (to download the Beta and get updates)
This being beta software, we suggest installing it on a spare computer—or at least on a separate hard drive or partition—in case something goes awry. Microsoft recommends making regular backups while using the beta, too.
Update 3:30 PM: A Microsoft staffer has posted the following statement on the Windows Team Blog:
Due to very heavy traffic we're seeing as a result of interest in the Windows 7 Beta, we are adding some additional infrastructure support to the Microsoft.com properties before we post the public beta. We want to ensure customers have the best possible experience when downloading the beta, and I'll be posting here again soon once the beta goes live. Stay tuned! We are excited that you are excited!
So much for the timely rollout.
Update 01/10 3:35 PM: The beta is now finally available from the official Windows 7 website. Just click "Get the Beta" at the bottom right of that page.