When it came out last May, the Windows 7 release candidate presented a great opportunity for users to sample the new, largely completed operating system free of charge. Soon, however, the clock will strike midnight and the Windows 7 RC will turn back into a pumpkin—or something of about equal usefulness. As Ars Technica reports, Windows 7 RC installations will begin automatically rebooting every two hours starting on March 1.
That was the plan all along, of course; we even said so when public RC downloads first appeared. Once the bi-hourly reboots begin, users will have three months either to buy a full copy of Windows 7 or to step back to whatever operating system they were using before. The RC will expire for good on June 1, 2010. At that point, Ars says users will get the same treatment as anyone running a "non-genuine" versions of Windows 7, including a black wallpaper and piracy warnings.
To those who do wish to stick with Windows 7 and need a hand picking out an edition, feel free to check out the operating system section from our latest system guide. Microsoft currently offers three retail editions, each available as a full license, an upgrade license (for users with Windows XP or Vista), a 32-bit OEM license, and a 64-bit OEM license. Prices reach as low as $104.99 for 64-bit or 32-bit versions of Windows 7 Home Premium OEM, although that edition lacks some of the features of the RC, which technically had the same loadout as the Ultimate edition.