If you have been hoping to get your hands on the RTM of Windows 7 prior to its general availability on October 22, you are in luck. Microsoft has released a special 90-day trial edition download of Windows 7 Enterprise that is available for free. Make no mistake about it: This is the same feature-complete operating system that Volume Licensing customers in the enterprise are getting their hands on this month.
It's been available for download since September 1, and you can access Windows 7 Enterprise 90-Day evaluation directly from Microsoft. Only a limited number of licenses are available, though Microsoft has declined to say how many. As such, it would be prudent to download a copy now if you need it, seeing that this is definitely a "while supplies last" kind of offer.
In a blog posting at The Windows Blog, senior community manager Stephen Rose explained the rationale behind this offer. He wrote, "Many IT pros we talk to have been looking for a way to continue their work with the Release Candidate to test their applications, hardware and deployment strategies with final Windows 7."
The distinct benefit here for SMBs would be that even those without the benefit of any MSDN or TechNet subscriptions are now able to evaluate the full version of Windows 7. In addition, small and medium-sized businesses can take the opportunity to explore some of the new features available only in the Enterprise edition. To help you along, I shall walk through some of them in my next blog.
In the meantime, you can see the full list of features unique to the Enterprise edition here.
Before you rush to download and install the Windows 7 Enterprise 90-Day trial, be aware that there are some built-in limitations to this edition. For one, it is only available in English, Spanish, French, German, and Japanese in both 32- and 64-bit versions - other languages are not supported.
Also, this Windows 7 Enterprise 90-Day Trial must be activated within 10 days after installation, which is less than the 30-day grace for other editions. Once the 10 days are up, the operating system will start to shut down every hour until it is activated. This same hourly shutdown will also happen once the 90-day trial is up.
Finally, usage beyond the 90-day trial period will require a purchase of Windows 7 enterprise and a clean installation, including all drivers and applications. And because Windows 7 Enterprise is not available through retail channels, you probably should not be installing it on production workstations - unless your SMB has the volume to qualify for the volume licensing scheme.