COLUMBIA — It's only been two years, but Microsoft is asking users to relearn Windows … again.
On Friday, Microsoft began allowing users to beta test Windows 7. Before the end of the day, its servers had collapsed under the demand. The servers were back online the next day, and anyone who wants to participate in the test can do so by going to microsoft.com/windows/windows-7.
Participation will allow users to access Windows 7 as well as the new Internet Explorer 8 for free until the test ends Aug. 1. The 2.5 million download limit that caused much of the initial surge has been lifted until Jan. 24. To participate in the beta, users will need a blank DVD, a DVD burner, at least a 1 GHz processor, 1 GB of ram and at least 16 GB of available disk space, according to Microsoft's Web site.
Windows 7’s most notable changes are reduced start-up, program run and shut-down lags and a redesigned toolbar that stacks open screens on top of their launch icon in much the same way a Macintosh does.
"They have set the hardware requirements so low that many of the Netbooks (tiny laptops used for only basic computing) out today should be able to run it without problem," said Andrew Harter, 20, an information technologies major and MU TigerTech sales associate.
Jonathan Cox, a University of Central Missouri aerospace engineering student living in Columbia, was one of several city residents taking part in the test. “I like it," Cox said. "Even though it has the same system requirements as Vista, it uses about 10 percent less RAM.”
Cox was one of the many users who got a taste of Windows 7 early, when it was leaked to the public on Dec. 27.
The new operating system is expected to go on sale to the general public sometime before the end of 2009, less than three years after the debut of Windows Vista. Vista, the current Windows generation, has been widely criticized for being incompatible with many peripherals such as printers, for having annoying security pop-ups, for coming preloaded with too much unwanted software and for being slower than its XP predecessor.
"Part of the problem was that people rushed out to buy Vista as soon as it was available. Their machines didn't have the specs to handle it and critical software did not have compatible versions yet," said David Nivens of Midwest CompuTech in Columbia. "It is always best to give new software a little time to make sure it's market ready."
People participating in the beta test should make sure they back up their system often, and be sure they can revert to their previous version of Windows.