Microsoft spelled out exactly how users of Windows Vista betas and release candidates can shift to the final code, and warned that beginning June 1, preview-equipped PCs will automatically reboot every two hours.
Notifications are presently going out to users of Vista Ultimate Beta 2, Release Candidate 1 (RC1) and RC2 of the upcoming expiration, a company spokeswoman says. "Customers will have ample time to back up data and migrate their PCs to the final version of Windows Vista," she says.
Upgrade paths were detailed on Microsoft's Vista site.
The only in-place upgrade route -- one that retains the settings, applications, and data as-is -- is from Vista RC1 using a copy of the US$259 Windows Vista Ultimate upgrade. Users running either Beta 2 or RC2 can upgrade to Ultimate, but they must do a "clean install," a process that overwrites the hard drive and destroys all data on it.
All preview users can upgrade to a different edition of Vista, says Microsoft, by doing a clean install using an upgrade SKU of the appropriate version. To ditch the RC2 of Ultimate for the final of Home Premium, for example, users would purchase and clean install the $159 Home Premium upgrade.
They can also roll back the machine to an earlier Windows, say Windows XP, with a clean install. Such a move, however, requires a full version of the older Windows OS. Users who can't find their installation disc, or weren't provided one (many OEMs didn't ship a separate Windows XP installation disc, but instead stuck the necessary files on a separate partition of the hard drive) will have to buy a new copy. A full version of Windows XP Home lists for $199.
To Microsoft's credit, it warned Vista testers of possible future problems last year. Back then, when it posted beta and RC editions for downloading, it said: "To upgrade, you will need to acquire the final edition of Windows Vista and you may have to do a clean installation." The company also told testers that they wouldn't be able to return to their previous OS without a reinstallation. "Before installing Windows Vista on any computer, please remember to back up all your files," it warned.
Users can migrate from a Vista preview by downloading an upgrade from the online Windows Marketplace, says Microsoft.