Microsoft Opens Up Vista Beta 2 Testing

Microsoft has officially launched its customer review program for Windows Vista Beta 2, encouraging customers to try out the pre-release, unfinished version of its forthcoming Windows Vista operating system before it goes on sake to the general public in January 2007. The customer preview program will also be used for future release candidates as Vista gets closer to finalization.

Microsoft has posted a tour of Vista Beta 2 so you can get an idea what you might be getting yourself into, and the company has also collected together Vista product information and community forum links.

The Beta 2 release is the same version Microsoft offered to developers at this year’s WinHEC conference (build number 5384), and if you want to participate in the beta, broadband Internet access is absolutely mandatory: the current beta drops at over 3.1 GB.

It should go without saying, but we’re going to say it anyway: this is incomplete, beta software with known bugs and problems, and plenty of missing features and unfinished pieces. Do not install the Windows Vista beta on any computer system you must be able to use because, frankly, the software could go belly-up at any time, costing you all your data and untold hours of time rebuilding a system. That said, many experts find the beta to be relatively usable, and IT managers, consultants, developers, and support personnel may welcome the opportunity to get familiar with Vista’s features and capabilities, as well as see how the new operating system will and won’t integrate with their existing systems and applications.

If you’re curious whether your computer is up to the task of Vista, you can check out Microsoft’s online Vista Upgrade Advisor, which is itself beta and the target of some criticism, but should at least give you a ballpark idea of whether a particular system will handle the beta.