Starting from early this morning, computers running Windows 7 release candidate will experience a shutdown every couple of hours as it reaches its end of life, having fulfilled its role of introducing hundreds of thousands of users to the Windows 7 platform.
Any files on which the user is working won't be saved during the shutdown session and the wallpaper of the OS will change to a solid black background with what Microsoft calls "a persistent message" reading "this copy of Windows is not genuine".
Furthermore, they will not be able to download any updates and/or downloads that require genuine Windows validation. Microsoft suggests that you either buy a full version of Windows 7 or get another operating system on the computer, either way, a clean install of the new OS will be required.
The RC will officially expire on the 1st of June 2010 thereby ending what amounts to a free licence period of more than 12 months.
Those who have purchased Windows 7 when it was on pre-order for around for £40 will have done well, otherwise they're looking for at least four times that amount to get Windows 7 Ultimate.
But then you might also get the 90-day trial of Windows 7 Entreprise OS which is specifically designed for IT Professionals and will be available for download until the 31st of March 2010. After the 90-day evaluation, expect it to shut down like Windows 7 RC, every hour or so.
Microsoft doesn't allow in-place upgrades which means that you will have to backup your files before proceeding for a clean install. There are easy tricks that allow you to circumvent Microsoft's bi-hourly shutdowns but we'd strongly advise you not to go ahead with them.