Microsoft shuts off Windows 7 beta downloads

But BitTorrent traffic in the preview remains brisk.

Microsoft has shut off the Windows 7 beta spigot, but will allow users who have started the download process to wrap it up by Thursday.

As promised more than two weeks ago, Microsoft blocked new downloads of the Windows 7 preview Tuesday. The site where users could formerly obtain the beta now reads: "Sorry, Windows 7 Beta downloads are no longer available."

Although Microsoft had said it would cut off users Tuesday, company spokesman Brandon LeBlanc had said last month only that on Feb. 10 "new downloads of the Windows 7 Beta will no longer be available." At the time, he did not specify an hour Tuesday when the downloads would be pulled.

Last night, about 70 minutes before the deadline expired, LeBlanc specified that midnight would be the end of new downloads .

Microsoft extended the deadline for Windows 7 beta from an earlier Jan. 24 cutoff to satisfy customer demand, it said over two weeks ago. However, the company has declined to say whether a 2.5 million cap it had once set had been reached or surpassed, nor would it specify how many copies it has provided users.

People who began to download the massive disk image file -- 2.44GB for the 32-bit version, 3.15GB for the 64-bit -- before Tuesday have until noon (EST) Thursday to complete the process, and activation keys will be available indefinitely, LeBlanc reiterated Monday.

The deadlines do not apply to subscribers to the TechNet and Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) services. Those users, typically IT professionals and developers, will continue to have access to the beta. Microsoft has not said when it will offer an updated build of Windows 7 to the public, although the head of Windows development has announced that the company will move directly from the beta to a "release candidate" milestone. In the past, Microsoft has run through multiple public betas of its operating systems before taking the next step to release candidate.

Copies of the Windows 7 beta, and a leaked version of at least one post-beta build, were still available at file-sharing sites Tuesday. On the Pirate Bay BitTorrent tracking site, for example, traffic in Windows 7 remained brisk.

Windows 7 beta is set to expire Aug. 1, 2009, at which time users must either update to a newer version of the operating system, or reinstall an earlier edition of Windows, such as Vista or XP.

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Gregg Keizer

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