Windows Vista Public Preview Finally Begins

Finally. Wednesday night, Microsoft released the broad public beta, also called the Customer Preview Program (CPP), opening up testing floodgates for the long-awaited replacement for Windows XP to literally millions of consumers.

The bad news is that Vista has been so long awaited by so many that as soon as the code was released, impatient users jammed the download sites. Many users who frequent Web forums are reporting that they have been unable to get onto those sites to download the Beta 2 code -- the Web equivalent of a busy signal.

Part of the problem may be lack of enough network bandwidth. According to posts on Amsterdam-based Microsoft watcher Steven Bink's site, the download for the x86 version is 3.5 GB.

Microsoft confirmed that the download servers are swamped. "Since opening up the CPP, Microsoft has been experiencing an incredibly high volume of demand. Some customers attempting to sign up may be asked to try again later in the day, so that the demands being placed on the CPP system are more balanced over time," said a statement obtained by

Microsoft's official Vista Beta 2 download site is here.

This release -- the final "beta" test -- had been expected this month ever since the company reset its schedule back in late March.

The edition made public for the Beta 2 test cycle is Windows Vista Ultimate edition.

Microsoft cautions users not to expect the code to be perfect yet. In both online and prepared statements, the company warns testers not to deploy the Vista CPP to their main home or work machines.

Additionally, a statement released by Microsoft advises non-technical consumers to steer clear of the beta. "Non-technical consumers should wait until Windows Vista becomes commercially available to begin using the operating system," the statement said.

About the Author

Stuart J. Johnston has covered technology, especially Microsoft, since February 1988 for InfoWorld, Computerworld, Information Week, and PC World, as well as for Enterprise Developer, XML & Web Services, and .NET magazines.