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Windows 7 release candidate announced... it's soon!

Microsoft has confirmed the date of the Windows 7 release candidate, along with unveiling some new additions for users afraid of moving from XP to the new OS

Microsoft has confirmed the release candidate for Windows 7 will be made available for public download on 5 May, or earlier on 30 April for MSDN and TechNet subscribers, contrary to previous rumours.

For the less dorky among you, a release candidate is a near-final version of a piece of software being considered for 'sign-off', prior to being finalised and sent to manufacturers for installation on new machines, and finally to the shops.

No retail release date has been announced, though it's likely to be at the end of the year at the very earliest, but more probably some time in 2010.

Changes and additions

The 'soft has made a feast of alterations to Windows 7 since its beta release, based on feedback it received from beta testers. We poked around the changes last month, and you can check them out -- with pictures, no less! -- here.

A new feature just announced for business users is called Windows XP Mode, and allows dated software written for Windows XP to run on Windows 7.

Windows XP Mode will use Microsoft's Virtual PC technology to create a virtual XP environment, in an attempt to quash compatibility issues that rear their ugly faces when old software is used on new machines. It'll be available as a free download to Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise and Ultimate customers.

For all the details on Windows 7, hit up our complete guide here.