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As promised, Microsoft has released Windows 8 RTM, the finalized version of the OS meant for PC manufacturers and developers of Windows apps.

The Windows 8 operating system will land on physical and virtual shelves on Oct. 26, but to get ready, Microsoft must give several parties copies of the OS. We received a USB drive with RTM, and we’re testing it right now.

So far, the release looks and feels quite a bit like Release Preview, but it includes minor changes, such as a non-Aero desktop and various performance tweaks. While we’re not convinced this is an essential upgrade from Windows 7, it’s at least usable enough to not be a disaster when folks upgrade. Whether it’s worth $40 is another thing we’re not sure of just yet.


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Along with today’s RTM release, Microsoft is letting anyone who wants to download a 90-day free trial of Windows 8 Enterprise. But even if you’re interested in trying out Windows 8, we’d recommend against it unless you’re a developer or an especially tech savvy consumer.

The 90-day free trial comes with a lot of drawbacks. Microsoft writes:

• The evaluation edition will expire and cannot be upgraded.
• To upgrade, the evaluation must be uninstalled and a nonevaluation version of Windows must be reinstalled from your original installation media.
• Consider running the evaluation edition in a virtual environment or installing on a separate hard drive or partition. The will allow you to upgrade your original Windows installation to Windows 8.
• During registration (required) you must log in with a Microsoft account and provide your name, e-mail address, and country.
• You are required to activate the product online within 10 days after installing.
• Once the evaluation is installed, you cannot upgrade. To revert to a previous version of Windows, you must do a clean install from your original installation media.

Once the 90-day evaluation period expires, your desktop background will turn black, and your PC will shut down every hour to prevent you from using it. Essentially, you should only download this if you don’t mind reinstalling Windows after the trial is up or if you’re used to running apps in a virtual environment.

We’ll be back tomorrow with a full hands-on of Windows 8 RTM. For now, check out screenshots of Windows 8 RTM below.

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