Download Free Copies of Windows Vista - Microsoft Invitation

And take a virtual test drive of the operating system

Microsoft has an impressive collection of free offerings built around Windows Vista and moreover, the company is going head over heels inviting users to access its latest operating system. With over 40 million Vista licenses shipped to date, Microsoft is still committed to pushing the Windows platform with strong efforts to dislodge Windows XP from its dominant position on the operating system market.

One of the most relevant Microsoft resources that users can access is a free version of Windows Vista enterprise, the edition reserved for the company's Software assurance customers via volume licensing. Microsoft is offering a free download of Vista Enterprise as a pre-configured VHD image for evaluation purposes only. As such, the copy of Vista is time-bombed at just 30 days. One of the reasons why Microsoft has gone with Enterprise is the fact that it is the only edition of the Vista operating system that comes with a different activation architecture and does not enable users to prolong the Initial Grace Period past 30 days via the "slmgr - rearm" command.

"Recently we released two images in virtual formats of Windows Vista which will give you a 30 days hands-on experience to play with both a Windows Vista 30-Day Enterprise Edition and Windows Vista with Visual Studio 2005 . Using the power of virtual machines, you can download these Virtual Hard Disks (VHDs) and play with Windows Vista and other apps right away. This means you have minimal set up with no additional hardware required. Once the VHD is downloaded you can test drive right away. All you need is a tool like Virtual PC 2007 which is a new, free product from Microsoft used to set up virtual machines quickly on your desktop," revealed David Kim, associate product manager in Windows Client.

Kim also promised that Microsoft is planning to add even more images with its products to the list of free VHD offering and I will make sure to let you know when that will happen. All the current pre-configured VHD images can be accessed here.

But Microsoft has also set in place free test-drive sessions of Windows Vista, but this time online. The obvious advantage is that users will not have to make any efforts beyond signing in, provided they do have the necessary broadband connection. The operating system can be tested on the Internet at the Windows Vista Test Drive website, powered by Microsoft Virtual Labs, and also as a Virtual Lab courtesy of TechNet. There are two versions of Vista up at the test Drive site and no less than 22 Virtual Labs for the operating system on TechNet.

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