Late Wednesday, Microsoft made Windows Vista Beta 2 available to the public, letting anyone download or order a DVD of the pre-release version of Vista. Microsoft expects more than 2 million people to test Vista Beta 2.

"The Windows Vista Customer Preview Program \[CPP\] makes a pre-release edition of Windows Vista Ultimate broadly available to the public for the first time," a statement on Microsoft's Web site reads. "Beta 2 is intended for developers, IT professionals, and technology experts to continue or begin their testing of Windows Vista. This is beta code and shouldn't be used in a production environment or on a main machine in the home."

That's for sure. In my testing of Vista Beta 2 on various desktop and notebook computers, I've noted an alarming number of reliability problems spanning a wide range of hardware. In my opinion, Vista Beta 2 isn't ready for the public, and only those with extra PCs and the ability to handle the problems that will inevitably pop up should consider installing it. Vista Beta 2 shouldn't replace Windows XP on anyone's main PC yet.

Microsoft says it will later make a Release Candidate 1 (RC1) build of Vista available through the CPP. Hopefully, by that time the product will be more reliable and stable. According to the company, Vista Beta 2 and Vista RC1 will expire in June 2007.

You can order Vista Ultimate Beta 2 on DVD, or you can download a 3.5GB ISO version (4.4GB for the x64 version). To access the Vista Beta 2 CPP, use the following URL:

http://www.microsoft.com/windowsvista/getready/preview.mspx

I've been reviewing Vista Beta 2 on an ongoing basis on the SuperSite for Windows. The next part of my review will be available this week.

http://www.winsupersite.com/