Microsoft has released Windows Vista Release Candidate 1 (RC1 Build 5600-16394) which features a long list of operational and performance improvements and enhancements over the Windows Vista Beta 2 version. Among the improvements include faster performance, more and improved driver support, easier-to-use networking interface, user interface (UI) adjustments, improved application compatibility and a variety of changes to the “fit and finish” of the operating system.

According to Windows Vista Team Blog, Microsoft Windows Vista RC1 has been released to the TechBeta/TAP or Microsoft Connect users, while MSDN and TechNet subscribers will be able to download Windows Vista RC1 this week. If you have participated in Windows Vista Beta Customer Preview Program, you will be able to download Windows Vista RC1 from Microsoft from 7th September. Estimated that 20,000 users in the technical beta program, 500,000 MSDN and TechNet subscribers, and 1.5 million people who were in the Beta 2 Customer Preview Program (CPP) will have the access to the download link of Windows Vista RC1. Those that didn’t join the CPP for Windows Vista Beta 2 will be able to register as new Windows Vista CPP tester for public beta test. Beside, RC1 DVDs will also be distributed as “cover mounts” on magazines.

The Windows Vista RC1 available for download from Microsoft Connect has the following name:

x86 version: vista_5600.16384.060829-2230_x86fre_client-LR1CFRE_EN_DVD.iso

x64 version: vista_5600.16384.060829-2230_x64fre_client-LR1CxFRE_EN_DVD.iso

Windows Vista RC1 download link (URL) via Microsoft Connect (for Connect users only): (no longer available)

If you eager for a feel of Vista RC1, and can’t wait for public beta to release, lots of torrents sites and P2P communities have released torrents or download links to the Vista RC1 iso files.

Interested users can also register and order Windows Vista RC1 Evaluation and Resource Kit via (no longer available) to get the Vista DVDs mailed o them on top of more software and tools, documentation and guidance, resources and information and monitored newsgroup support for Windows Vista RC1 evaluation experience. Cost involved though, unless you have Windows Beta 2 registration pin code.

Windows Vista RC1 will work until May 31, 2007, after which it will expire and no longer function. Updates and patches for Vista RC1 will continue to be issued until Windows Vista is officially released.

Update: Download Windows Vista RC2.