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Microsoft on Tuesday began warning users of trial versions of its new Windows Vista operating system that they must upgrade to a full commercial edition by May 31 or risk losing data stored on their PCs.
In e-mails to users, Microsoft cautioned that registration key numbers used to access the beta version of Windows Vista will no longer work after the deadline. Beyond May 31, the software will only function on users' PCs in two-hour windows -- and only so they can retrieve data.
That option will end "after a limited time," Microsoft said in a statement.
While all Windows Vista beta users were issued a prerelease copy of the Ultimate version of the software, Microsoft said the testers can upgrade to any version of Windows Vista they like, as long as it's in the same language as their trial version.
Windows Vista is available in five editions: Ultimate, Home Basic, Home Premium, Business, and Enterprise.
Microsoft said it believes only a small percentage of the thousands of computer users who helped test Windows Vista will have to scramble to beat the upgrade deadline. "We expect most beta users will have moved to a full version of Windows Vista by this time," the company said.