Pirate versions of Windows 7 already freely available

A download which claims to be an early build of the new Windows 7 operating system has been leaked onto P2P file-sharing websites.

User "Ofsound" uploaded a torrent on notorious file sharing website Pirate Bay, which looks like an illegal version of the much-anticipated software.

It was already unveiled to a select group last October, but the first beta was expected to be released at the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

It has already been downloaded by thousands of users. At the last count, over 4,000 users have fully downloaded a 2.44GB Beta 1 Build 7000 version of Windows 7. Thousands more were in the process of doing so.

Security vendor Fortify warned that the problem with downloading this version was that there was no way of authenticating that it had not been tampered with by a hacker who could code malware into the file.

"It's highly unlikely that any IT security application will protect the new operating system from internally-coded malware," said Rob Rachwald, Fortify's director of product marketing.

"The fall-out from trying an unofficial version of the new operating system could be quite severe," he added.

Judging from most of the comments made about the Windows 7 file, many users seemed to be happy with the download.

However, a user called "Master Po", said: "This is basically Vista with a few taskbar tweaks, new wallpapers, most everything is the same. The gee whiz factor wears off pretty quickly and you'll end up going back to your main OS. It's pretty fast though."

Microsoft had not responded to our request for comment at the time of writing.