Microsoft is offering users the release to manufacturing (RTM) build of its Windows 8 operating system as a free download.

The company said that it would be allowing users who are members of the Microsoft Developer Network Platform (MSDN) and TechNet programmes to download the final build of the OS. Additionally, Microsoft is allowing users who are not part of its official developer programmes to download a free 90-day evaluation version of Windows 8 RTM.

Microsoft said that the release was largely intended to allow developers and administrators time to evaluate and test the operating system before its 26 October release date.

Availability of Windows 8 is among the final steps for Microsoft before the OS is released to the general public. The company earlier this month pushed out the final version of Windows 8 to developers in the hope of having new PCs shipping with the OS by the October release.

When it is released, Windows 8 will be among the most anticipated versions of Windows ever to hit the market. In addition to providing performance and interface updates for desktop and notebook PCs, Windows 8 will be the first version of Microsoft's operating system to be designed with touchscreen tablets in mind.