On April 30, Microsoft was slated to make the Windows 7 Release Candidate (RC) available to testers with subscriptions to MSDN, TechBeta and TechNet. But just like happened with the Beta in January, demand overwhelmed the Microsoft infrastructure.
As my ZDNet blogging colleague Ed Bott discovered, a SQL server database glitch was behind the meltdown. Bott said Microsoft fixed the problem after a couple of hours.
There are a few things to remember if you're interested in testing out the RC, which is the one and only Microsoft plans to make public before it releases the product to manufacturing. Microsoft is encouraging testers to do a clean install (and not just install on top of the Beta) for best results (and so the company can get better feedback on the RC). There aren't a lot of visible differences between the January Beta and this late April RC (unless you are a real UI geek). Most of the tweaks seem to be focused on bug fixes and performance issues.
And don't forget, it's not just the Windows 7 client RC that's available for test. The RC of Windows Server 2008 R2, a k a Windows 7 Server, is also downloadable for MSDN and TechNet subscribers today. Also available to MSDN and TechNet testers on April 30 (as a separate download) is the XP Mode and Virtual PC add-ons for Windows 7.
Microsoft is slated to make the test build of all of these products available to the public on May 5, next Tuesday. Let's see if the servers stay up then.