See my follow-up post: Database glitch caused Windows 7 RC server meltdown.
Early this morning, at around 6AM Pacific time, the public—or at least that subset of the public willing to pay for an annual MSDN or TechNet subscription—was finally allowed to download the Windows 7 Release Candidate in a Microsoft-approved ISO image from a Microsoft-run server. (Availability for the general public is scheduled for May 5.)
The official downloads are available to technical beta testers and Microsoft MVPs via the Connect servers. MSDN and TechNet subscribers have to log in with their subscriber IDs to gain access to the download directories. Software available for download includes Release Candidate versions of Windows 7 (x86 and x64) and Windows Server 2008 R2 (x64 only), with language packs available for German, Spanish, Japanese, and French. An Arabic edition is available for technical beta testers but not for MSDN/TechNet users. All download locations are also offering the beta releases of Windows Virtual PC with XP Mode in x86 and x64 versions, along with debugging tools and symbols for all releases.
Alert subscribers who accessed the site within the first few minutes after the files were made available report that downloads are fast and smooth. Unfortunately, within 20 minutes Microsoft's servers appeared overloaded, and trying to access the download pages for the next three-plus hours resulted in an error message.
Clicking direct links to the download files resulted in this error message: "We’re sorry! The page you were expecting to see has been removed or is unavailable." The Downloads panel on TechNet and MSDN subscriber pages likewise was inaccessible, reporting: "An Error Has Occurred There was an unexpected error while attempting to retrieve your profile data."
The download glitch is a repeat of the Beta experience in January, when Microsoft's servers were similarly swamped.
Update 9:30AM PDT: The MSDN Subscriptions Blog acknowledges glitch, says they're working on it:
Thanks to all the tremendous demand for Window 7 RC, the systems are having trouble keeping up...
... but we are actively working on some changes to improve the site availability. If you have been able to grab the bits, you can come back later for a key (you have 30 days). If you claimed a beta key and wrote it down or exported it, it is the SAME key. You have 10 activations (on a single machine) for the Windows 7 beta/rc key.
Update 2 10AM PDT: Both TechNet and MSDN are back online now.