Microsoft’s mighty servers were overwhelmed on Friday as computer users worldwide rushed to download a free test version of a Windows 7 operating system being groomed to succeed Vista.

A virtual queue formed on the Internet in the hours before the planned release of Windows 7 “beta” software at noon local time in Microsoft’s headquarters in Washington State.

“There was a line of people waiting online, so the noon release became an about-noon release,” said a Microsoft spokesman showing off Microsoft’s latest innovations at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

A flood of requests slowed Microsoft industrial-strength computers, causing delays and disappointments.