NEW YORK (AP) _ A hardware problem at the country's largest online service, America Online, prevented members from accessing AOL for about 90 minutes and disrupted their e-mail service for several hours.

Wendy Goldberg, a spokeswoman for the Chantilly, Va.-based company, said users couldn't log on to AOL's network Wednesday between 2:30 p.m. and 4:10 p.m. EST.

``It was a hardware problem that we immediately identified, and immediately began to repair,'' Ms. Goldberg said today. ``The problem is completely resolved.''

Users already logged on were not otherwise affected. The news areas _ where AOL has been promoting its news on the stock market turbulence _ and popular chat rooms were working.

In a chat room on the service, people expressed frustration at their inability to read their e-mail. ``This is ridiculous,'' typed one user. ``How will AOL fix it so we can do stuff on here? They really blew it.''

The largest outage for AOL occurred in August last year when the network was down almost 19 hours. The company apologized and credited subscribers for a day. Almost 9 million people use AOL.