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The Windows Home Server continues to eat up files, but it appears that this product's very hungry bug isn't going to turn into a butterfly and fly away anytime soon.  (Source: Microsoft)
The very hungry Windows Home Server continues to whet its appetite on unfortunate users files as the scope of the problem grows and grows

Like the children's book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, the scope of the Windows Home Server bug simply grew and grew as it ate its way through users' files.  Although Microsoft promised that a solution would be made available to resolve the current issues, a full fix will not be available until at least June 2008.

What was once an attractive home service solution with a wealth of hardware partners has, in essence, become an unsightly pest for many.  Until a solution is found, use of WHS brings with it serious risks of data corruption -- something many consider to be a cardinal sin of networking hardware or software.

One DailyTech reader, Tim Slocum from Roscoe, Illinois, contacted us a couple weeks back with a rather incredible personal story of data loss, which he hoped would serve as a warning to others. 
Slocum was an eager WHS user and states that he copied 16,000+ family pictures and videos to the system.  Around Christmas he discovered that many of these files had become corrupted.  He rebuilt and reformatted the system, only to experience unpleasantly surprising results.

Slocum states in an email to DailyTech, "I then reformatted and rebuilt the system with NO ADD-INS or extra software. Copied all photos to the server, setup PC backups, and let the system sit with no usage because of the lack of trust. This weekend I again noticed photos are now corrupted."

Slocum acknowledges that a family member who works for MS as a consultant has had no issues that he knows of, though he planned on emailing him to verify this.  Slocum adds  that while not a "real techie" he is fairly knowledgeable.  He states, "I have been a developer for over 20 years ... last 2-3 have been moving into VB.NET.  So I have some knowledge of testing and have built PC's in the past."

Having worked hard to stabilize his system,
Slocum plans to continue his efforts with a third build, turning off file duplication, which reportedly may affect the likelihood of occurrence.  Tim feels that WHS is a promising product, but Microsoft is failing to take its issues seriously enough. 

The really surprising part of
Slocum's story at the time DailyTech received it was that he did not edit the files.  While some users had alleged corruption on transfers in unverified reports floating around the internet, previously, Microsoft stated that corruption only occurred when editing files.

Now Microsoft says the problem is that the underpinnings of WHS are broken, and that a fix is required at a very low level.  This will take a good deal of time to develop and validate, according to the WHS Team at Microsoft.  The WHS Team hopes to release beta versions of a patch over following months, but states that June is the soonest a finished patch might appear.

The WHS Team also warns that some users are mistaking other problems for the issue.  Says the Team, "Some of the instances that were initially attributed to this issue ended up being something else, such as a faulty network card/driver, old routers with outdated firmware, or people incorrectly testing the limits of their home servers."

However the Team did not rule that the WHS may have other problems causing trouble on a low level, though they state that they feel very confident that they understand the underlying issue that’s currently causing the main known problem.

And it turns out that
Slocum was correct -- the knowledgebase article has just been updated to encompass file transfers.  The new knowledge base article also has additional information on the cause -- how the NFTS file system, the cache, and the memory manager can get out of whack and beginning eating up user data.  The article explains it thusly:

Windows Home Server uses a file system mini-filter driver in addition to the NTFS file system to implement Shared Folders storage technology. File system mini-filter drivers are an extensibility mechanism that is provided by Windows to enable storage scenarios. For distributing data across the different hard drives that are managed by Windows Home Server, the Windows Home Server mini-filter driver redirects I/O between files that are stored on the main hard drive and files that are stored on other hard drives. This redirection mechanism is enabled only when Windows Home Server is managing the Shared Folder storage of multiple physical hard drives. A bug has been discovered in the redirection mechanism which, in certain cases, depending on application use patterns, timing, and workload, may cause interactions between NTFS, the Memory Manager, and the Cache Manager to get out of sync.

A link to a full technical page on the situation can be found here.

While the Windows Home Server Team is working hard to have a fix ready by summer time, in the meantime WHS users are left with the unpleasant reality that editing or storing files on the server may lead to corruption.  And with the scope of the flaws in WHS's low level file handling growing weekly, like a certain hungry caterpillar; it leaves one to wonder whether there are more aspects of the problem yet to be discovered.

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By TomCorelis on 3/11/2008 11:58:11 PM , Rating: 2
WHS is built on Server 2003.

Server 2003 does not have this problem, otherwise millions of businesses would be in big trouble. In my previous job, I administered a handful of Win2003 servers, and consider the OS to be fairly solid+stable.

What the heck did MS do to break an otherwise rock-solid OS? Why did they have to mess with it in the first place? Is it really so hard to strip out all the business stuff and repackage the product as a consumer OS?

RE: unbelieveable
By StormEffect on 3/12/2008 1:42:01 AM , Rating: 2
The problem probably stems from their revamped storage system, which is really the main selling point of WHS.

The extendable array system is fantastic in theory, and it is a much better option for home users compared to standard server systems (you might as well install Ubuntu or XP and run it as a server).

The problem is that this main selling point is the cause of the issue. Without it, there really is no killer feature of WHS that draws my attention.

I am glad they didn't "strip out all the business stuff and repackage the product as a consumer OS." In that case you still might as well use XP or Ubuntu as a server.

RE: unbelieveable
By eye smite on 3/12/2008 2:02:09 AM , Rating: 2
Does anyone remember the days when no one trusted MS updates for win98, ME, NT4, and 2k? The follow up question to that is, with all the issues MS is having with Vista and now WHS, are we or are we not heading for basically that same thing if not worse for the lovely MS? hehe

RE: unbelieveable
By Master Kenobi on 3/12/2008 8:56:26 AM , Rating: 1
The follow up question to that is, with all the issues MS is having with Vista and now WHS

Vista issues are mostly the fault of the software companies taking short cuts for years when the rules were not enforced. Notice even Starcraft will install and function properly on Vista? Yet modern games out of EA, and some other companies fail to install or run on Vista? Yea.

As for WHS, Jason is blowing this problem out of proportion, the problem affects about 1% or less and even then only under very very strict circumstances with certain apps. It would be statistically more likely to encounter a bug that doesn't allow you to download windows updates automatically in Vista than encounter this bug in WHS.

RE: unbelieveable
By encryptkeeper on 3/12/2008 9:12:26 AM , Rating: 2
OK, so maybe he's making it sound like it's more widespread than it is, but it's still a serious error, and MS needs to fix it if they want to sell it. You can't edit files from the server? If that was always true, then why didn't I just pay less money for a NAS device? Are you trying to say NO ONE at MS went into the WHS and played around with files?

RE: unbelieveable
By fic2 on 3/12/2008 4:05:09 PM , Rating: 3
As for WHS, Jason is blowing this problem out of proportion, the problem affects about 1% or less and even then only under very very strict circumstances with certain apps.

Yeah, not a big problem - unless you are one of the affected ones. Kind of like the Ford Pinto blowing up. Lots of people never had it affect them, but the one's that did thought it was a big problem (ok, not them, but their families).

And, yeah, comparing an exploding car to a data server is over the top, but the two problems probably affected roughly the same % of users.

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