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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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RE: ALso
By Crucial on 3/12/2008 12:54:19 AM , Rating: 3
Server 2003 isn't really useful for anyone looking to replicate the functionality of WHS. The only thing you'll be using it for is to store data and you can do that with any windows xp or vista box.

RE: ALso
By wetwareinterface on 3/13/2008 4:47:48 AM , Rating: 2
Server 2003 isn't really useful for anyone looking to replicate the functionality of WHS. The only thing you'll be using it for is to store data and you can do that with any windows xp or vista box.

why isn't it useful?
spanning hard drives? that's data storage related so what elese is there that's all that important on whs?
access to your files across the internet?
IIS and there are templates for accessing user files for asp you can download and use.
incremental backup?
server 2003 can do incremetnal backup or re-backup all files period whatever you want.

or you could step it up a notch from whs and ...
act as a domain controller and use active directory
run a web server
run an email server
do clustering
do a distributed file system among several server 2003 boxes and add drives based on how many ide/sata ports you can keep adding using cheaper consumer level add in cards and use old freebie motherboards and less expensive power supplies to do it cheaper than mega upgrading a single machine to do whs and be able to add 20 drives if you need it.

server 2003 has it's own advantages too. the whole spanning drives thing always seemed like a negative to me anyway. if i start running out of room on my win 2003 server i just add another server to the domain and put all the new storage there and that adds my storage on the fly for me and adds data redundancy. there is a cost associated with this in hardware and os but i have a volume license that was provided for work purposes and so i just add away. for a home user you'd be better off adding a linux distro that speaks samba and doing sym links to new storage volumes inside linux to avoid the server 2003 cost issues. but the same principle applies as far as adding more cheaper hardware to handle more drives for mega high drive counts.

and if you're wondering right now my storage network is around 14 terrabytes in size across 5 machines. i have a lot of video i recorded in media center and a huge dvd backup library as well as a lot of other material to store as i do a lot of backups for people as it's part of what i do. whs has some good ideas for easy home usage but the same level of expertise it takes to manage home server can manage server 2003 as a domain controller with a few linux / samba simple file sharing storage boxes

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