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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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Have no fear WHS users!
By phatboye on 3/12/2008 3:01:36 AM , Rating: 2
To all of those affected by bugs in the WHS software never fret. You can still get your home server up and running using a free (free as in beer) operating system. Just point your browser over to and pick from the many capable Operating Systems that are available, at least until MS gets the bugs ironed out of WHS.

RE: Have no fear WHS users!
By phatboye on 3/12/2008 3:11:17 AM , Rating: 2
opps It appears I said that wrong. I should have said Free as in Freedom.

RE: Have no fear WHS users!
By darkpaw on 3/12/2008 10:28:43 AM , Rating: 2
Yah, except the target audience for WHS would never be able to setup linux in a way that gave them similar functionality.

RE: Have no fear WHS users!
By phatboye on 3/12/2008 10:40:15 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah I guess you are right, I've never been able to corrupt data on my nix machines.

Those who wish can use broken software all they want, for the others who value their files I'd suggest switching, at least till MS fixes their software.

RE: Have no fear WHS users!
By kkwst2 on 3/12/2008 11:47:17 AM , Rating: 2
Don't you mean nux?

It's actually not broken if you only use one drive. Admittedly, that's a huge limitation for a server system. I was planning on building a WHS machine, but will now wait until this is ironed out. All the stuff I want to put on it won't fit in 1TB.

Can you set up your Linux server to backup all your systems automatically but not duplicate identical files? I suspect not. This to me is a big feature.

Can you seamlessly stream your entire media collection to an Xbox? You probably can, but it's not built in and certainly not trivial to do.

I've used Linux a fair amount. My cluster runs Linux. It's still not for the everyday user, especially trying to set up a server.

That's great if it works for you. But suggesting it as a solution for the masses is either naive or trollish.

RE: Have no fear WHS users!
By kzrssk on 3/12/2008 11:25:09 AM , Rating: 2
Editing text files all day and stopping, starting, and restarting services with cryptic terminal commands is not my idea of streamlined PC experience. Once a Linux distribution can wizard and GUI-ize everything to just work with a few clicks, I think Linux will be ready for prime-time.

Case in point (Windows): I know how to set NTFS and share permissions, set up accounts, restrict them to logon only from the network, etc. I hate doing it. Simple File Sharing is the best thing ever for the home. There are, what, two checkboxes to deal with? It would take me a few minutes to do it the long way. Simple File Sharing lets me do it in a few seconds.

I want to see this kind of ease-of-use in Linux.

RE: Have no fear WHS users!
By phatboye on 3/12/2008 12:33:37 PM , Rating: 2
You are correct in that setting up and using nix boxes just aren't as easy and straight-forward as is the case with windows boxes. There is a compromise to be made when dealing with servers in this case: using a product that is easy to use, or just using a product that works. To be honest I really don't understand why any of you can sit here and defend MS for releasing a product that violates the first rule of server software, to keep the files intact.

Also I never advertised in my original post as using *nix software as a total replacement to MS software. If you read my post you can clearly see that I am only advertising the software as a temporary solution, at least until MS gets their software fixed.

I do agree there is quite a steep learning curve to learning to deal with *nix OSes, it's really not as bad as people make it out to be. And the fact that we are talking about people who use WHS, we are probably not talking about complete noobs, but people who may have at least a little (maybe even more) knowledge about how computers work in general. I honestly don't think they will have a hard time adopting to a new environment if they are open minded and have the desire to learn new things. Hell, I'm in no way the brightest star in the sky and if I can figure it out I'm sure anyone can.

RE: Have no fear WHS users!
By BMFPitt on 3/12/2008 1:31:17 PM , Rating: 2
Just point your browser over to and pick from the many capable Operating Systems that are available, at least until MS gets the bugs ironed out of WHS.
So a few questions...

How do I go about streaming videos to my XBox 360?
What menu sets up the remote file access without having to deal with any DNS info for my dynamic IP?
Is there a tool that runs in my Windows system tray that keeps me updated of the status of my automated nightly backups?

I'd also prefer that the setup for all of this functionality take less than 5 minutes.

"When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song." -- Sony BMG attorney Jennifer Pariser

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