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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: QC Anybody
By OpaqueBubble on 3/12/2008 6:37:41 AM , Rating: 3
The majority of users do not have any problems with WHS - the conditions for this to occur are rare. This article is way over the top and overblown as usual from this "writer"

RE: QC Anybody
By PAPutzback on 3/12/2008 9:59:35 AM , Rating: 1
It is an OS not a shareware app. It can't be overblown. If Amazon's database became corrupt because the OS messed up would you think that was a non issue. You have to be on the WHS team to be so blind to such a critical flaw.

RE: QC Anybody
By OpaqueBubble on 3/12/2008 12:30:11 PM , Rating: 3
Nobody said it was a non-issue - it is definitely way overblown and MS has given workarounds.

RE: QC Anybody
By deeznuts on 3/12/2008 1:05:11 PM , Rating: 1

so how long have you been on the WHS team and how bad are you guys getting reamed over this right now?

RE: QC Anybody
By PAPutzback on 3/12/2008 1:56:52 PM , Rating: 1
Not to mention file corruption when the server does its automated updates, issues with Avast Antivirus, failed backups via wireless pcs.

I understand they had to release the O.S. at some point in time to get the bugs reported from the larger audience but loss of data is not a bug. This O.S. is crippled.

RE: QC Anybody
By OpaqueBubble on 3/12/2008 3:35:26 PM , Rating: 2
Sorry to disappoint you but I have nothing to do with MS. I am just a very happy user of WHS.
I have not had any corruption problems, or problems backing up wireless PC's. In fact my WHS has performed perfectly. I have used it on more than one occasion to recover from some accidents (self made) on client PC's (3 Vista PC's).
I am a software developer, myself and I suppose I sympathize more than perhaps I should, but I feel that the WHS team will fix this bug and if it's done in June then that's fine as long as it's done right.
When I got my EX475 in November I did not put all of my jpg's or music library on the WHS without ensuring that I had other backup means for all "precious" files. This was even before this bug was uncovered. This just seemed like common sense to me.
I do sympathize with folks who lost their files, but I feel that MS gave valid workarounds and "not to do"'s to avoid the bug.

RE: QC Anybody
By bhieb on 3/12/2008 11:36:53 AM , Rating: 2
Is it? How many issues of this scope, regardless of rarity, would be ok for a server OS? Would it be ok if this happened on Server 2003/2008? Just because it is for home use does not make the data less valuable, nor does it make this somehow not a server. This is a server and failures of this kind (even if rare), should not be tolerated.

That said the article does come off a little alarmist.

"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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