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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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Good ol MS
By Aloonatic on 3/12/2008 10:28:33 AM , Rating: 3
Before I start, I'm not a MS hater, I think they (generally) do a good job and if Bill makes a lot of money then so be it. They've changed the way many of us work and use our home PCs for the better by far.

The problem is...

First, xBox 360 rushed out and a lot of people suffered.

Then, Vista was rushed out and is just about usuable by the general public. I know, geniuses never have any of the problems reported, it's just the people using their DVD trays as cup holders, but there are far more of them than their are computer geeks who are willing to work around problems.

Now this, admitedly small but very potent flaw.

MS are playing with their reputation and the way in which they are pecieved by the public cannot have been helped much by these problems.

How many more problems (real or simply percieved) can their reputation take?

RE: Good ol MS
By enlil242 on 3/12/2008 11:45:20 AM , Rating: 2
I am not an MS apologist either. I agree about the Xbox. It was meant to be the first out to gain market share, which it did at a cost and cost MS a billion dollars to rec9ify it. (which they bent over backwards doing ... Even I had the RRoD)

I also agree that the WHS bug should be fixed and I feel bad for anyone who may have lost data. (For me there still is no better backup than hard media). And as far as I can tell, it will be fixed.

However, MS is not the only vendor that release buggy software / hardware. Apple has released a lot in the past few years. First they had a bad batch of iMacs that froze. Plus the bugs in leopard are well documented. Plus the numerous bugs or "glitches" apparent in the iPhone. (The genuis bar response is always to swap out the phone and not exlplain or document the problem... I know I experienced it first hand.) Plus, Apple has a closed platform.

All companies try to deny wide-spread issues until they can get a handle on the source of the problem ... However, it is importnat that a solid fix is released in a timely manner.

I am still waiting on a bug in the iPhone / Vista compability to be addressed where my videos wonk out after syncing to my iPhone ... Months of posts on Apple's discussion board go unanswered...

XP was blasted after it's inital release. I think people forget that, or they weren't into computers then. Now you would think that it's the next best thing since sliced bread.

Vista was rushed out and is just about usuable by the general public.

My parents are on vista and they can do [what I think the general public does] just fine. I had a couple driver gotchas, but mostly from vendors who refused to release proper drivers becuase the didn't want to pay MS to "sign" them. However, I am pretty much good to go, without any issues.

I realize the XP is faster. But it's 7 years old for crying out loud. Mac OSX 10.1 is faster since it runs on my G3 just fine, but my poor little iBook barely runs 10.4. Am I supposed to cry to Apple becuase they made a slower OS?

RE: Good ol MS
By Aloonatic on 3/12/2008 1:12:25 PM , Rating: 2
I take your point on vista, and when I finally get round to building a new PC I'll have no problem putting vista on it, nor would I have for the last few months.

I was really just trying to make the point that whether anyone has had that many problems or not with Vista, the general perception by most people (the general public) is that vista is buggy and problematic and something to steer clear of if they have the choice.

It's hard to see why they "rushed out" the release of Vista seeing as operating systems are their core business after all.

It's not like the xB360 situation where they made a gamble on gaining a bit of market share at the expense of taking a hit on their reputation on reliability, which seems to have paid off.

They had to fight Sony and Nintendo in the Console market.

They just didn't need to with Vista.

I can't remember hearing too many people saying that what they really wanted was a replacement OS for XP.

This Home Server thing does seem like a rather odd ball anomaly though, which on it's own wouldn't affect their reputation anywhere near as much as it does when recent 360 and Vista "problems" are taken into account.

And I'm aware other software is buggy and problematic (You should try using the software I've written :D ) it doesn't excuse MS's problems however.


As an EU citizen (well, I'm a subject, I live in the UK) I am concerned about MS and the money they make. Who are we going to sue every couple of years and milk the cash from if they stop doing so well and dominating the market?

We'll only have Intel left :-s


RE: Good ol MS
By BMFPitt on 3/12/2008 1:38:20 PM , Rating: 2
Then, Vista was rushed out and is just about usuable by the general public.
None of Vista's problems have anything to do with it being "rushed out." It has to do with software relying on flaws and sloppiness in previous Microsoft OSes to run. No amount of time developing the OS would have changed this, they either had to release it and let the 3rd party developers adapt to doing things the way they always should have been - or leave everything the way it was. I'm sure many Vista haters would be in here complaining about that, as well.

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