Randall C. Kennedy who supposedly
replicated the bug admitted that he wasn't actually able to get
any of his test systems to crash yet he still called for a halt to
the launch of Windows 7 in his InfoWorld blog. Others like
Mick who accepted Kennedy's analysis as gospel concluded that
Microsoft was trying to pass the buck and that this "underlying
file system issue" would likely delay Windows 7. But it is
clear that Kennedy and others citing him haven't really thought it
out nor are they qualified to determine what constitutes a bug.
To get to the bottom of this, we first need to understand what
CHKDSK is and what role it plays. CHKDSK is a Windows disk
checking utility that repairs hard drive errors. Even if the
tool has some incompatibilities with a small percentage of hardware,
that should hardly derail the launch of the much awaited Windows 7
operating system. CHKDSK using the /r switch looks for bad hard
drive sectors and tries to salvage any good data that it can.
Most people don't even run CHKDSK much less with the /r switch
because they simply don't get hard drive errors. Even when they
do have hard drive errors, they probably don't even notice unless it
is something severe. But even if there is a bug in the way the
CHKDSK utility, it is not a flaw in the underlying file system.
But as the president of the Microsoft Windows Division Steven
out, the mere fact that people are replicating the heavy memory
consumption behavior of CHKDSK when using the /r switch doesn't prove
a thing. That's because CHKDSK is supposed to use maximum
resources to repair a corrupted hard drive as soon as possible and
that users shouldn't be doing anything else on the system while they
wait for this to complete. This makes a lot of sense because
you certainly wouldn't expect to drive your car while someone is
changing out the oil. The priority here is to complete the
repairs as soon as possible and this is precisely what CHKDSK does so
it consumes all but 50 megabytes of available memory to finish
repairs as soon as possible. Then when it completes, it
releases the memory so that the user gets the system resources back.
Since there was no crash replicated, it was silly for Randall Kennedy
and everyone else to call this a bug much less a critical bug that
would halt the launch of Windows 7.
Now for the very few people who actually get their Windows 7
machines to crash, there is a very likely possibility that the
underlying firmware, drivers, or hardware isn't completely stable.
I know this first hand
because one of my computers and a friend's computer that used to run
fine on Windows XP refused to run on Windows Vista due to some memory
problems. Because the bad memory was near the end of the
addressable memory space and Windows XP never used that much memory,
the problem never materialized in XP until we used an OS that
consumed more resources. I had to download MemTest86+
and burn a bootable CD using ISO
Recorder 3.1 which I booted to inspect my memory. In both
cases, my friend and I had to get Corsair and Kingston to send us new
memory at no cost. Anyone who owns a computer should be running
this test anyways just to validate their own hardware.
MemTest86+ also managed to fail when my friend had a faulty CPU so it
indirectly detects some CPU problems as well.
Another lesson I've learned in the past is that it is always a
good idea to update
motherboard firmware when you want to install a new Operating
System. It is simply a fact of life that older motherboard
firmwares may not handle newer CPUs or newer Operating Systems very
well. Even if you're not going to install a new Operating
System, it's a good idea to inspect your hardware and update the
firmware to make sure your hardware is completely stable so that
there is less possibility of silently corrupting data.
So can we conclude that there is no bug in CHKDSK? We can't
say for sure but we should definitely not conclude that there is a
bug. Microsoft has been testing
40 machines over night since yesterday and they haven't
replicated the problem yet so it's starting to look like a hardware,
firmware, or driver issue in some rare configurations. We can
conclude for certain is that this issue if there even is an issue
will not derail Windows 7 launch.