US Report: Microsoft, BugNet at odds over FrontPage 'bug'

BugNet, the Web site that reports on software flaws and fixes, reported a "bug" in Microsoft's FrontPage 98 program yesterday that it said can wipe out a user's hard drive. Microsoft, however, said the problem is not a bug but an "accident" executed by only one user who erased his C drive.

BugNet, the Web site that reports on software flaws and fixes, reported a "bug" in Microsoft's FrontPage 98 program yesterday that it said can wipe out a user's hard drive. Microsoft, however, said the problem is not a bug but an "accident" executed by only one user who erased his C drive.

According to BugNet, the problem "can cause Microsoft FrontPage 98 to erase a user's entire hard drive, including all data, all installed programs and even the OS itself" if a user of the Web authoring tool creates a "disk-based Web" in the root directory of a hard drive and then deletes it. A disk-based Web is a FrontPage Web that does not use the FrontPage Personal Web server or other server. The problem arises when a user attempts to delete a disk-based Web in the root directory, in which case FrontPage mistakenly deletes the hard drive instead, according to BugNet.

BugNet said the bug may be "the single most destructive bug" it has encountered in the last five years.

Microsoft countered that a single user informed the company in March that he had deleted the FrontPage default Web (which Microsoft said cannot be done within the FrontPage user interface) and reconfigured his C drive as the FrontPage Web site. When the user deleted the Web, his drive was erased as well.

"While it's not an impossible thing to get into, it's pretty hard," said Michael Angiulo, FrontPage group program manager. He added that Microsoft will enhance the dialog box to inform users exactly which directories are about to be deleted, although the final decision to delete still rests with the user. "Enhancing the dialogue is the best we can do without disabling the ability to delete," Angiulo said.

According to BugNet officials, Microsoft said the problem is avoided by creating "disk-based Webs in a subfolder of the root of the hard disk". BugNet suggested users avoid creating disk-based Webs altogether.

FrontPage Group Product Manager Pat Kirtland said BugNet pulled the information for its report from a Knowledge Base article Microsoft posted on its Web site a day after the user called with news of the crash. "This is not a bug," Kirtland said. "It's not a case of 'mistaken identity' as BugNet has reported."

Earlier this year, Microsoft addressed four bugs in FrontPage 98 ferreted out by BugNet.

Note: ZDNet UK News has contacted Microsoft's UK press office for comment. We expect a response before 4pm today.

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