Microsoft's biggest lemon - Windows Home Server

I'm really surprised that Windows Vista gets as much bad press as it does when Microsoft has an operating system that's worse. Much worse. I am of course talking about Windows Home Server.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

I'm really surprised that Windows Vista gets as much bad press as it does when Microsoft has an operating system that's worse.  Much worse.  I am of course talking about Windows Home Server.

MicrosoftÂ’s biggest lemon - Windows Home Server
Windows Home Server is bad in a way that you just don't want your OS to be.  We're not talking about poor performance or dropping a few FPS in your favorite game.  Windows Home Server has the capacity to hose your data.  For an OS, that's bad, but for a filer server OS, that's a disaster.

Windows Home Server was released July 2007 to, well, little fanfare.  After all, it is a file server OS aimed at the consumer market, and most home users need a $150 file server OS about as much as an alligator needs an iPod.  But for people who decided that a file server was what they needed for backup (rather than something simpler and less hassle, such as a NAS box or an external hard drive) there was a product aimed at them.

But then in December 2007 a problem surfaced.  It seemed that under certain circumstances data stored on a Windows Home Server box could become corrupted.  This data corruption occurs in a small number of cases where the server was fitted with more than one hard drive and data is accessed using one of the following applications:

  • Windows Vista Photo Gallery 
  • Windows Live Photo Gallery 
  • Microsoft Office OneNote 2007 
  • Microsoft Office OneNote 2003 
  • Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 
  • Microsoft Money 2007 
  • SyncToy 2.0 Beta 
  • Intuit QuickBooks
  • uTorrent

Now Microsoft claims that this problem only affects a small number of users, but since there has been very little guidance given by Microsoft, if I were a Windows Home Server users, I'd have wiped the box and installed something more reliable on it.  Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2008, Linux ... Windows Me ...

Now, I know that it's not a good idea to access files on a server directly, remember that this product is aimed at the consumer market - folks who don't know how to make best use of a server.  But experience doesn't guarantee that you're safe - Microsoft technology evangelist Volker Will lost a considerable amount of data to Microsoft Home Server.  Same problem?  Hard to tell, but losing 180GB of data on a file server is no laughing matter and really shouldn't be easy.  The conclusion says it all really:

I might wait until version 2.0, if I ever decide to install it again. The current piece will be permanently banned from our home by the weekend. Sorry folks, I think it is a GREAT idea, this implementation is just not ready for prime time.

BTW, thanks to Home Server my wife stopped talking to me as she is now really mad at me. Not only are some of our pictures gone, I spent countless hours in my room figuring out what the hell is wrong instead of with the family.

OK, so where's the fix?  Well, if you've got a Windows Home Server box mothballed because you're concerned about data integrity, it'll be offline for the near future.  According to a blog post by the Windows Home Server team the current estimate for the release of a patch is June 2008 - nearly a year after Windows Home Server was released.

From the outside looking in, some people would say “Why is this taking so long?” Fixing this issue is the Windows Home Server team’s top priority and the team is making good progress on the fix.  We understand the issue really well at this point - it is at an extremely low level of the operating system and it requires thorough testing to ensure that the fix addresses the issue.  We have coded a part of the fix which is currently being tested internally.  Internal testing is expected to continue for at least several more weeks. 

Once the patch has passed internal quality bars, external participants will be asked to help test the fix.  Our current plan is to release beta test versions of a fix over the next few months, with a final version currently estimated for June 2008, although that date could change as testing progresses.  Thorough testing of the fix is critical and will take time.   

I agree, a patch needs thorough testing, but there's no excuse for releasing a file server OS containing such a critical flaw, and there's no excuse for a fix to take so long, leaving users in the lurch in the interim.

Until this bug is squashed I really can't recommend Windows Home Server to anyone - Microsoft's knowledge base article just doesn't give enough specifics for me to trust my data to this OS.


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