No quick fix for Windows Home Server bug

Microsoft says a patch for a known bug in its Windows Home Server software won't come until June.

Back in December, Microsoft dutifully notified the (few) people using its Windows Home Server software that a bug in the product could corrupt files.

Typically, when Microsoft posts a bulletin outlining specific problems in its products, as it did in this case , a fix is usually right around the corner.

Not so for Windows Home Server. According to a bulletin posted this week, the bug will not be fixed until June, when the company posts a patch. That means, in essence, Windows Home Server will be on the market for a year before the fix comes.

When certain programs such as Vista Photo Gallery, Microsoft Outlook, and Intuit QuickBooks are used to edit or transfer files that are stored on a server running Windows Home Server that has more than one hard drive, the files may become corrupted, Microsoft said.

Granted, the problem should affect only a small number of the few servers actually running the software. In January, Microsoft's Steven VanRoekel told CNET News.com's Ina Fried that the product's sales have exceeded the company's expectations, though he declined to give specific numbers.

"It's definitely tens of thousands," VanRoekel said at the time .

A post in the Windows Home Server team blog indicates that the problem has been found and acknowledges the tardy response, but doesn't really explain the delay:

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.

As ZDNet blogger Adrian Kingsley-Hughes notes, that response will do little to boost confidence in--or sales of--the product:

...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.

Microsoft and market analysts have noted that Windows Home Server will remain a tough sell for some time to come. The product is targeted at consumers as a way to simplify accessing music, video, and digital photos from any home PC.

Few people, outside of Bill Gates and some optimistic analysts, expect more than token sales for at least a few years. One problem: few consumers really understand what a server is, much less why they would need one in their home.

Out-of-the-box data corruption and a tardy fix for the problem will all but guarantee niche status.

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About the author

    Mike Ricciuti joined CNET in 1996. He is now CNET News' Boston-based executive editor and east coast bureau chief, serving as department editor for business technology and software covered by CNET News, Reviews, and Download.com. E-mail Mike.

     

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