Data Corruption Issue Q&A

With the Knowledge Base Article (KB) 946676 detailing the data corruption issue being updated today (see here) we have more detailed information available for you in a question and answer format that should help you understand the problem easier.

What is the issue?

When certain programs are used to edit, transfer and save files to/on the Windows Home Server, the files may become corrupted.

What are the programs?

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

Why does this happen?

A bug has been discovered in the way that Windows Home Server manages file transfer and balancing across multiple hard drives.  In certain cases, depending on the way you use the application, timing, and the work load placed on the Windows Home Server, certain files may become corrupted.

Will I be affected?

Remember most users are unlikely to be affected. On the WHS forums myself and fellow Windows Home Server MVP Ken Warren have come to the same conclusion that less than 60 users out of several thousand have experienced data corruption and out of these 60 some were due to other factors such as a faulty network card or driver installation, old routers being used with outdated firmware, or people incorrectly testing the limits of their home servers.

Now still using this figure of 60, lets say that only 1 in 10 people reported the issue, so 60 reported users x10 = 600 users which could have experienced the data corruption issue, still way less than 1% of those with a copy of Windows Home Server either pre-installed on hardware (e.g. Tranquil PC or HP MediaSmart Server’s) or of those buying the OEM copy.

Why is this taking so long to fix?

Fixing this issue is the WHS team’s top priority and they are making good progress on the fix.  The issue is at an extremely low level of the operating system and it requires thorough testing to ensure that the fix addresses the issue.  A part of the fix has been coded which is currently being tested internally over the next several weeks. Once the patch has passed the internal quality bars, external participants will be asked to help test the fix. 

When will the fix be available?

The current plan is to release beta test versions of a fix over the next few months. A final version of the fix is currently estimated for June 2008, although that date could change as testing progresses.  Thorough testing of the fix is critical and will take some time. 

I have experienced the data corruption issue. Can I Help?

If you believe you have experienced the issue, please send a detailed email of your circumstances to whsforum@microsoft.com, so the Windows Home Server team can attempt to validate the cause and provide specific guidance.

Are my backups made by Windows Home Server affected by this issue?

No. Windows Home Server Computer Backup are not affected by the data corruption issue and neither are the Restore capabilities, Health Monitoring, or the Remote Access functionality.

My Server only has 1 hard drive. Am I still affected?
No. The data corruption issue only affects servers with 2 or more hard drives.

How can I avoid the data corruption issue?

  1. Only use Windows Explorer or a command line tool to copy files to and from the Windows Home Server.
  2. Do not use applications to directly edit or change files that are stored on Windows Home Server.
  3. Consider setting Shared Folders on Windows Home Server to read-only.
  4. Avoid using media management programs, such as Windows Media Player, to import files to the Windows Home Server. 
  5. Avoid redirecting applications to access files that are stored in the Shared Folders, as some applications may change the metadata of a file without explicit user action.

Are any other programs affected?

Users have reported potential corruption issues when they use other programs to edit or transfer files that are stored on Windows Home Server that has more than one hard drive. Microsoft is in the process of trying to reproduce the issues and directly assess the causes.  Due to the nature of the issues Microsoft can not provide a definitive list of affected applications although users have mentioned the following:

  • Photoshop Elements
  • Zune Software
  • Apple iTunes
  • TagScanner
  • Mozilla Thunderbird
  • Adobe Lightroom
  • Intuit Quicken
  • MS Digital Image Library
  • MP3BookHelper
  • ACDSee
  • WinAmp
  • Windows Media Player 11
  • Microsoft Office Excel
  • Visual DataFlex

A more technical cause analysis is detailed in the KB946676 article under MORE INFORMATION, CAUSE – TECHNICAL DETAILS.

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  1. Skandy says:

    I wrote thos message on microsoft forum.. it’s been deleted with another user’s post complaining about the KB update. What a shame!

    I’ve just bought an OEM copy of french WHS (after spending a month testing the 120 days trial) hoping that this Monday KB update will offer us a fix.. June 2008?! Come on! you’re kidding me!

    I’m really upset, i’ll have to wait three months (at least) using a single HDD without duplicating my data. Great! I have to deal with 500Go of very precious (i mean emotional value) non duplicated family media!

    WHS = Bakup your backups.. maybe using a “real” server solution (how about linux?)

    I’m really thinking about returning my WHS dvd without even opening it and contact a consumer rights defense association.

  2. Ken says:

    This is a good development, not a bad one. The issue is reproduceable, they have a fix that they are testing, and they FINALLY offered an update. I think promising a date sooner than they could conservatively test the fix would have been foolish.

  3. Donald says:

    I’ve got to be honest… This makes me pretty upset. I am now the proud owner of a faulty server that could possibly corrupt my data! The workarounds are fantastic to boot.

    I really liked the idea of WHS and backups were a snap. However, data integrity is paramount and this is just completely unacceptable.

    Looks like I’ll be migrating my data to a more reliable server configuration.

    On the bright side, at least they aren’t manufacturing planes! <1% !?!? nope, still don’t like those odds.

  4. Colin P. is Right says:

    Colin P. said it best:

    When it comes to ‘features’ versus rock-solid, assured, bug-free data storage, I’d push ‘features’ onto the back burner.

    The problems at present are –

    (a) I don’t know whether my so-far still intact data will suddenly get corrupted.

    (There have been many reports of corruption appearing out-of-the-blue.)

    (b) There are no guaranteed checks that I can run on my system to clarify whether my data is even vulnerable.

    I don’t know if it is vulnerable, and I don’t know that it isn’t vulnerable. That’s in spite of the KB updates, and in spite of my fully understanding the “work-arounds”.

    (c) In order to reduce my (possible) vulnerability, I have turned OFF folder sharing / DE on all shares.

    (d) As a way of coping with all the above, and to keep my WHS-hopes alive, I’m spending some time each day to progressively verify a portion of my thousands of files.

    In the meantime I’m running a handicapped (no duplication) backup server (WHS) with fingers and toes crossed, and unable therefore to reclaim the GB of HDD storage I hoped to release by trusting some of it to WHS.

    So … you bet I want the fix first, earliest, soonest, ASAP, without delay, and I don’t care a monkey’s about any further features or bells or whistles or other boast-worthy extras from the WHS Development Team.

    I vote that you get the fundamentals sorted first please!!” – wrote Colin P.

  5. Terrence says:

    I want, no NEED, to feel confident and secure about our data. backups. My data is no more important than anyone else’s, but my wife’s pro photography catalog is, in my mind, crucial.
    I’m cautiously trying to rebuild my confidence, but a couple of my more sardonic, though on-point, posts were deleted from the WHS forum site because I used the “released before ready” criticism MS is so sensitive about. I wonder why.

    I did not go through the year of Beta testing like a lot of you have. (I think I’ve paid my dues in years past without having volunteered for it.) I think WHS is a brilliant concept and thought that MS had really “gotten it right” with this one. I bought it once I believed in it.

    I could even wait ’til June if I could get a straight answer from the WHS team about whether my data is truly made safe from the bug by following the recommended file management and usage protocols. It’s a simple question.

    I’m OK with the functionality as is–as long is it’s reliable. I understand people needing what PowerPack1 promises, particularly 64-bit connector. I sympathize, but personally, just need the bug fixed and sooner is better.

    I’m also confused about so many reports of backup corruption and restore failures while the “file corruption” KB only recommends not using certain applications and not manipulating files whilst on the server. You know, I don’t even need a straight answer personalized just for me. Someone please just write down the KB# or forum post that actually gives me the straight answer and I will shut up and make my decision.

    I know the WHS team is trying hard. I know I had praised them enthusiastically after I’d initially evaluated WHS. I’ve even had to retract recommendations I’d made to friends which is a bit embarrassing. Thankfully, none had acted upon it yet. I’m an unlikely defender of the WHS team given my past experiences with MS, but I am trying. I’m still hoping to be impressed with their project, should it live up to the promise.

    In the meantime, has anyone come up with a simple and reliable way to test/verify files on the server shares?

  6. Grey Lancaster says:

    Windows XP SP3 Update breaks Windows Home Server Remote Access! — Chris Keroack, Windows XP SP3 release manager


    HP begs AMD PC owners to put XP SP3 on ICE — Allen Buckner (Senior Product Manager for the Home Server business within HP)


    @Terrence, See Microsoft. KB articles 946676, 939426, 939217, 939427, 939428, 939429 and 939218 all deal with issues relating to setup and backup. Don’t forget 939424, 939425, 939758, 939759 too.

    HP Warning about using WHS

    “You should not directly open and/or edit files that are stored on the MediaSmart Server while doing any other activity such as large data transfers or media streaming. If you are doing a large data transfer or streaming and need to edit a file on the server, you should first copy the file over to a PC and then open it for editing.

    There are a few key applications that Microsoft has identified that can cause this issue when files are opened and edited directly from the server. However to be safe, HP recommends that you not open/edit files directly from the server until this fix is delivered.”

  7. Gregg Keizer says:

    Why doesn’t Microsoft provide some news on the progress being made for their proven data corruption design defect in WHS regarding Microsoft KB 946676?

    The only thing being said is how Joel Sider, a senior product manager for WHS, stated that “The server backup functionality won’t include the PC backup database — a separate data store on Home Server that keeps all the data from the PCs that home server is backing up every night” in WHS PP1 to be released some time ahead (June 2008?).

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